[May 20 2021]
interview and photos by YAN CÉH
YAN CÉH — Hi, Britney. How are you?
BRITNEY SPEARS — Hi Yan. I’m all right, and you?
YAN CÉH — It’s midnight here in Paris. I never did a phone interview this late, but when you were here last week you got sick and…
BRITNEY SPEARS — Yeah. I got a bad cold and came home so my mum could take care of me.
YAN CÉH — You’re OK now?
BRITNEY SPEARS — Yes, I feel much better now. Thank you, sweetheart.
YAN CÉH — In your latest album, In the Zone, you sing a lot about sex. What’s your definition of sex?
BRITNEY SPEARS — Sex is what you make of it. For me it’s a spiritual experience to be shared with the person you love. When you experience something that sacred and special, more emotion goes into it. I’m not saying that everyone does that.
YAN CÉH — Do you think music can be a bad influence on young people?
BRITNEY SPEARS — No. I think music is all emotion. Songs make people feel good, whatever they listen to. People don’t blindly follow songs or movies or a TV show. They know art and reality are separated things.
YAN CÉH — I ask because a lot of people are critical today of songs because they judge them to be too sexual or violent.
BRITNEY SPEARS — They’re wrong. Music has always been a positive thing. Speaking for myself, I’m 21 and I’m not here to baby-sit people. I’m here to express myself as an artist and say things I want to say.
YAN CÉH — Has another artist’s work ever shocked you?
BRITNEY SPEARS — Shocked me? You know, I’m shocked everyday by the world we live in.
YAN CÉH — What frightens you today?
BRITNEY SPEARS — I’m fearless. [Laughs] I mean personally. I’m not talking about the situation of the world at this point.
YAN CÉH — Have you ever been censored?
BRITNEY SPEARS — Have I been what? I don’t understand… (Britney’s manager, chiming in: You know, when somebody changes your lyrics to fit all people.) OK. No, I’ve never had that happen.
YAN CÉH — Has a country refused to play your music?
BRITNEY SPEARS — No. Never.
YAN CÉH — If you weren’t Britney Spears, who would you like to be?
BRITNEY SPEARS — I would love to have been Madonna. Madonna rules. Everything she does is so perfect. Since I’ve known her, I’ve learned a lot about life, work, about everything. She’s like my godmother.
YAN CÉH — How did you meet her—and what about that kiss?
BRITNEY SPEARS — I met her for the first time in Philadelphia, two years ago. And then we met again recently when we were doing the VMAS [MTV’s Video Music Awards]. Then, yeah, we kissed. But I don’t understand what the big deal was. Hasn’t America seen two girls kiss before? I don’t understand it. I guess you just have to roll with it. Whatever. I think it’s bizarre. Anyway, we talked later on, because I really wanted her to be on the new record… She’d been listening to the song, Me Against the Music, and decided she wanted to be on it. In the studio she made up her own lyrics.
YAN CÉH — Some time ago she was wearing a T-shirt with Britney printed on it.
BRITNEY SPEARS — Yeah.That was so cool…
YAN CÉH — Has she been a big influence on your work?
BRITNEY SPEARS — She’s always been a big influence, since I was a child, listening to her records in my bedroom. I never thought one day I would do something with her. Just being around her is an inspiration. She’s a true artist in the way she does what she likes and herself in her truest form. You see that and you think, Oh, I can do that too.
YAN CÉH — Has she given you advice?
BRITNEY SPEARS — Of course. She’s always telling me what she thinks of the way I manage stuff and how I could handle one thing or another. She influences me a lot right now. She’s been talking to me about the Kabbala, and now I’m wearing a red string bracelet. But everybody’s doing that now in LA. It’s just really weird being a Baptist and being into religion all my life and turning to something completely different. The Kabbala refers to the Bible somewhat [interpreting the Scriptures, ed.], but it’s more about the laws of the universe, karma, and cause and effect. It’s kind of weird, but I like it. It’s like, I’m searching….
YAN CÉH — Listening to your new album I get the feeling you’re between two worlds: the United States of America represented by George Bush on one side, and by Madonna on the other. Where do you see yourself between those two worlds?
BRITNEY SPEARS — Between what two worlds?
YAN CÉH — Between the America of George Bush and the America of Madonna.
BRITNEY SPEARS — I think Bush’s world is filled with politics and religion, and Madonna’s is more creative and influential on a spiritual level.
YAN CEH — Where are you on this map?
BRITNEY SPEARS — What world am I in? I don’t really like to talk about politics, because that’s not something I know much about. It’s not my space. I’m here to do music. That’s my art and that’s my craft. So I would say I’m more into the world of Madonna.
YAN CÉH — You’re not interested in politics?
BRITNEY SPEARS — It’s never interested me much.
YAN CÉH — What do you think of MTV today? They used to be very supportive of your music.
BRITNEY SPEARS — I think they still are.
YAN CÉH — But at one point, they chose Eminem as the icon more representative of their spirit. Eminem has said a lot of bad things about you. He even dressed like you in videos.
BRITNEY SPEARS — Eminem has made fun of me a bit, but that’s his his character. That’s his thing. He also said he wrote his lyrics in my schoolbook [a school book with Britney on the cover]. That was kinda cute from him. [Laughs]
YAN CÉH — You like his music?
BRITNEY SPEARS — I like his art. He’s great.
YAN CÉH — Have you ever met him?
BRITNEY SPEARS — No. Never met him.
YAN CÉH — Talking about hip hop, why aren’t the Neptunes as producers on the new album?
BRITNEY SPEARS — Because I’ve already done that.
YAN CÉH — And Moby? You’ve done one new song with him.
BRITNEY SPEARS — Yeah. He’s such a purist. I love this guy. He works very well with women. He understands us like no other. He didn’t judge me before we met. That’s rare. There should be more people like him on the planet. It would be a better world.
YAN CÉH — I once spent a week with him in Las Vegas.
BRITNEY SPEARS — In Las Vegas? That’s surprising. What were you guys doing there?
YAN CÉH — He was performing at the House of Blues. We hung out during the day, talking about music and life, taking pictures around Vegas. He played me some stuff in his room—as we watched the sun go down from the 56th floor of the Mandala Bay Hotel. He was singing that song, Sleep Alone, just playing an acoustic guitar.
BRITNEY SPEARS — Must have been a thrill. I’m so happy we did Early Mornin’ together. I like that track so much. I’d met him once when I was traveling in Europe. But when I met him in New York it was the first time we sat down and talked. Then we did the song.
YAN CÉH — What about R. Kelly, producer of the song Outrageous?
BRITNEY SPEARS — I didn’t meet him in fact. We worked from a distance. But I like what he’s doing. He’s so talented.
YAN CÉH — What’s all the fuss about the trials, the problems of pedophilia?
BRITNEY SPEARS — It’s not my business. I’m not involved in those stories.
YAN CÉH — If you had a motto what would it be?
BRITNEY SPEARS — Live each day to the fullest.
YAN CÉH — I guess you know what you’re talking about, having sold more than 50 millions records by the age of 21. But if you could do it over again, would you change anything?
BRITNEY SPEARS — No. I have no regrets, because when I make mistakes I learn from them. That’s what’s made me what I am today. Like my song, I’m Stronger Than Yesterday.
YAN CÉH — Is there a message in the new album?
BRITNEY SPEARS — I don’t know. The only thing I can say is, listen to it with open mind and open heart, and have a great time.
YAN CÉH — If you could be granted one wish, what would it be?
BRITNEY SPEARS — To have some extra power, so I could get the people to say what they really think about me.