.

Britney Spears Returns: Rolling Stone's 2008 Cover Story

A year after her very public meltdown, Britney is back to work and out of trouble. But what has the comeback cost her?

March 22, 2011 12:19 PM ET
Britney Spears Returns: Rolling Stone's 2008 Cover Story
Photograph by Peggy Sirota for RollingStone.com

There's an understanding among those who know Britney well: When she's blond, she's happy. When she's brunette, she's sad. When she's pink, she's crazy. Her hair was back to glowing and golden this fall, when she spent her time diligently shuttling back and forth from her Beverly Hills mansion to dance rehearsals and video shoots and recording studios, in preparation for her new album, Circus. It was a complete transformation, following a year in which she spent a month in rehab, endured a brutal custody battle with her ex-husband Kevin Federline and careened toward a massive — and very public — meltdown that culminated in two involuntary psychiatric hospitalizations in January.

Rolling Stone Album Review: 'Femme Fatale' by Britney Spears

"I feel like an old person now," she says one afternoon, as a manicurist applies rhinestones and girly pink lacquer to her chewed-up nails. "I do! I go to bed at, like, 9:30 every night, and I don't go out or anything, you know what I mean? I just feel like an old fart."

This article appeared in the December 11, 2008 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

The beauty rest has done her well: In a Hollywood recording studio in September, dressed in black jeans, platform heels and a bedazzled hoodie, Spears looks more like her former self than she has in years. She has makeup on, but it's faded just enough that it could be yesterday's. She says she's considering lopping off the weave she's worn since shaving her head in 2007, and when she counts up her tattoos — "Seven! Oh, my God, y'all!" — she falls back into the couch giggling, kicking her feet in the air.

Photos: Follow Britney Spears' Rise, Fall and Comeback

Spears has always been like this: silly, sweet, humble. She has never been very articulate, but she always tries to be accommodating. Tonight, she's listening to mixes and finishing work on a track called "Lace and Leather." When I ask how she knows if a song is going to be a hit, she says, "You just hear it, and you're like, oh, my God, if somebody else takes this song, you're gonna kill yourself, you know what I mean? Like, this one I'm doing tonight, I think it's good, and it's, like, really quirky and different and girly."

"A little naughty," says her manager, Larry Rudolph, 45, sitting nearby in a T‑shirt and jeans.

"A little naugh-tay," Spears agrees, sounding half-embarrassed.

There are differences in Britney, too, from the last time I saw her, in 2006, when we hung out in her New York hotel room watching American Idol while her son Sean Preston crawled around on the bed nearby. She is shyer, more guarded, remote — like the old Britney but with the volume turned way down. Her last hit single, "Piece of Me," dealt with her public image ("I'm Miss Bad Media Karma/Another day, another drama"), but she says she's not sure she wants to include anything so revealing on Circus. "It's scary to put yourself out there and be like, 'Oh, God, is that cool?' If you're not going to really go for it, you can't just go there halfway." And then, as though changing her mind midthought, she adds, "But sometimes, when you go for it, you can't lose."

Photos: Britney Spears, The Rolling Stone Covers

Of all the things Britney has lost in the past year, it's the custody of her sons, Sean Preston, 3, and Jayden, 2, that has shaken her hardest. "Every time they come to visit me, I think about how they're such special people," says Spears, who currently sees the boys three days a week, with one overnight stay. "Like, they're going to preschool now! I went there to pick them up on Friday, and seeing them in their little classroom and seeing Jayden being bad or not listening? It's like, those are mine, and it's just crazy, you know what I mean? And the things that are coming out of their mouths right now — they're learning so much, and it's new, and you never know what they're going to say, and they're so smart yet so innocent. They're obsessed with monsters, and every night we look outside, and we have to show them that there's no monsters out there. It's dark outside, but there's nothin' out there, you know?"

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

prev
Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.

X

We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Promiscuous”

Nelly Furtado with Timbaland | 2006

This club-oriented single featuring Timbaland, who produced Nelly Furtado's third album, Loose, was Furtado’s sexy return after the Canadian singer's exploration of her Portuguese heritage on Folklore. "In the studio, initially I didn’t know if I could do it, 'cause Timbaland wrote that chorus," Furtado said. "I'm like, 'That's cool, but I don't know if I'm ready to do full-out club.'" The flirty lyrics are a dance between a guy and girl, each knowing they will end up in bed together but still playing the game. "Tim and I called it 'The BlackBerry Song,' she said, "because everything we say in the song you could text-message to somebody."

More Song Stories entries »
 
www.expandtheroom.com