By Erik Henriksen

Britney Spears

w/Kelis, Skye Sweetnam

Rose Garden Arena

Thursday, March 11

HOW DOES ONE INTERVIEW A LEGEND? Britney Spears--reigning pop cultural queen, global sex symbol, and unquestioned leader of the current musical and high-school fashion scenes--is an undoubtedly intimidating interview. There are a myriad of questions that immediately call out for answers, and though clearly an icon, Ms. Spears' lofty status is hardly unanimous in approval. Her meteoric career has been shadowed with sordid controversies and unanswered questions: How does this one-time teenybopper explain her revealing outfits and sex-laden choreography? What exactly happened in Vegas on that dark night of her infamous quickie wedding? What's her take on the tense situations in Iraq and Haiti? Will there be a Crossroads 2?

Ms. Spears' visit to Portland for her Onyx Hotel Tour provided the ideal opportunity for the Portland Mercury to demand some answers from this infamous pop megastar.* And demand them we did, in this, the Mercury's no-holds-barred, world-exclusive interview* with the one, the only Britney Spears!

PORTLAND MERCURY: Thank you for granting us this interview, Ms. Spears. As I'm sure you've heard--I mean, who hasn't?--the readers of the Portland Mercury have been clamoring for an interview with you for quite some time. The anticipation factor is very high.

BRITNEY SPEARS: I flew to London from New York, and I couldn't believe it was all over the papers there. It's crazy and it's bizarre, but it's also kind of amazing. (Rolling Stone*)

That's enough--stop dodging the tough questions. Let's buckle down and get this shit done.

I like to flirt. (VH1)

Fair enough, but you're not cooing your way through the Mercury's patented brand of relentless, take-no-prisoners reportage. Well, you probably won't, anyway. Maybe you will. It depends. Anyway--the Mercury's readers demand some answers, Ms. Spears.

I think sometimes people like to pick people apart because they're jealous or whatever--you tell me. (VH1)

That's a good pointÉ but let's move on. A lot of people dismiss your music, but you've worked with the Neptunes, with Moby, and you've covered the Rolling Stones--you seem to be attempting to obtain more credibility from an older, more music-savvy audience.

Of course, I'm not doing "Baby One More Time" and those big, massive hits anymore. I think this record [In the Zone] is where I'm at right now in my life. It's sensual, it's sexual. I'm probably writing about that subconsciously because I don't have that right now. (Rolling Stone)

It's funny you say that, because much has been made of your love life--from your adorable relationship with Justin Timberlake, to your creepy tryst with Fred Durst, to your blisteringly short-lived Vegas wedding to Jason "Not the fat guy from Seinfeld" Alexander.

I totally love everything that I've ever done. That was me at that moment in that time, and that's what I believed in. So I don't regret the things that I did in the past. (VH1)

But Fred Durst... you regret that, right?

I totally love everything that I've ever done. That was me at that moment in that time, and that's what I believed in. So I don't regret the things that I did in the past. (VHI)

Okay. Yeah. But Fred Durst.

I'm getting older, and I think it's a natural thing to indulge in yourself and have those thoughts. (VH1)

If you say so. But on to more important matters. You've long remained silent on political issues, but with all that's going on--Iraq, Haiti, the gay marriage debate, the Democratic candidates' race--what are your thoughts on current domestic and international situations?

Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes, and we should just support that. (CNN)

That's it? I mean, other celebrities have been expressing their political views extensively, yet the only domestic issue you've dealt with is your hometown pastor criticizing your image.

You can't go around pleasing everyone. That's his opinion. I don't understand what exactly about my image that he's taken aback with. I'm just a person, and I have to express myself that way. He has his beliefs, and I have mine. His belief system is Baptist. If you think about [it], religion is the thing that's causing wars right now. (VH1)

So you're blaming the current wars on religion? Or on your pastor? Are you saying that Iraq is your pastor's fault?

I think you can dance with this album and make out! (BBC)

Wait. (Pause.) What?

I feel like I've hit a great new stride as an artist. I've worked hard, and I feel like I've grown on so many levels. (Official Britney Spears Biography)

I'm assuming that means you don't want to talk about politics anymore. (Pause.) Fine. Let's talk about your increasingly audacious dance routines and attire--the most recent example being your infamous kiss with Madonna.

The experience was beyond words or description. (OBSB)

I can imagine. Would you care to try, though? Describing it? As a personal favor?

(Silence.) (VH1)

Right. Regretfully moving on, what do you say to those who criticize your performances as inappropriate for the young girls that make up much of your fan base?

Well, I can't help that I'm out there doing my thing, and people are like, "Do you think she's trying to make this big publicity thing?" No. I'm just doing my job. I'm performing. I'm not the one putting it all over the papers. So if you think it's me trying to make a publicity stunt--hell no, I'm just doing my job. It's you guys making a big deal out of it. (VH1)

Actually, you can help it, and as far as I know the Mercury's never made a big deal abou--

It's a visual thing. That's why I'm here right now, because I dreamed of these moments. Kids need that. If they don't dream, they have what? That's what makes you feel spiritual, connected with God. But don't take it too literally. Just watch the performance, be drawn in. And if you don't like it, change the channel. (MSNBC)

Let's ignore the fact that now you're talking about how you help connect kids with God, but only a few seconds ago you blamed religion for causing all the current wars. But back to your response, it seems a lot of people have been changing the channel, so to speak--your record sales, while still phenomenal, have been steadily slipping since your debut album. Are you worried about fading out, or being forgotten by both older people and teens?

People talk about teen this or that, but in the end, it's just pop music, which is popular music, and it can only get better. (MSNBC)

But that's what people said about the Strokes--that they could only get better--and then their second album came out. Nobody's mentioned them since. It was like they hit a brick wall.

I can't imagine ever reaching the point where I've hit the wall. There's always something new and challenging to tackle. I can't wait to see what happens next. (OBSB)

Perhaps... Crossroads 2?

It was never even in the realm of fantasy for me. (OBSB)

Is that because of its critical and financial mediocrity, or because there's nowhere else to take the characters? I think audiences would like to see a character that reflects where Britney is at now.

I think I'm still clean living. I mean, I don't go home and have orgies or anything like that. (CNN)

So do you go somewhere else for orgies, or is "clean living" a more general term for your life and music?

I'm not gonna come out on this record and show my crotch or anything. That's not me. I would never do anything like that. It's all in the way you do stuff, all in the way you carry things. The music is most important to me. (Rolling Stone)

But you can't deny that you've taken some delight in being a bit edgier than you used to be--parading that "I'm not that innocent" image.

I do sometimes say the "F word" sometimes. But right now, I'm not going to say it. But sometimes when I get in interviews with some journalist that I don't particularly like, I kinda go there. I'm sorry, but I do! (BBC)

So since you haven't said "the F word" to me, I'll assume you don't particularly dislike me, right? So É what're you up to after the show?

Why the hell did I say that? That was so fucking stupid. (Rolling Stone)

Oh. Right.

*Due to Ms. Spears' absolute refusal to grant any interviews during her current tour, celebrity journalist Erik Henriksen was forced to take the responses for this piece from the following previously published stories:

Official Britney Spears Biography

CNN Interview britney.spears/

MSNBC "Bringing Up Britney"

Britney BBC Radio 1 Interview spears_nov03.shtml

Rolling Stone # 932 features/coverstory/featuregen.asp?pid=1957

VH1 Interview 11212003/spears_britney.jhtml (Nov 21, 2003)