Spears posed for the cover ofRolling Stone magazine in April 1999, shot by photographer David LaChapelle. Spears commented, "It was so much fun!...I loved the idea of me holding Tinky Winky and talking on the phone!" Geoff Boucher of The Los Angeles Times reported, "there was no mistaking the titillation factor in the recent Spears cover story and accompanying photos in the April 15 issue of Rolling Stone, which sent eyebrows arching throughout the music industry, where several executives half-jokingly called it "child pornography." Similarly, an editorial review from Iowa State Daily commented, "a distinction should be drawn between the cute teeny-boppers in cool outfits who make the boys and girls buy records by the truckload and the exploitation of a minor by her parents, her record company and the media... Pictures like these are only barely legal when taken by private citizens. But when Rolling Stone does it, it's just good business". Gillian G. Gaar reported, "The American Family Association charged that the pictures, which showed Spears in push-up bras and a minuscule pair of shorts with "Baby" in rhinestones on the bottom, presented a "disturbing mix of childhood innocence and adult sexuality" and asked that all "God-loving Americans" boycott stores carrying her albums".
More controversy arose when Spears declared that she would "remain a virgin until marriage". This pledge has been questioned due to her apparently sexual relationship with fellow pop singer Justin Timberlake.
Performing during the Baby One More Time Tour.
In late 1999, Spears appeared on the sitcom Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and performed the song "(You Drive Me) Crazy"; this cameo was a cross-promotion for the film Drive Me Crazy, which starred Sabrina's Melissa Joan Hart and was named after the song. In December 1999, she won four Billboard Music Awards, including Female Artist of the Year. A month later, she took home the Favorite Pop/Rock New Artist award at the American Music Awards.
Following the success of her previous album, Spears released the album Oops!... I Did It Again in May 2000. It debuted at number one in the U.S. by selling 1,319,193 units during its first week of sales, breaking the SoundScan record for the highest album sales in its debut week by any solo artist. The RIAA awarded the album with a diamond certification with 10 million copies sold in the U.S. Concerning both musical content and sales, the album was very similar to Spears's debut, although it fared better with critics. Allmusic once again gave it 4 out of 5 stars, saying that the album "has the same combination of sweetly sentimental ballads and endearingly gaudy dance-pop that made "...Baby One More Time." Rolling Stone gave the album 3.5 stars out of 5 by noting the album as "fantastic pop cheese" and "Britney's demand for satisfaction is complex, fierce and downright scary."
The album's lead single of the same name broke the record for most radio station additions in a single day, and quickly became a top ten hit in the U.S. and other countries. The same year, Spears launched her first world tour, the "Oops!... I Did It Again World Tour". During the tour, she made a stop in New York for the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards. As part of her performance, she ripped off a black suit to reveal a provocative nude-colored and crystal-adorned outfit that generated much controversy. Spears earned two Billboard Music Awards for Oops!... I Did It Again.
2001-2003: Britney, Crossroads, and In the Zone
Spears released her third studio album Britney in November 2001. Although not as successful as her previous albums, she assumed some creative control by co-writing five of the album's tracks. It surpassed Michael Jackson's album Invincible when it had a successful debut at number one in the U.S. by selling 745,744 units during its first week. The album's success made her the only female artist in music history to have her first three albums debut at number one. The album fared well with critics such as Allmusic who gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars, describing the album's title tracks as being "pivotal moments on Britney Spears's third album, the record where she strives to deepen her persona, making it more adult while still recognizably Britney." In contrast, Rolling Stone said of the album Britney "belabors the obvious: Spears is one month away from entering her twenties and clearly needs to grow up if she's going to bring her fans along."
The singles did not perform as well; Britney's lead single "I'm a Slave 4 U" peaked at 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 making it the album's biggest hit. To help promote the album, Spears embarked on the Dream Within a Dream Tour in November 2001. The tour was forced to cut short in Mexico City due to bad weather. With the end to her tour, Spears announced she would take a six month break from her career.
In early 2002, Spears's four-year relationship with Timberlake ended. His 2002 song "Cry Me a River" and its music video, which featured an actress resembling Spears, caused speculation that Spears had been unfaithful; Timberlake, however, denied that his song was meant to portray her.
June 2002 saw the opening of Spears's restaurant, Nyla, in New York City, which served Louisianan and Italian cuisine. However, she was pulled out of the business venture in November as a result of debts and management issues. Nyla officially closed in 2003. In the same year, Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst confirmed that he was in a relationship with Spears. Durst was also hired to help write and produce tracks for her album In the Zone, which were eventually scrapped.
Spears had her first starring role in the 2002 film Crossroads, in which she portrayed a high school graduate who travels to find her long-lost mother. The movie was poorly received, as was her performance; Spears received Razzie Awards for Worst Actress and for Worst Original Song. Nonetheless, the film grossed over $60 million worldwide. Spears also made cameo appearances in Austin Powers in Goldmember and Longshot. Footage of Spears appeared in the 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which samples a 2003 CNN interview about the Iraq War in which Spears says, "Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens."
The kiss between the two singers caused media uproar.
Spears made her third consecutive MTV Video Music Awards performance. While performing "I'm a Slave 4 U", she controversially utilized caged animals and danced erotically with a large albino python draped over her shoulders. Animal-rights organization PETA claimed that the animals