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Alim Kheraj tells the story of the track which has become the subject of many conspiracy theories and countless discussions among the singer’s devotees
TextAlim Kheraj
10March 2022
On a typically sun-filled Los Angeles day in 2007, paparazzi filmed Britney Spears listening to demos from her then-unreleased fifth album, Blackout, while she was driving around the city in her convertible Mercedes. In the clip, filmed during a tumultuous period during the singer’s life when the tabloids were documenting her every move, Spears sits in the car pointedly ignoring the photographers’ intrusions as she cycles through three songs, none of which ended up making the final tracklist for the record.

Two of those songs, “State of Grace” and “Baby Boy”, made their way onto the internet in a mega-leak that saw Blackout spread ahead of its release, along with a treasure trove of unreleased material. Such a leak, while large, wasn’t unprecedented, but the explosion of material fit with the chaotic energy that surrounded Spears at that time – in the same way her life appeared unfiltered, these songs provided a raw and uncompromising portrait of the once pure Princess of Pop.

Missing from this treasure chest, however, was a complete version of the third song Spears had blasted in her car that day. It’s a song that she teased fans with, allegedly against her label’s permission, by sharing a snippet on her website accompanied by an animation of her face transforming into a tiger. That song is “Rebellion”, and in the 16 years since, it’s become the subject of many conspiracy theories and countless discussions among the singer’s devotees. Despite everything we now know – or don’t – about the complexities of her life since her father placed her under the now-dissolved conservatorship in 2008, for Britney Spears fans, “Rebellion” remains their biggest white whale.

Along with the snippet Spears supposedly secretly shared on her website, various fan-made edits of “Rebellion” have made their way online. There’s even a tantalising 11-second, high-quality snippet, which teases a fully produced version of the song.

Yet what makes “Rebellion” significant is not its obscurity but its lyrical content. “Be wary of others / The ones closest to you,” Spears sings in the opening verse over a gloomy beat and claustrophobic strings, her voice quiet with paranoia. “The poison they feed you / And the voodoo that they do. But in rebellion / There’s a sparkle of truth / Don’t just stand there / Do what you got to do.”

This lyrical nugget is scarily prescient given the horrors that came to light during the reports and disputes about the controversial conservatorship that controlled the singer’s life for nearly 14 years. But “Rebellion” predates the conservatorship. It even arrived before the events of 2007 and 2008, which led up to its formations – including allegations that Sam Lutfi, Spears’s manager during that period, was drugging and manipulating her (Lufti denies these allegations). Instead, the song speaks to another form of control that Spears was battling against, one that perhaps coalesced with the players of the conservatorship and led to the singer’s imprisonment in her own life.

On December 30, 2004, Britney Spears appeared as a surprise guest on Los Angeles radio station KIIS-FM, where she debuted a rough mix of a new song called “Mona Lisa”. The track, recorded with her band while she was on tour, is about the demise of a famous woman, the consumption of her downfall as entertainment and her quest for freedom. “They want her to breakdown / Be a legend of her fall,” Spears sings in the second verse in another spine-chillingly prophetic lyric.

She told the radio hosts that the song was from her upcoming album called Original Doll. The singer’s label, Jive, later denied its existence. Speaking to BuzzFeed in 2014, Spears’s manager, Larry Rudolph, also dubbed reports of the album “a bullshit story with zero factual basis”. (Rudolph, who had managed Spears for over 25 years – aside from a brief period between 2007 and 2008 – resigned as her manager in 2021 amid the legal proceedings surrounding the dissolution of the conservatorship.) A reworked version of “Mona Lisa” later appeared on the EP Britney and Kevin: Chaotic.

Still, Spears talked about wanting to be taken more seriously as an artist, according to people who worked with her during that time. “She said nobody really listens to her,” songwriter Michelle Bell, who worked with Spears before the release of 2003’s In the Zone album, told BuzzFeed. “She just wanted somebody to say I believe in you beyond this pop machine.”

Spears also spoke about the restraints enforced by her label and those around her in a letter she posted on her website in 2004. “I’ve actually learned to say NO!” she wrote. “With this newly found freedom, it’s like people don’t know how to act around me. Should we talk to her like we did when she was 16 or like the icon everyone says she is?”

In the years that followed, the singer’s behaviour became more concerning, as did the media circus that grew around her. But she continued to connect with her fans via her website, sporadically posting letters where she chastised the tabloids, discussing motherhood and giving her side of the story. In one letter published at the beginning of 2007, around the same time that Spears briefly fired Rudolph as her manager, she spoke about “where I want to go with myself as an entertainer with absolutely no strings attached”. “I am now more mature and feel like I am finally ‘free’,” she wrote.

This brief glimpse of freedom, which made space for Spears to release her most adventurous and cohesive record yet with Blackout, was short-lived. Spears was placed under the conservatorship less than five months after the album’s release. Larry Rudolph returned to manage her, and by November 2008 she had a new album out and a world tour planned.

“Rebellion” lingered on in the background, the song’s paranoid lyrics playing out in real-time. Concern among fans about the validity and necessity of the conservatorship grew, especially as Spears herself had expressed her desire to terminate the arrangement. And so “Rebellion” took on further significance, becoming emblematic of the situation that fans believed Spears now found herself in.

In 2010, one producer involved with “Rebellion”, Christopher “Notes” Olsen, sadly died. After his death, his sister, Angelica, gave an interview with Spears fansite Breathe Heavy about the track that added flames to the fires of conspiracy. According to Notes’s sister, Jive pulled the snippet of “Rebellion” Spears allegedly uploaded to her website; Rudolph also sent Notes an email saying that the song wasn’t the direction the label wanted to go for with the album. All this, some fans speculated, demonstrated that Spears was not only being suppressed in her personal life, but artistically, too.

There were other curious circumstances that affected those involved with the song. Co-producer Scott Storch would later struggle with substance abuse and financial issues, while Notes’s manager was murdered. Another producer allegedly involved with the song, Jeff Dandurand, also spoke several times about trying to gain the rights to the song but was “shot down four times with various cease and desists”.

Of course, all of this is surely a coincidence. But along with the fact that “Rebellion” remains as much an enigma as Spears is herself, these events have provided fertile ground for conspiracies, one of which suggests that Spears was a prisoner in her own life, her every move controlled by those involved with the conservatorship. As we know now, this turned out to be true.

What is unknowable is the level of control that was exerted over Spears by her management and record label before the introduction of the conservatorship, although her letters certainly seem to signify that there was discord. Fans believe that they may find clues in the Original Doll album and with the full version of “Rebellion”. So much so that someone on Reddit has even put a bounty on the track (although it stands at a measly $100).

This dogged pursuit of “Rebellion” is evidence of the obsessional fan behaviour that could have only sprouted in the internet era. While there have been musical white whales in the past (the Beach Boys’ SMiLE, Jimi Hendrix’s Black Gold, Prince’s Dream Factory, and even Lady Gaga and Kanye West’s cancelled Fame Kills tour), “Rebellion” arrived at the dawn of the digital era. Social media and camera phones meant that information was disseminated so widely that even passing reference to something could take on mythical status (who else remembers the talk of Artpop 2?). Likewise, the internet allowed fans from all over the world to congregate in great numbers, pushing discussions, debate and speculation on fan forums into overdrive.

Similarly, greater transparency by artists on social media about the machinations of the music industry has also led to a bigger sense of distrust between the consumer and the machine. Artists like SZA, Doja Cat, Tinashe, Kelly Clarkson, Megan Thee Stallion, Charli XCX, Kesha and Raye have all spoken about, or alluded to, the difficulties they’ve had with their record labels, producers or management. Taylor Swift’s fractured relationship with her former label Big Machine has even led to her re-recording all her old music in order to take ownership of her masters, an exercise that likewise highlights the insatiable appetite fans have for previously unreleased material.

For Spears fans, this period was full of activity. Along with the singer’s apparent artistic discontent, her seemingly erratic behaviour, speculation in the media about nefarious outside interference and the subsequent secrecy surrounding the workings of the conservatorship provided the perfect breeding ground for conspiracy and conjecture about how Spears was being suppressed. The song at the heart of it was “Rebellion”.

When the conservatorship was ultimately terminated in 2021, cries for the song to be leaked online spread again. On Instagram, Spears began exhibiting her own rebelliousness, sharing topless pictures, often-deleted diatribes about her family and the conservatorship, posts about drinking champagne and eating cakes, and living her life without constraints. For the first time since who knows when, Britney Spears is living without outside interference.

The myth of “Rebellion”, meanwhile, lives on. Despite people’s best efforts, it remains elusive; there’s even debate whether a full version even exists. Either way, the song has also become symbolic of something deeper – along with the #FreeBritney movement, the unrelenting speculation about “Rebellion” gives validity to the power and passion of fans. With “Rebellion”, fans are now searching for answers to questions they have about their favourite pop star and what led to a situation where they were gaslighted by those involved in the conservatorship into complicity. But as Spears sings, in rebellion there’s “a sparkle of truth”. Looking at her Instagram, perhaps she’s now ready to give it to us.

Source: https://www.dazeddigital.com/music/article/55645/1/the-conspiracy-behind-britney-spears-unreleased-song-rebellion

Pop star’s memoir was subject of a massive bidding war, and comes weeks after she sent a cease-and-desist letter to her sister over her own autobiography
 
Britney Spears has landed a “record-breaking” publishing deal for a tell-all memoir about her rise to fame, her relationship with her family and her experience living under a conservatorship for more than a decade.
 
Page Six reported on Monday that publisher Simon & Schuster had secured the deal for the pop star’s memoir for as much as US$15m (£11m, A$20.8m) after a massive bidding war involving multiple publishers.
 
An unnamed source told Page Six that “the deal is one of the biggest of all time, behind the Obamas”. The president and first lady signed a deal worth an estimated US$65m to write multiple books for Penguin Random House in 2017.
 

Did you mean “Free Britney”? Or “Free Britney to entertain me”?

 
Since Britney Spears got free after 13 years under a conservatorship, she’s been posting nudes—full-frontal images, with carefully placed heart emoji. She’s tossed around the idea of having another baby. She’s been exchanging harsh words with her sister, Jamie Lynn Spears. (“I’m sorry Jamie Lynn, I wasn’t strong enough to do what should have been done…slapped you and Mamma right across your fucking faces !!!!!”) On Wednesday, January 19, Rolling Stone reported that Spears’s lawyer sent Jamie Lynn a cease-and-desist letter.
 
Over on Spears’s Instagram—her regular means of communicating with the public—she has maintained the style that caused so many people to worry over her conservatorship in the first place. The account reposts low-res images, repeats the same photos and videos of herself, and writes in a style that veers from cogent and funny to indecipherable. If you thought that her feed would look more like a Simpson’s or a Carey’s after the conservatorship was lifted, you thought wrong—here’s a stock image of a typewriter, kitschy black-and-white photos of toddlers, and seen-before selfies of Brit from a high angle.
 
So how is Britney’s public—who begged, marched, and posted for her release—reacting to her newfound freedom? In a recent post, a smiling Britney dances in front of a Christmas tree. Let’s pull a few comments:
 
“Briiiiit, now that you have your money back, hire a stylist please.”
 
“She really gives off the weirdest vibes in these videos.”
 
“Now she’s free can ANYONE teach her some moves other than the last 3 yrs worth of awkward foot to foot, walk & spin or spin spin spin.”
 
“Someone please get her a stylist.”
 
“Umm....what are you doing??”
 
“I love you but please fix your eye makeup!!”
 
The public said we wanted Britney Spears to be free. But did we really want her to be free, or did we just want her released into our custody? Increasingly it seems that when some people said “Free Britney,” they meant “Free her to entertain me,” and “Free her to present as visually perfect and emotionally untraumatized for my benefit as a viewer.” Certainly, plenty of Britney fans—including many of those who propelled the Free Britney movement—want her to do whatever she wants. Every famous person, especially women—get rude and offensive comments on social media. Even Malala! Even Martha Stewart!
 
But the particular creepiness of Britney’s comments is that they’re not just the typical mix of praise and insults. They’re all people telling her what to do, with even more vehemence than is typical on a celebrity post—fix your hair, write a book, go on tour, do better, be clearer, give a sign that you’re okay. The law controlled her; now her fans cajole her. In the last year the Spears situation seemed like the crest of the wave of reckoning over the way we treat women entertainers—their talent and youth are extracted, their bodies are sexualized far beyond their consent, they are hectored and criticized no matter what they do. It felt like we were developing a greater sense of collective compassion, that we would extend beyond Britney Spears, beyond famous people altogether. 
 
Plenty of people took stock of the Britney situation, resolved to do better, and so much discourse online and in person has changed. But for huge swaths of the population, it’s just business as usual. She’s still Ms. Oh My God! That Britney’s Shameless; still She’s Too Big Now She’s Too Thin. Many of us still just want a piece of her.
 
Source Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can https://twitter.com/JeanValjenny"}" href="https://twitter.com/JeanValjenny" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" style="box-sizing: border-box; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); cursor: pointer; --color__token-name:colors.interactive.base.light; color: rgb(235, 0, 40); transition: color 200ms ease 0s; line-height: inherit; text-decoration: inherit; font-family: Georgia, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 18px;">follow her on Twitter.

Fireworks went off in court on Wednesday at Britney Spears’ latest hearing, as the singer and her father’s attorneys went head-to-head in a continuous and contentious legal battle that last roughly three hours.

Though the conservatorship has been terminated, the fight between the pop star and her father, Jamie Spears, persists, primarily revolving around a disagreement over payment for ongoing attorney fees and allegations that the pop star was eavesdropped on by a secret surveillance apparatus with her father’s involvement.

“Lies!” exclaimed Spears attorney, Mathew Rosengart, pointing his finger at Alex Weingarten, the elder Spears’ lawyer, accusing him of making “nonsensical” and “preposterous” claims. “He should be admonished,” Rosengart told Judge Brenda Penny. “He has attacked me. He has attacked this court. And it is intolerable.”

Rosengart’s impassioned comments came after Weingarten accused Rosengart of making up false stories — such as the surveillance claims — and planting those stories with the press.

 

“Virtually everything that is alleged is demonstratively false or taken out of context,” Weingarten told the judge, after Rosengart said his firm has “strong evidence” that Spears’ father was involved in “very intense and potentially illegal” surveillance over the star, which was first alleged by the New York Times in their bombshell reporting last fall.

 

“It didn’t happen!” Weingarten shouted, standing up in front of the judge, speaking about the eavesdropping claims. Weingarten did not provide any evidence on disagreeing with the surveillance allegations, other than theorizing that Rosengart planted the story with the media.

 

As revealed in a court filing yesterday, Rosengart’s firm has retained a former FBI special agent to help conduct an investigation into Spears’ father’s management of her estate during the conservatorship; the filing stated that the investigation corroborated claims in the New York Times that the singer’s father had hired a security firm, Black Box, to secretly run surveillance on his famous daughter, monitoring her phone and planting a listening device into her bedroom, which captured communications with her counsel and her therapy sessions.

 

“The problem is we are fighting with our hands behind our back,” Weingarten told the judge, expressing that Rosengart is using the media and the pop star is using her social media, in order to get their side of the story out, he said. Weingarten then asked the court to unseal records from the entire case, so that people can hear the “truth.” He said the “public has the right to know.”

 

Rosengart categorized the “attacks” as “disgraceful.”

 

Weingarten then asked the judge to schedule a date to file a motion to unseal all records from the entire conservatorship case. The judge did not immediately set a date, and appeared to exhibit some reluctance, referencing the court’s busy calendar.

 

“We don’t think a father who loves his daughter would file to unseal her medical records,” Rosengart told the judge, stating that the elder Spears is only looking to save his own reputation, calling his lawyer’s request to unseal records “offensive” and “highly inappropriate.”

 

Though Spears’ conservatorship was terminated last fall, it may take months before an agreement can be reached, with the attorneys still fighting over whether the singer must pay legal bills incurred by her father when he was in charge of her finances.

 

The next major hearing in the case was set for July 27.

 

A separate hearing was set for March 16, regarding Rosengart’s objections to attorney fees requested by the lawyers for the star’s mother Lynne Spears. A hearing still needs to be set to deal with the singer’s former business manager, Tri Star Sports and Entertainment, quashing subpoenas served by the star’s legal team. (Rosengart has accused Tri Star of “stonewalling” his attempts to obtain information for his client and has said his firm was forced to issue two subpoenas because they would not voluntarily cooperate.)

 

The only significant order on Wednesday came from Penny, ruling it was not necessary to set aside a reserve from Spears’ estate — a request from Weingarten, who asked the judge to order that a certain amount of money be set aside in the meantime, to ensure that the attorneys can get paid eventually.

 

Before Penny’s ruling in the singer’s favor, Rosengart said the conservatorship has already been terminated, so his client has complete control over her money. He argued that if, eventually, there is a request for her to make more payments on attorneys fees, the court can make that order down the line.

 

“Let’s remember why this conservatorship was put in place,” Weingarten said. “Ms. Spears was irresponsible with her finances.”

 

The judge quickly shut down Weingarten’s statement. “Please, let’s not go there,” Penny said. “Let’s not go down that road.”

 

Source https://variety.com/2022/music/news/britney-spears-hearing-jamie-spears-money-legal-fees-1235157618/

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