Britney Spears is celebrating her 30th birthday today (December 2, 2011), 13 years after she rose to prominence and quickly became one of the biggest pop stars in the world. It's certainly been an eventful career so far - and it began in 1999 with the release of her debut album Baby One More Time.
Born in Mississippi and raised in Louisiana, Britney broke into the entertainment industry with appearances on the popular television show Star Search, while also being cast in numerous commercials. She got her first real break in December 1992 after landing a part in The Mickey Mouse Club, but the show was cancelled shortly afterwards and Spears returned to Louisiana. After impressing executives with an audition at Jive Records, she was signed and began supporting N'sync on their national tour before releasing her first album. Baby One More Time debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and had sold over ten million copies within its first year. The album's title track sold 500,000 copies on its first day of release and also peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Quickly establishing herself as one of the biggest new acts in the world, she enjoyed enormous commercial success with her follow-up record 'Oops I Did it Again', and later ripped apart the notion of the 'difficult third album' with her self-titled effort that sold 13 million copies worldwide. However, with success came an intense media interest in her personal life, and Britney endured numerous darker moments throughout the 2000's - her first marriage lasted just 55 days. She later tied the knot with backing dancer turned rapper Kevin Federline but the couple divorced in 2006, after which Britney suffered a public meltdown, shaving her head and going into rehabilitation. She recovered to release her fifth album Blackout in late 2007, which despite not matching her previous efforts commercially, critics often regard as her finest album to date. The album was praised for its drastic change in direction, with The Guardian's Alexis Petridis elaborating on the fact that when faced with an image free fall artists normally have two options - to make a record "that harks back to your golden, pre-tailspin days" or "throw caution to the wind: given your waning fortunes, what's the harm in taking a few musical risks?". Britney opted for the latter with 'Blackout' and was rewarded with critical acclaim.
Despite the album's success, Britney lost custody of her two children later that year, but has since bounced back with her well-received 'Circus' album and most recent effort 'Femme Fatale', which spawned a sell-out worldwide tour.