On her otherwise faithful new cover of Bobby Brown's ''My Prerogative,'' Britney Spears adds a whispered line of her own: ''You can't tell me what to do.'' And as tabloid readers are well aware, the 22-year-old superstar -- who returns to the marketplace this week with ''My Prerogative'' and a perfume called Curious -- has spent the last nine months doing exactly what she wanted. She started the year by marrying some guy in Vegas and having it annulled two days later. She then got engaged to another guy: scruff-bearded, undershirt-wearing backup dancer Kevin Federline, whose ex-girlfriend was eight months pregnant, and who's been Britney's constant companion in an endless series of tawdry and unflattering paparazzi photos.
Ever since Spears canceled her lavish, poorly reviewed Onyx Hotel Tour in June, citing a knee injury, her career has been on hold. She declined to appear at the recent MTV Video Music Awards and didn't show for a performance by kids at her own charity camp in Massachusetts (her reps said the bum knee kept her from flying). But as Britney Spears Inc. gears up again -- ''My Prerogative'' heralds a Nov. 9 Greatest Hits album -- will the public's overfamiliarity with her messy personal life keep them from buying her products? ''Her image has crumpled a bit. She's definitely hit a burnout period,'' says Paul ''Cubby'' Bryant, music director for New York pop station Z100. Adds Ruben Garay, webmaster of the fansite worldofbritney.com, ''Her fans think she doesn't care anymore.''
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