Spotlight is a new recurring series on BreatheHeavy where we take a look at past performances. We’re kicking things off with Britney’s 2000 VMAs performance of “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction/Oops I Did It Again” – our nod to the single recently turning 19-years-old.
It’s hard to fathom nearly two decades have passed since Britney’s controversial stint at the start of the new millennium, and recalling the events that have transpired in Britney’s life since seems almost unbelievable. At the time of the performance, Britney had already sold millions of copies of her debut album, Baby One More Time, but there was no rest for the willing. She catapulted into her second era with a vengeance.
From the start, Britney walked a fine line between naughty and nice. She’d be either running around the beach in search of love, or stripping off her clothes and posing in lingerie with a Teletubby, but the boldest move towards permanently shedding the public’s perception of Spears’ innocence was her performance at the 2000 VMAs. Brit’s first instance of I’m not a girl not yet a woman.
An 18-year-old Britney kicked off the show with a bang, rotating the stage as she straddled a chair and sang “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” If there was anyone that could cover the Rolling Stones mid-strip tease, it was Britney.
The choice to include “Satisfaction” doesn’t get enough recognition. In Britney’s performance of it, she skips straight to the second verse – a middle finger to the critics who condemned the starlet for her sexy image.
“When I’m watchin’ my TV / and that girl comes on and tells me / how tight my skirts should be,” Britney sings while ripping her clothes off. “She can’t tell me who to be cause I’ve got my own identity.” Britney was constantly criticized about her appearance, so she responded with guns, errr… abs blazing.
Britney tossed the fedora and ripped off her sequined tuxedo to reveal a second sparkly ensemble, but one that gave the illusion she was nude. The outfit currently resides in the Rock Hall’s “Stay Tuned: Rock on TV” exhibit.
“I honestly had no idea it was gonna be such a big deal with what I had on,” Britney said in her 2001 interview on MTV’s Diary, adding it was one of the first times she could really express herself.
“I just wanted to be really sparkly and pretty… people thought you could see through it, but you couldn’t,” she said continued. “As long as I feel comfortable in what I’m wearing… that’s what matters. You can’t please everybody. People are going to have opinions all day long, but the only opinion I think that matters is the opinion of myself and my family.”
It takes a confident person to strut around in something form fitting, pound the floor and hair flip in front of millions, but prior to the performance Britney was actually quite anxious.
“Award shows… I get really, really nervous of course because it’s my first time to do the performance,” she said in a pre-show interview with Carson Daly. “Oh yes, I will be nervous tonight.”
You would never know it. With conviction, Britney attacked the performance with such exuberance that it remains one of her most memorable to date. It was carefully calculated, too. Unearthed footage of Britney’s rehearsals shows the teen sensation executing the choreography with vigor and purpose. When she moved to the right, pirouetted then dropped to her knees, it wasn’t impromptu nervous energy. It was because she planned it that way.
Britney’s had countless of unforgettable performances since then, but this one was a kind of first impression. Baby One More Time had insurmountable success, but Britney proved lightning could strike twice.
In that same pre-show interview, Daly asked Britney if she feels pressure to continually top herself as a performer. “As you grow as a person, you grow as an artist,” she said, “and you can’t help but just get better.”
Britney the performer continued to grow as she inched towards Blackout, but the 2000 VMAs performance, one of the most palpable live events of her earlier days, was the seed that got the princess of pop to blossom.