Troubles in the Spotlight
The new mother found herself in hot water in February 2006, after she was caught on film driving her car with her infant son in her lap. Her parenting skills became a subject of national debate, and she was even rebuked by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta for her actions. Calling her behavior "irresponsible" and "troubling," Mineta said that Spears was sending "the wrong message to millions of her fans." Spears apologized for the incident, claiming that she just wanted to get away from the paparazzi. "I love my baby more than anything, and as unfortunate an experience as this has been for me and my family, if it brings more attention to child safety then I fully support that," she told People magazine.
In September 2006, Spears and Federline had a new addition to their young family with the birth of their son Jayden James. But Spears made a surprising move two months later when she filed for divorce, claiming "irreconcilable differences." After her separation, Spears frequented the club scene for a time, partying with socialite Paris Hilton among others. She reportedly checked in and out rehabilitation, and then shaved her head in a California beauty salon while the paparazzi took pictures in February 2007. She told the salon owner that "my mom is going to freak." The following month, Spears spent time at a treatment center in California.
By the summer, Spears and Federline were in the midst of a difficult custody battle. Federline sought full physical custody of their two sons. She was also estranged from her mother.
Despite her personal challenges, Spears moved forward with her latest album. The single, "Gimme More," was released in August and received a warm reception from the public and critics. But Spears' performance of the song at that year's MTV Video Music Award was a disaster. She appeared nervous on stage, sluggishly dancing and poorly lip-syncing. The following month, Spears was charged in connection to a hit-and-run incident in a parking lot.
Family StrugglesBritney wasn't the only member of her family making headlines in 2007, however.
Her younger sister, actress Jamie Lynn, announced that she was pregnant at the age of 16. Jamie Lynn, who was a star on cable's kid-friendly Nickelodeon channel at the time, became a controversial symbol of teen pregnancy.
Despite these setbacks, the album Blackout reached the second slot on the Billboard charts after its November release. This comeback of sorts seemed to be short-lived,
as Spears appeared to have yet another breakdown in January 2008. She was taken to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation when she refused to return her sons to their father after a court-appointed visit. Federline eventually received full custody of the two boys.
By month's end, Spears returned to the hospital for another evaluation. Rumors circulated that she had bipolar disorder, but that diagnosis has not been confirmed. Her mother, Lynne, later wrote in her memoir Through the Storm that she believed her daughter experienced postpartum depression.
While in the hospital, Spears became the subject of a power struggle between her parents, Jamie and Lynne, and her then-manager Sam Lufti. The couple believed that Lufti was a bad influence on their daughter and was trying to control her life. Her father went to court and obtained control over Britney's personal, professional, and medical matters.
ComebackOnly two months after her personal crisis, Spears returned to the spotlight with a well-received guest appearance on the popular sitcom How I Met Your Mother. She released her next recording Circus in December, which instantly hit the top of the album charts, buoyed in part by the success of her single "Womanizer," which was released two months earlier. The song had reached the No. 1 spot, proving that Spears was still a powerful force in the world of pop music. Rolling Stone critic Caryn Ganz heralded the recording as "clubby, adventurous pop." And her fans agreed, sending the singles "Piece of Me" and "Circus" into the pop Top 20 and Top 10, respectively.
One year after her poor showing at the MTV Video Music Awards, Spears made a triumphant return, bringing home three awards for "Piece of Me." She has been touring extensively to support the album, and her ex-husband even joined her for a time with their sons so that she could spend some time with her boys.
Spears seemed to have settled down after a turbulent time, telling Glamour magazine that "I don't like going out ... I love my home and staying in bed and watching Dancing with the Stars or reading a Danielle Steel novel. I'm kind of boring."
Spears proved that she can still make powerful pop music in 2011 with Femme Fatale, featuring such hits as "I Wanna Go" and "Till The World Ends." The recording climbed to the top of the charts, becoming her sixth number-one album. In addition to all of this commercial success, Spears seemed happier in her personal life. She and then-boyfriend Jason Trawick got engaged in December 2011.
In 2012, Spears took on a new challenge: She joined the judges' panel of the popular singing-competition show The X Factor in its second season, embracing the role of being a critc of others' workFellow judge Simon Cowell described Spears as "very unpredictable," according to People magazine. "You never know what is going to happen. She has taken this very seriously and she's surprisingly quite mean."
During an interview on The Ellen Show, Spears stated that she uses "constructive criticism" with the show's contestants. She also explained that she prefers to be honest and candid in her critiques, saying,
"I think it's the thing to do." Actress-singer Demi Lovato and music mogul L.A. Reid also served as judges during The X Factor's second season. Spears and Reid left the series after 2012; Lovato stayed on and was joined by Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio.
In late November 2013, Spears made headlines when she released her eight studio album—and her first project in two years—Britney Jean, which the songstress called her "most personal album ever" in a post on her Twitter page. The album's lead single, "Work Bitch," was released in September 2013; other tracks include "Alien," "Perfume" and "Passenger." Britney Jean received mixed reviews, with some critics calling it "introspective" and "mature," and others deeming it "forgettable."