- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 27, 2001

Britney Spears, who opens her new tour at the MCI Center on Wednesday night, isn't sure who she is anymore.
If she was young and naive on her 1999 debut, "Baby One More Time," and "not that innocent" on her 2000 follow-up "Oops I Did It Again," then on her third album (simply called "Britney") she's "not a girl, not yet a woman."
On the phone from Orlando, Fla., Miss Spears describes how her new ballad "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" fits her now.
"I'm on the verge of being a woman, but it is kind of hard because I've grown up in the spotlight," she says. "I don't know what I'll be like tomorrow that's not something that I really think about."
Although she sounds like a typical 19-year-old (she giggles, munches on chips and talks about burping), Miss Spears is one of the world's highest-profile 19-year-olds. That confusion between the world of adults, which the album targets more as an audience, and teen-agers, her strongest fan base, makes "Britney" a confusing record.
The record, set for release Nov. 6, was culled from 23 tracks, featuring collaborations with the hip-hop/electronica group the Neptunes and her boyfriend, 'N Sync member Justin Timberlake. Five of the 12 tracks were co-written by Miss Spears.
"I didn't really have a concept going in. I was really inspired by a lot of hip-hop and R&B; before I even recorded the album," she says. "I think this album is probably going to be a growth record for me."
Which makes sense, since her teen-age years end in December, when she turns 20. In seeking a more adult audience, though, she's also trying to drop the "role model" label that has been stuck to her since her debut. Miss Spears has projected a dual image, however, and her provocative dress has created a backlash among parents.
"I think it's very flattering that such young kids look up to me because the innocence of them is a really beautiful thing," she says. "But, honestly, it's up to their parents to explain to them that I'm a performer, that I don't wear those
clothes to the supermarket or to a ballgame."
The steamy first single of "Britney," called "I'm a Slave 4 U," is her attempt to be "nastier and funkier." She purposefully shies away from the easy hooks of her previous singles. Her voice is breathy as she whispers, "I know I may be young/but I've got feelings too." Although she later reverts back to her pop self on such tracks as "Cinderella," she hints at a growing maturity.
"It's my first album that I've ever really written on my own," she says. "When I get to sing a song that I wrote, it just means that much more to me."
Even though her personal creativity is drawn out more, the force of marketing is still strong. A cover of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" will be featured in her upcoming movie "Crossroads," and a number of tracks with trendy, techno producer BT were scrapped because they didn't fit Miss Spears' style.
"I'm not really here to please the critics, I'm here to please my fans," she says. "I put my heart into it, and hopefully they'll see that and appreciate it."
She promises that at the MCI Center she will present a show with "so many amazing things that have never been done before."
"I hope people see me in a different light that they haven't seen me in before," she says. "I don't like defining myself . I just am."

WHAT: Britney Spears with opening act O-Town
WHERE: MCI Center, Seventh and F streets NW
WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesday
TICKETS: $39.50 to $65
PHONE: 202/432-SEAT

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