Will Britney Spears take the stage again?

A Britney Spears comeback is the kind of opportunity that makes music industry executives see dollar signs. But Ms Spears, who has spent years fighting for control of her life, has given few signs that she’s ready to return to the stage or to the recording studio anytime soon.

The question of what Ms Spears wants hangs over a hearing scheduled for Wednesday, where an estate court will consider the pop superstar’s petition to remove her father from the unusual tutelage that has governed his personal life and finances for 13 years. . This court-approved legal arrangement, which governs everything from her daily travel to her possibility of getting married, has sparked a public outcry which has, in turn, rekindled interest in the future of Ms Spears’ career.

The struggle for guardianship between Ms Spears and her father, James P. Spears, made the singer a symbol of women’s empowerment, able to attract casual fans who might have ignored her previous nostalgic performances, executives say of the music industry.

Britney Spears’ debut album, “… Baby One More Time,” was released in 1999. It has sold over 14 million copies in the United States, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.


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BERNARD WEIL / Toronto Star / ZUMA PRESS

“The iron couldn’t be hotter to announce something,” says John Kellogg, entertainment lawyer and program director for the Master of Arts in Music Business at the online school at Berklee College of Music. “No one has had this much publicity in a long time. “

Wednesday’s hearing is expected to be a turning point for Ms Spears. Even if the guardianship persists for some time to come, she would likely have more control over her business and a fortune of $ 60 million with Mr Spears out of sight. Mr Spears, who had said he would step down from the trusteeship at some point, filed a petition to end it earlier this month.

With more control, there are questions about Ms. Spears’ next career change. Even a limited return would be a milestone in the music industry: Ms Spears, an RCA Records artist, is one of the best-selling stars of all time, having sold 33.8 million albums in the States United, according to Billboard, fifth among female artists since 1991..

Some of his recent comments seem to finally leave the door open to live performances.

Ms. Spears’ song “Toxic”, taken from her fourth studio album, “In the Zone” in 2003, becomes a Top 10 hit. It is now her most popular song on US streaming services, with $ 565 million. streams, according to MRC Data.


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Gerald Herbert / Associated Press

“I’m not going to be performing on stages anytime soon with my father handling what I wear, say, do or think,” according to a post on his Instagram account in July.

Yet Ms Spears, who turns 40 in December, also described feeling compelled to gamble in the past and wanting to have a third child, according to her remarks in probate court in June. On Instagram the same month, a message said she had no idea if she would return to the stage.

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Larry Rudolph, Ms Spears’ longtime manager, resigned in July, saying in a letter to the Guardianship that he had become “aware that Britney has expressed intention to officially retire”. Ms Spears has yet to replace him, according to industry executives.

Ms Spears’ legal team did not make her available for an interview. Mathew Rosengart, his new lawyer, and Creative Artists Agency, his arts agency, declined to comment. Business manager Michael Kane and publicist Jeff Raymond did not respond to requests. James P. Spears’ legal team did not respond to requests.

Ms Spears also recently got engaged to boyfriend Sam Asghari, according to her Instagram account. His finances, which include cash assets of $ 2.7 million and non-cash assets valued at over $ 57 million, have improved since his trusteeship began in 2008, according to court documents.

The pop star’s guardianship begins in February 2008, led largely by her father, James P. Spears, following a series of widely publicized struggles with mental health issues. At the time, Ms. Spears recognized its need.


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Damian Dovarganes / ASSOCIATE PRESS

The star has already braked on a comeback. In early 2019, she abandoned a planned Las Vegas residency, announcing an indefinite hiatus and citing her father’s health issues. That was “not the real reason behind it,” said a music executive with knowledge of her decision making. “She [pulled] taking it because she literally couldn’t do it, ”says the executive.

“I said, ‘I don’t wanna do [the residency]“… I was getting really nervous,” Ms. Spears told a Los Angeles court in June of the 2019 show. “It was like I literally took 200 pounds off of me when they said I didn’t have more to doing the show because it was really, really hard for me and it was too much. I could not any more.

Performance issues have arisen in the past. In 2013, for example, the Los Angeles Times criticized her previous ‘Piece of Me’ residency at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, saying that “the star’s presence felt so diminished.”

Older listeners associate Ms. Spears with early hits like “Oops!… I Did It Again”. Her 1999 debut album “… Baby One More Time” has sold over 14 million copies in the United States, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.

Ms. Spears’ Las Vegas residence, “Piece of Me,” begins its lucrative four-year run at the end of 2013.


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VW PicsZUMA PRESS

The following generations also embraced the singer. While recent album sales haven’t matched her early highs, her mid-career and final albums are exceptionally popular on streaming services for a veteran act. Ms. Spears has 12 songs with more than 100 million streams in the United States each that span the breadth of her career, according to MRC Data.

Music critics have also come. Ms. Spears’ latest album, “Glory” of 2016, is her second highest-rated album, according to review aggregator Metacritic. This call helped his “Piece of Me” residency, which lasted from 2013 to 2017, grossed nearly $ 140 million, according to Billboard.

Talent prices in Las Vegas have been on the rise in recent years, according to industry executives. A residency makes more sense than a full-fledged tour for Ms. Spears, as it allows performers a more normal lifestyle, says Kellogg.

It is also unclear whether Ms Spears will return to the recording studio.

Ms Spears remains under contract with RCA Records and owes the label more music, according to the music director with knowledge of her decision making. If she did not wish to record, she could negotiate an exit from her contract. Failing that, RCA would be wise to wait for Ms Spears to take a step, rather than pressure her, says Zach Scott Gainous, a Nashville-based entertainment lawyer and artist director. “Do they really want to be that bad guy?” he says. RCA declined to comment. RCA re-released “Glory” with additional tracks in 2020.

After years of being silent about the guardianship in public, Ms Spears objected to it at a hearing in June, calling it abusive and unofficially asking it to end it. She asks the court in charge of the case to dismiss her father as custodian of her finances.


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Chris Pizzello / Associated press

If Ms Spears publicly retired from performing and recording, she could do what many stars have done – not retire later, Mr Gainous says. “She’s more likely to do something long term than nothing at all,” he says.

“I have worked my whole life,” Ms Spears told court in June. “I deserve to have a two to three year break and just, you know, do what I want to do.”

Write to Neil Shah at neil.shah@wsj.com

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