January 27, 2021
Continuing our series on powerful music fandom, Alim Kheraj explains how finding like-minded Spears fans helped him turn the page on a dark chapter in his lifeRead more from our series: The fandom that made meI have been a Britney Spears fan for more than two-thirds of my life. Raised on Top of the Pops and fixated on the Spice Girls, eight-year-old me was primed for the 1999 release of Spears’s debut single, the game-changing … Baby One More Time. I still remember going to Woolworths in Crystal Palace with my dad to buy the single on cassette, and my excitement as we played the song in the car on the way home. I don’t know exactly when I saw the video, Spears powerfully strutting down that high-school corridor – midriff exposed, hair in bunches – but I do remember that I was desperate to recreate that schoolgirl look. It was no surprise to my parents when, aged 13, I came out as gay.
Britney Spears: how her fans made me feel lucky to be alive
While Spears’s music was a constant presence throughout my childhood and adolescence, my affinity didn’t mutate into devotion until I was in my late teens and she released her 2007 album, Blackout. Despite the media circus around her at the time, trailing her during a reported breakdown as if it were sport, here was this fascinating, dank, grungy pop record that eschewed soul-searching in favour of hedonism and raw sexuality. I was gripped, and soon I was frequenting fan forums, revisiting her back catalogue and exploring the treasure trove of online leaks.
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