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Britney Spears turns 30: A timeline of the singer's life in video

December 2, 2011 |  1:31 pm

Britney Spears turns 30
Britney Spears turns 30 today. Which means the singer can finally close the book on her 20s -- that turbulent decade that saw her start as one of the biggest pop stars in the world, then hurtle through a nightmare progression of breakdowns, marriages, divorces, hospitalizations, a disastrous MTV VMA performance, a head-shaving incident and the loss of custody of her children.

What has happened to Spears over the course of the last decade is enough to fill a book the size of a Dickens novel. Unless you've been a regular reader of the gossip sites, you may have missed some of the twists and turns.

But for the time-challenged, here's a brief recap of Spears' career in three videos.

PHOTOS: Britney Spears through the years

It's worth beginning with Spears as most people first met her: the fresh-faced and slightly too-naughty 16-year-old schoolgirl of her first music video, "...Baby One More Time," released in 1998.

The song became one of the bestselling singles of all time, hitting No. 1 on the charts in the U.S. and several countries in Europe. The video, directed by British director Nigel Dick, was voted the third most influential video of all time by a poll conducted by MySpace. Dick and Spears would collaborate on three more videos after this.

Spears' flirty use of her sexuality served her well for her first album and through videos and live performances she steadily amped up that sexuality.

In the years following the first big single, she broke up with boyfriend Justin Timberlake, married a childhood friend, divorced him hours later, married another guy, had two children, starred in a reality show, shaved her head, attacked paparazzi (she apologized and wasn't arrested) and was admitted to a rehab facility.

Just before the release of her fifth studio album, "Blackout," Spears performed the first single, "Gimme More" at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. Spears came out for the show's kick-off performance wearing a wig, appeared to slouch through her dance moves and apparently couldn't even be bothered to lip-sync effectively. The celebrity crowd in the audience was aghast watching the performance.

Shortly after her VMA debacle, Spears lost custody of her children to ex-husband Kevin Federline.

She and her father-manager obtained restraining orders against her former manager, Sam Lufti, ex-boyfriend Adnan Ghalib and attorney Jon Eardely, all of whom were accused of attempting to gain control of Spears' business affairs.

But despite the personal problems, Spears has continued to rack up the hit singles. According to Billboard magazine, she has the longest span of No. 1 hits on the pop songs chart, covering 12 years, seven months and four days.

Lest you think the singer's controversy days are behind her, Spears stirred up more problems in October 2011 by shooting the video for her single "Criminal" in England, using prop guns in an area of the country that had just suffered from rioting. Local officials were upset, demanding an apology that never came.

Meanwhile, the video, which promised lots of sex and violence -- and delivered, became a hitfor Spears, reaching No. 1 on the iTunes charts within minutes of its release. The teasing sexuality of "...Baby One More Time" isn't quite so teasing anymore.


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--Patrick Kevin Day

Photo: Britney Spears performs at the 2011 Billboard Music Awards. Ethan Miller / Getty Images