Britney Spears’ father Jamie may have control over her wellbeing and financial affairs through the conservatorship but one place she was allowed to be free was the recording studio.
The Slave 4 U singer’s longtime songwriter Claude Kelly has recalled what life was like for Britney in the months after the strict conservatorship came into place and the relationship she had with her father.
Claude began working with Britney in 2008, not long after a court put Jamie in charge of her person and other business affairs following her mental health breakdown.
Together, Claude and Britney worked on her comeback album Circus and he wrote the hit title track.
In the controversial documentary Framing Britney Spears, Jamie is alleged to have only become involved in Britney’s life once the conservatorship came into effect and he’s since been portrayed as a controlling figure.
However, Claude saw a different side to the father-daughter dynamic and told Metro.co.uk: ‘He wasn’t present in the studio partly because I think the people she was working with; Max Martin, myself, Dr Luke, Benny Blanco – people who had worked with her for a while. It was kind of a family vibe so there was no reason to be cautious or guarded.’
Claude didn’t meet Jamie until the Circus album release party in New York City several months later.
‘It was a huge event with fire breathers and contortionists and all the Circus cool things. Britney gets the best as you can imagine,’ he recalled, describing it as ‘probably the most insane party I’ve been to ever’.
The songwriter continued: ‘I went into the VIP section and she was standing there with her father, everyone was crowding her and saying hello. It was kind of intense and so he was introducing her to people one by one and making sure it wasn’t too hectic for her.
‘So in that way he was more of a protective father than being overbearing. Any father in that position at a party and your daughter’s the most famous person in the world, you kind of want to stand guard and make sure she’s OK.’
Claude says it’s a huge misconception that Britney wasn’t able to make important decisions regarding her career.
‘She absolutely had control of the music,’ he insisted. ‘She had really powerful, smart creative people around her but she was handpicking the songs that she wanted to do and that’s how Circus got chosen.’
However, he stated: ‘Britney was definitely more protected than most artists because the studio for many is a safe space. She was more guarded and protected, not necessarily because of anything wrong but because she was the biggest star in the world.
‘If there’s a different Britney that happens outside the studio, I can’t speak to that because the lady who comes to work has the eye of the tiger.’
Claude was aware that Circus was intended to be Britney’s big comeback after the negativity surrounding her Blackout album in 2007.
He recalled: ‘I could sense nerves because after she’d been such a tabloid topic for so long, that comeback is maybe even more scary than the first time you come out. Because now you know the whole world’s watching you, you can’t be a mess, the song has to be a hit and I think that pressure was on the whole album process.
‘It wasn’t about a mental break or her being unstable. The pressure was crippling for everyone.’
In regards to the documentary, Claude was most ‘p***ed off’ about the throwback interviews showing how Britney was subjected to sexist and misogynistic treatment following her split from Justin Timberlake.
‘I don’t even think the interviewers, Diane Sawyer included, realised how chauvinistic, creepy, unfair and one-sided our judgement of women were at the time,’ he said.
‘It’s ironic because Britney was influenced by Janet [Jackson] so it’s funny that they have the same experience. Justin is the guy that connects them but it’s so much bigger than him.’
Claude continued: ‘To me is what’s sickening about the music industry as it’s been for so long is women are not wrong when they say they don’t get treated fairly… so to watch how she was scrutinised and grilled on national TV – she was a young, vulnerable, clearly hurt woman, very talented, but there was no right for her to get that kind of scrutiny because she has a break-up that every woman has.
‘I think the bigger issue is not Justin Timberlake, it’s why has it been this way?’
As for Britney’s future, Claude is confident that she’ll return to performing one day.
He explained: ‘I think there’s no question in my mind that we’ll see Britney on-stage and bringing out new music again.
‘I hope she calls me when she does because I have lots of ideas but also she’s one of the most intriguing, unique, special stars that we’ve had in a generation and people like that are always a hit away.
‘You can’t really stay away from music for too long when you love it as much as she does.’
Framing Britney Spears is available to watch on Sky and Now TV in the UK.
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