If you grew up in the late 90s and early aughts, your early years may have been partially defined by your musical allegiances at a time when the music industry was rife with rivalries, both real and manufactured. Who among us didn’t take a side when it came to NSYNC versus Backstreet Boys, Oasis versus Blur, or Nas versus Jay Z?
One of the biggest feuds at this time was the rivalry between divas Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. As two pop sensations who came onto the scene around the same time, they were seen as natural adversaries by fans, the media, and maybe even themselves.
But it’s been a long time since then. There’s been a stark amount of evidence over the years suggesting that the Aguilera/Spears feud has been put to rest, including some public displays of mutual support on their parts. So is the rivalry between Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears still ongoing, or has it been usurped by words of camaraderie? And did it even really exist at all? Let’s find out.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be quite accurate to say that the feud between pop divas Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears was simply fueled by media speculation and PR gurus. Though Aguilera was pitted against Spears at the onset of their careers, with Aguilera categorized as the « bad » one and Spears as the « good » one, as E! News pointed out, the singers were also quick to exchange barbs. (Whether or not those barbs were planned by their management teams is impossible to know for sure, but hey, you never know.)
According to E! News, Spears and Aguilera’s history can be traced back to a time way before their first singles ever hit the charts, back to when both were part of the featured cast of Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club. Among their castmate contemporaries were a slew of future A-listers, including Kerri Russell, Ryan Gosling, and Justin Timberlake. Per E! News, Aguilera has hinted that she and Spears fought over Timberlake, with Spears winning out in the end — the then-Mousketeer went on to date him officially from 1999 to 2002 (via InStyle).
Things officially came to a head in 2003 in the wake of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera’s now-notorious MTV Video Music Awards performance with pop royalty Madonna, in which Spears infamously locked lips with the Queen during the trio’s rendition of « Like a Virgin ». But even many fans today don’t know the true story of that infamous moment.
In addition to Spears and Madonna sharing a kiss, Aguilera also kissed the Queen of Pop. But Aguilera’s own lip-lock with Madonna was completely forgotten, thanks to Spears’ recent breakup with Justin Timberlake. As Glamour noted in their 2019 retrospective of the iconic MTV moment, the lack of an Xtina/Madonna kissing close-up was due to the fact that the camera immediately panned to catch Timberlake’s reaction to Spears’ kiss.
Per E! News, Aguilera was the first to fire shots in a 2003 interview with Blender magazine, in which she dished on the dynamic between her and Spears during their VMA rehearsals. « Every time I tried to start a conversation with her — well, let’s just say she seemed nervous the whole time, » Aguilera, who was at the height of her Dirrty era, said at the time, per E!. « She seems to me like a lost little girl, someone who desperate needs guidance. »
After Christina Aguilera threw down the gauntlet following the 2003 VMAs performance, what followed was a steady exchange of verbal punches between her and Britney Spears that lasted for years, cropping up in acid-laced soundbites throughout the early and mid-aughts. As E! News noted in their report of the feud, the media-fueled melee might have begun over the VMAs, but it soon extended into other areas of their personal lives. Things took a turn for the worse when Aguilera went on tour with Spears’ ex Justin Timberlake, per Daily Mail, fueling rumors of a rebound.
For her part, Spears rebuked Aguilera’s fighting words about the VMA rehearsals. (« A lost girl? I think it’s probably the other way around. I can’t believe she said that about me, » Spears told Blender, before accusing Aguilera of trying to kiss her on the lips at a nightclub, per E!.) But Aguilera’s next major attack came in the form of a jab about Spears’ then-marriage to Kevin Federline. After Spears’ and Federline’s three month courtship, the pair became engaged, with Spears buying her own engagement ring — a rock that Aguilera said « [looked] like she got it at QVC » (via E! News).
The Christina/Britney rivalry went along in this manner before eventually petering out sometime before 2008, when Aguilera became the first of the two to speak out on their contentious past — and do her best to make reparations with her former frenemy.
In 2008, after Britney Spears had struggled through a public meltdown, Christina Aguilera tried to publicly put an end to their feud in an interview with the Daily Mail. She indicated that it was the entertainment industry, rather than actual hard feelings, that had made them into enemies.
« When we both started releasing records, it was a funny time for me, » Aguilera explained. « It must have seemed as if we were competing with each other, but, in reality, Britney is someone that I used to hold hands with [in our Mickey Mouse Club days]. » It seems the two were in fact cordial, though distant.
In recent years, the two singers have refused to continue feeding into the feud, despite endless media comparisons, per E! News. And in a 2018 profile of Aguilera for the August cover of Cosmopolitan, the « Beautiful » singer put an end to the rumors once and for all.
« It’s hard to hear yourself being called names. I remember being hurt by these commercials on MTV, pitting Britney as the good girl and me as the bad girl, » Aguilera said of the controversy. She even posted an Instagram pic of her and Britney and offered to record a song together — a true olive branch.
While the feud between Britney and Christina might have been a formative pop-culture touchstone for many millennials, we’re glad it’s finally been put to rest.