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Mariah Carey performed live in New York City’s Central Park this morning. She was there to kick off Good Morning America’s Summer Concert Series. She was also there to promote her forthcoming album. The pop diva performed three songs, “Always Be My Baby,” “We Belong Together,” and her new single “#Beautiful” with Miguel. Complete with a near-wardrobe malfunction and an accidental expletive heard on live television, this made for one interesting morning. Miguel, who was billed as a “surprise guest,” surprised nobody as he graced the GMA stage with his presence. He sounded brilliant as always. Mariah definitely upgraded from her last televised performance on the “American Idol” finale. Carey was actually singing this time without the help of a pre-recorded track. She didn’t sound “perfect,” but a live performance isn’t supposed to be perfect. It’s supposed to be real. Towards the end of “#Beautiful,” it sounded like Mariah was trying her best to hit that trademark high note, but to no avail. However, I would much rather hear that as opposed to hearing her pretend to hit it while a backing track plays the background. Mariah’s voice sounded great for the most part and she should continue singing live without pre-recorded vocals.

Ray Manzarek passed away on May 20, 2013 after a long battle with bile duct cancer. He was the founding member of The Doors, after a chance meeting with Jim Morrison on Venice Beach in California. After Morrison sang some lines from “Moonlight Drive” to Manzarek, the beginning of The Doors was in full swing. The Doors became a pivotal rock band in the late 1960s, standing out from the usual hippie-themed music of the time. Death was a frequent theme in their songs. There was a darkness to their work that was unusual and unique at the time. “I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend and band mate Ray Manzarek today,” said Manzarek’s former band mate Robby Krieger. “I’m just glad to have been able to have played Doors songs with him for the last decade. Ray was a huge part of my life and I will always miss him.” “There was no keyboard player on the planet more appropriate to support Jim Morrison’s words,” former Doors drummer John Densmore wrote on his Twitter page following the news. “Ray, I felt totally in sync with you musically. It was like we were of one mind, holding down the foundation for Robby and Jim to float on top of. I will miss my musical brother.” Their hits include, “Break On Through (To The Other Side),” “Light My Fire,” “The End,” and “L.A. Woman.”

I Wanna Get In the Zone

On Novermber 18, 2003, Britney Spears released her fourth studio album. “In the Zone” was the result of, as VH1’s “Behind The Music” put it, “a young woman coming of age.” In the years since her first single, “…Baby One More Time,” Spears had undergone several personal changes that reflected and influenced the direction in her music. Just a year before the album’s release, Spears had broken up with her “self-proclaimed first love,” Justin Timberlake. The two were the epitome of teen pop and a match made in Heaven. The ending of their relationship helped both grow as artists and entertainers. The breakup helped them move past the bubblegum world they started in. They were growing into adults and it was time for a change.

On Spears’ third album, “Britney,” the pop star spoke of yearning for independence. She was clearly going through a progression as the album’s style was divided into the bubblegum (“Bombastic Love,” “Anticipating,”) and adult (“I’m a Slave 4 U,” “Boys”). “In the Zone” seemed to confirm this transformation from little girl to grown woman. If Spears was “not a girl, not yet a woman,” she was clearly a woman during the writing and recording of her next project. A certain sexuality that was hinted at on “Britney” was taken much further on “In the Zone.” Songs like “Showdown,” “Breathe on Me,” and “Touch Of My Hand” are fine examples of Spears’ sexual expression. Everything from heavy breathing to masturbation was covered. Even bonus tracks like “Don’t Hang Up” touched on phone sex. Despite all the criticism Spears got for her sexy image, the sexual desire expressed on “In the Zone” was done in a tasteful, almost romantic way. On “Touch Of My Hand,” for example, Spears found a way to take a subject matter so many people sweep under the rug and make it sound poetically beautiful.

The album also saw more progression as Britney Spears, the songwriter. With each album leading up to “In the Zone,” Spears had shown more and more growth as a contributer to the music she was performing. On “In the Zone,” she has shown her greatest creative contribution to date, co-writing 8 of the 12 tracks. Spears also co-wrote the bonus tracks, “Don’t Hang Up” and “I’ve Just Begun (Having My Fun).” In a recent interview, Spears called “Everytime” her most personal song. She’s also cited it as the first song she’s ever written. The song talks about the loss of a love who still haunts your memory. The sadness and heartbreak are apparent in the song and conveys a real life message listeners can relate to.

The various musical genres “In the Zone” covers are also significant to note. From trance (“Early Mornin'”) to reggae (“The Hook Up”) to techno (“Brave New Girl”), the album saw a rare accomplishment of putting together an album that had a diverse set of musical influences, while still remaining a cohesive whole. The album also had an “all-star cast of contributers” with everyone ranging from Madonna to R. Kelly to Moby. Fans surely remember the infamous kiss shared between Madonna and Britney at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. What better way to follow up that kiss than a collaboration between the two pop icons in the form of a song and music video? Another single from the album, “Toxic,” won Spears her first Grammy Award for “Best Dance Recording” in 2005.

For fans of Britney Spears, the promotion machine for the “In the Zone” album was kicked into high gear. Memorable moments from the “In the Zone” era include the 2003 VMA performance, Britney’s “Behind the Music” special on VH1, the “All Eyes on Britney” interview on MTV, the “Primetime” interview with Diane Sawyer, the ABC special, the 2003 Rolling Stone cover, the performance at the 2003 American Music Awards, and the “Live from Miami” special of the “Onyx Hotel Tour” on Showtime. Spears also performed “Me Against the Music” and “(I Got That) Boom Boom (featuring Ying Yang Twins)” for MTV’s TRL in NYC’s Times Square. And who could forget the “In the Zone & Out All Night” special for MTV, where Spears gave surprise performances at 3 different clubs in Manhattan?

The “In the Zone” album surely gave fans of Britney Spears plenty of wonderful memories and they are still as special today as they were 9 years ago… if not more so. The album also reflected a growth, creativity, and sexuality that plenty of fans could probably relate to. With an honest exploration of feelings and a need for pure fun, escapism, “In the Zone” remains one of pop music’s most significant albums of the past decade. A successful move away from the bubblegum pop Spears sang of when she was 16. It’s an album that sounds just as timeless and fresh today as it did when it came out nearly a decade ago. THANK YOU BRITNEY!