Madonna has done it. So have Gwyneth Paltrow and Mandy Moore.

What's behind Britney Spears' decision to go brunette -- and trade in her flowing goldilocks for a perky chocolate bob over the weekend?

"We'd been talking about making a big change, both in cut and color," says hairstylist Kevin Mancuso, who has been cutting Spears' hair for three years. "We decided the whole idea would be to give it a jagged edge, both hard and beautiful at the same time."

Mancuso, who performed the transformation along with colorist Steven Amendola for Manhattan's Peter Coppola salon, said it took "hours" to apply the color, which includes golden, reddish and dark blond highlights.

Mancuso says Spears' "personal" new songs inspired the coif.

"She's working on some great stuff," he says.

Lauren Solomon, a New York image consultant, says Spears' new hair color is a bid for attention.

"We have not heard much about her recently and she had to do something to get her back in the spotlight," she says. "A new, dark sultry look instead of the blond flighty look is going to get a whole new message in the media."

Spears hasn't been much in the spotlight lately. According to her Web site, she is currently "in production" on her new album, and she was recently seen on the arm of Hollywood hotshot Colin Farrell.

But with Madonna's new album set to hit stores today and Christina Aguilera signing on as the new face of Versace, Spears has been laying low, aside from the recent announcement that charges against a Japanese stalker have been dropped.

"I don't think that [the stalker] was a life-changing experience," says Solomon. "This is not Rudy looking to get over prostate cancer. It's time for a change. We've had too much of the same for too long. The easiest way to get attention is to change the look."

Spears' publicist, Nathalie Moar, insists the new hair wasn't a premeditated ploy.

"She's young. She can do whatever she wants," says Moar. "Even though she's never changed her color, Britney always changes. Next week it could be something different."