Monday, December 01, 2008

Britney: The Ups, The Downs, The All Arounds

Tonight is the eve before the release of Britney’s latest album, “Circus,” so I figured this warranted a laudatory rant.

Britney and I are in a love/hate relationship that 75% of the time errs on hate. I’ve always disliked her “virgin/whore” image, an image that has been replicated too many times to count in both artists that I adore and despise. The concept behind Britney Spears is not new. Nothing that she is doing is ground-breaking. If you think so, you are kidding yourself. Christina Aguilera is more like Madonna than B. That’s the truth.

I actually did like “(Hit Me) Baby, One More Time” when it came out. I admit it. I actually saw her in concert during this point of time. She was on a co-headliner gig with 98 Degrees (I was more paying to see them) at the New York State Fair back in 1999(?) with No Authority (boy band flashback!) and my girls in PYT. But then the video premiered, and I was turned off. I liked the concept of a cool young female artist. We hadn’t had one of those that latest in the pop category since Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. Britney’s original premise wasn’t much different from them. But her sexualized persona was very apparent, and it turned me off. I never considered her a role model to young girls – it really surprised me that people were so angry when she’d perform provocatively. Not once did Britney ever market herself as apple pie without a little something on the side. She broke through with the mantra that she is both innocent and sexy.

That idea in itself is something that young girls around my age very much relate to (a lot of us anyway). To say that no girl likes to be considered sexy is a total lie. So when you can put on some cute clothes and get a bit of attention, it’s exciting. But when you do this all the time, you stumble into a new kind of territory.

With all that said, I never agreed with what Britney stood for. But a good pop song is a good pop song. “Baby” and “Oops!”, even though they were kind of the same song essentially, were Max Martin pop gems, and if Max Martin wrote it, you know it’s good. I wasn’t much for the “Britney” album (save “Overprotected”, an underpromoted goldmine which really should have sent red flags up long before she shaved her head), but I did like “In the Zone” singles “Toxic” (who didn’t?) and “Everytime”, the latter being lyrically and vocally Britney’s best of all of the material she’s gotten to work with.

The past few years showed that even pop stars are human and pop fans are susceptible to feelings, even for artists they didn’t particularly care for. I’m not a Britney fan in any true sense, but seeing the images of Britney shaving her head, hitting a car with an umbrella, being wheeled out of her house strapped down on a medical gurney, were incredibly jarring to say the least. It made someone like me, who pretty much despised much of Brit’s image, feel infinitely bad for her.

No one should be exposed to the rigors that this girl was put through. Partially, I think it was because she was so young when she started, and was yet used like a sexualized product, claiming the idea was her own, as young as the age of 16. There are a million people one could blame, but considering I wasn’t here to see it first hand, I won’t.

Despite the “success” of “Blackout”, no one can deny the horror that was the 2007 VMA Performance that will forever go down in history. I don’t know who I hate more for that: her label, Jive Records, for offering her to perform, or MTV for agreeing. Anyone with eyes could tell she was not ready for this, and was in desperate need of help.

The whole idea of releasing the “Blackout” album made me kind of sick, and awed that the label that brought back teen pop to America (early Britney, *NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, and is now home to Chris Brown among others) would exploit their main flagship artist in this way. Britney didn’t even promote the album. She was at home watching movies with friends the night the album was released. The artwork is sad to say the least. “Gimme More” was the only properly manufactured music video (and I use that term loosely). “Break the Ice” was an animation for crying out loud. And when Jive released a press release that the fourth single “Radar” was being scrapped, Britney was in the thick of her latest breakdown. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand why it was shelved. I can’t believe Jive had the audacity to exploit her and her fans in such a manner when she couldn’t even properly promote the album. Jive should have been helping Britney seek the help she needs, rather than ask for another album.

I despised “Gimme More”, and honestly, “Womanizer” sounds a helluva lot like it. I’ll give you that’s a bit catchier than “Gimme”, but it’s not very unique. “Womanizer” sounds like it could have been on “Blackout”. It’s nothing new or groundbreaking, and definitely does not strike me as a stunner of a comeback track. I did, however, like “Break the Ice.”

Britney – I do have my fingers crossed for you. There is no doubt you’ll have the top album this week, and you deserve it. I may not be your biggest fan, but you’ve had a rough shake – and I’m proud that you’ve pulled through it. I don’t think you’ve seen the other side just yet, and it would be stupid to say everything is fine now, but I think you know that much now. I am proud of how far you’ve come. Keep on holding that banner of poppy goodness.


Nikki said...

I might get killed for saying this but it's my opinion, and I know I'm entitled to it.

I don't think the question is whether Britney has the right songs or not, it's whether she can actually sing.

Vocalists these days are as strong as ever. You've got Leona, who even if I don't really like her, has an undeniably huge voice. Then you've got all these R&B singers who don't just have voices, they have groove and soul.

did you hear that rumor of her doing a duet with Westlife? that's something I have to see to believe.

Mel said...

Who? Leona? Or Britney? I hope you mean the former!

I'm definitely first and foremost about the voice. That's what I hate about "American Idol". It's a voice competition, first, not a "I can't really sing but my personality shines though" competition.

I totally agree on the voice front. But sometimes it's not about the voice. Take Macy Gray. That "I Try" song was ridiculously successful but she didn't have much of a voice. It's aruable that Madonna doesn't have much of a voice. Same with T-Pain. Sometimes a good song is just a good song, and its a mixture of a lot of things: beat, melody, lyrics, hook, the writer, the producer, the right fit of the voice. You know?

Nikki said...

westlife + Britney, I'm afraid. funny, actually.

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