September 29, 2008

Womanized? Not really.

So here's the thing about me and Missspears. It's pretty obvious I don't have much time for her. I had a Titney moment in 2000, but after she released that despicable Madonna duet (a low point for both), I wrote her off. Some bloggers will find this a tedious comment, but I think it has to do partly with my age. I do not in any way identify with Britney. I grew up in the Circa Madonna. "MLVCPR," who was always changing, always interesting (to me, anyway) and always introducing her fans to interesting new influences (eg: Keith Haring, voguing culture, geisha or Frida Kahl0.) She is a woman of the world.

Part of Britney's charm is that she really is a small town hick. This can be endearing: non-druggie Britney seems to be sweet, if simple. At this year's MTV Awards she had that dorky "Awwww, you guys!" smile back. I believe that is the real Britney. That said, she's appears to be a person who has no desire to learn or grow. Her world seems very small. Some compare her to Marilyn Monroe in her weird mix of vulnerability and sexuality. Tosh! Monroe was a moth to the flame of intelligence. She she took pride in being around smart men (and women). She married and adored one of the greatest playwrights in American history, Arthur Miller. Britney married and adored Kevin Federline.

As for Womanizer, I find it unspecial, repetitive and predictably plain. Pre-album buzz for this new album and the last was couched in terms of "We're taking Britney back to the club with hawt bangers." Snooze. First, when did she ever leave the club? And isn't that part of her problem? Britney's days as a Rihanna hottie with a python slithering around her tits are over. She may get in back in shape, but she'll never be New. We've done her. To survive, she has to change.

Two questions some Britney fans may ask me: "1) Could Britney ever impress you? 2) If not, could you shut the hell up?" The answer to #1 is an absolute yes, the answer to #2 is exactly why I don't write about her. At the time of her last album, I said that the unreleased ballad State Of Grace was exactly the type single she should launch, reminding fans of her softer side. Britney has, for several years now, disappeared from her own songs. Her voice is either heavily autotuned or just a frog croak. She doesn't appear to actually sing at all anymore. Assuming she can carry a note, which some think is debatable, I believe her lack of voice is reflective of her lack of self-awareness. Her whole life she has been surrounded by people who tell her who she is. Can you imagine what it's like to be in the public eye, as she is, and have no sense of self or independence? Like a drug addict, Britney - and her whole family - is deeply in need of the thing (mass attention) that could ultimately undo her.

Do you know Kerli's song Love Is Dead (video)? THAT is the kind of song I'd have Britney release now. Something that would flip our image of her upside down and shove the critics out the door with a heeled boot. OR I'd send her back to Max Martin and do something in the style that Pink does now, a pop-rock/electro mashup with a video that has moments of humor and honesty. I just wish she'd seek out a true collaborator who has a vision beyond nightclubs and Escalades.

Guy Sigsworth is working with Britney on her Circus album. He's a musical genius, so there may be some hope. His previous work with her has been somewhat watered down (you cannot really tell he did it), but when Circus is released, I will give her a chance. I hope she surprises me and everyone else with something that moves beyond the expected to the transcendant.


Brad said...

I guess I'm obligated to post.

I don't disagree with anything you've said about her nature, I think I just experienced a different generational upbringing (Generation Spice?) and cannot relate.

I've always been ready for B to prove she can sing at some point (which she most certainly can), though I do think the label would look upon the decision with disdain. I think I wrote about State of Grace a while ago, but I do agree that should have been the single/direction of the 'new' Britney.

I will always love and adore her, and it's something I can't cease. She's simple as a rock, but I can't remove myself from the fact that she continues to inspire me.

By the by, Max Martin DID work with her just now, and explains that the track (I believe it's the track "Circus") may be the best song of his career. Can't even begin to imagine...

Anyway, we shall see. I absolutely understand your position, and I'd love to see her progress into a new direction, but I still can't complain...She won't have this opportunity forever. Viva la B.

xolondon said...

I was wondering how you'd react to this! I just had a conversation with a young colleague (22 abd really sharp) who was like 13 when Britney came out, so she too has a soft spot for her.

I mean, I have a soft spot for Boy George because I "grew up" with him and that probably baffles many folks.

And I am pretty sure there is a generation older than me that thinks Madonna represents the point at which pop culture slid off the precipice!

countpopula said...

Now, of course I'm gonna have to defend Boy George just a bit. George was a highly outspoken individual with a sharp and sarcastic wit, and has proven himself to be one of the great pop writers AND blue-eyed soul singers ever. It is very easy to get lost in the artifice of his stage persona, but he really has some talent (not that Britney does not have talent, it just operates on a different level). Now, if he could just remain sober this time...

Aaron said...

Womanized? - Nor am I!

I've grown up with Britney (Literally - I'm still a teenager) - but I've gone off her a bit in the last few years.

While I have no problem with the whole Autotuned "Back to the club" thing - I really would like to see Brit blow everybody away.

To do that - She would need to leave her label - surround herself with all the right people (Max Martin is a good start) and then she needs to write & produce the album - all on her own - I know She's got it in her!

Aaron said...

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Chris Krakora said...

I've had issues with Britney from day one; to me she comes across as a travesty of compliant feminity. It seemed that when the US culture was getting more conservative with a swing from Clinton to Bush around Y2K, the gatekeepers of pop culture decided to foist Brit onto the music-buying public because they thought the Spice Girls were too threatening. When I look at Britney's career and popularity I think to myself "Feminism never happened." She hardly comes across as someone who self-empowered, always needing some sort of handler being a parent or boyfriend/husband or whatever. The one time she did try to go out on her own, which was after the K-Fed break-up, we all know what happened: she devolved into the Blackout celebrity trainwreck that went to the crazy house, only to be "rescued" by her family and some judge. That was anything but a tale of self-empowerment for women.

As for comparing Britney to Madonna, IMHO Brit's not worthy of holding Madge's Cameltoe. Although I thought their duet wasn't that bad.

As for "Womanizer," it sounds like a inferor remake of "Radar." Too bad "Radar" wasn't released as a single and that both Brit and her record company decided that to promote another single from an album that would remind everyone of her a dark "crazy" period wouldn't be a good thing; it was decided that it would be better for everyone involved to move onto the next album instead of giving the Blackout album another shot with better promotion.

I like a few dance remixes of her stuff like the Thunderpuss mix of "I'm Not A Girl" and the Valentin remix of "Everytime," but in the end I'm not a Britney fan.

17days said...

i adore your website, as i do Brad's... just saying!

that said, we totally disagree on the Britney front. Britney is not Madonna, and the comparisons are ridiculous. Madonna's fondness for Britney, and her often repeated comments about passing the torch back in 03, are the culprits for this constant comparison between the 2. Britney is most similar to Janet Jackson, with a dash of Kylie thrown in. Comparing her to someone who is more a performance artist, less a pop star just isn't fair.

What Britney does better than ALL of them, when she is at the top of her game, is PERFORM. I have never seen the hunger in Madonna's eyes that Britney delivered when she did "Oops..." at the VMA's. I have never seen Janet dance as determined or as well as Britney did in the video for "Me Against The Music" (shit song, fierce choreography). And I have never seen Kylie look as genuinely sexy as Britney did in the video for "I'm A Slave 4 U".

While the club bangers she recorded for BLACKOUT, and has on deck for CIRCUS, might not be to your liking and might be the kind of adventure you'd like her to take, make no mistake: Britney is doing the sound of today and, in many ways, the future. Her dance-pop has always had a hint of r&b to it (Janet, again...) and she is excelling at the medium she stars in. "State Of Grace" is amazing...but I don't want my Britney to TRY and be Imogen Heap.

She is seriously under rated as a pop vocalist. While her voice is not as "bells and whistles" amazing as Christina or Whitney, she delivers on EVERY SINGLE SONG she does. you always know its her, and its always pretty interesting. the agressive, deep voice with which she attacks "Womanizer" is at once exciting and defiant. How could one come up with a better comeback!?! "You think I'm crazy? I GOT YOUR CRAZY!" GENIUS!

I'm uninterested in the argument that Britney isn't changing or growing because its simply wrong. Each album she has made (and I am not about to argue that she is an albums artist. Like all great pop stars, she is a singles artist whose albums contain filler.) is incredibly current for the time period she release it in, and each album she has released contains at least 1 classic song: ...Baby One More Time, Ooop...I Did It Again, I'm A Slave 4 U, Toxic, and Gimme More. I for one can't wait to see what comes next, and I am so so happy I can pretty much guarantee it won't be some watered down, uninspiring version of Bjork or a heavy handed diary entry about what's like to be famous and crazy. While she has her effective moments of candor and confession (see: "Everytime", "Someday I Will Understand", and the criminally overlooked "Why Should I Be Sad") Britney is about the dance.

I agree with Brad: this moment...HER moment...won't last forever. I love that she is making the most of it right NOW.

17days said...

Oh, and btw, I'm 33 and I manage a female recording artist who is, at times, the antithesis of Britney. Also, I worship Madonna... Just wanted to clarify. Again, I LOVE your site.

xolondon said...

This is the crux: I described what I want in a pop star and you described what you want.

The only way I can talk about Britney is to relate her to the one other star on that level. The comparison to Madonna is not "ridiculous" when we are talking about the cultural impact of a creamy smooth pop icon's (to quote Madonna) effect on zillions of people. On a sort of "socio-cultural" level there are really just two in America, Madonna and Britney. In this era, I would argue that ONLY Britney has a hold on the public in a similar way. It's about xxxtreme fame.

Aaron said...

Wow! "Socio-Cultural" - This is getting heavy!

I really think that the comparisons between Brit & Madonna (or Kylie) are unfair - They are on totally different levels.

That being said - I think that they do have plenty in common & I'm inclined to agree with both Chris & 17Days.

However, I think that nobody has really managed to capture the musical Zeitgeist of the time - with each album - as Britney has.

Baby! One More Time was straightforward pop, Oops! was a bit sexier & had some R'n'B moments on it, Britney was really a bit of a mix of everything. In The Zone was moving towards Dance & Sexiness and Blackout was straight ahead dance music - so she really has managed to capture the music of the time well.

Aaron said...

Another Important Point is that (from My Perspective) Britney doesn't want to be taken as a mega star.

She seems happy recording her style of music - and if people like it - they like it. I think that's a great way to be - and that's how it looks from my perspective anyways.

I think her music is really supposed to be taken lightly and as a bit of fun - you can't deny Blackout was great to dance too - even if you're not a Britney fan.

Adem With An E said...

Aaron, do you really think Britney doesn't want to be a megastar? I completely disagree. Whilst she may not be fame-hungry humourless pop star like Lady Gaga, she certainly craves the spotlight. I definitely think Britney enjoys being a megastar, it's just that lately she's been a megastar for all the wrong reasons.

I was in my final years of high school when Britney became popular and, I guess, I too grew up with her on my CD player to a degree. That said, I can absolutely tell you that there is not a single album of Britney's which is mainly good songs, bar her greatest hits. Her records contain a number of corkers, but fill themselves out with true boring fodder. Even last years "Blackout" - which I remember praising quite furiously in my A+ review on my old website - hasn't aged very well in places at all, and now songs I thought were quite instant have actually now become distant shadows of what they could have been.

This next album needs to be more than just a return to form. This next album needs to be a step up.

Aaron said...

Adem: I'm sure she wants to BE a Megastar - but I think at the moment - she really doesn't want to be SEEN as a megastar.

Although - typing that makes me sound really, really stupid.

xolondon said...

It's interesting that Brit's own fans do not view her in a bigger context as having an effect on pop culture. ???Mariah, Celine, etc have been huge sellers, but not had an effect on pop culture in the same way Britney has. She and Madonna share the fact that they are "zeitgeist" themselves. The work of art is their own personas!

Britney is still in that megawhatever position despite - or because of - the past 2 years. I think she very much wants to be there.

Adem, regarding your A+ review, I think that's the nature of being inspired by pop: to get excited, and say "She's back" when maybe she isn't. How many times have I done that with shitty old Prince!? It happens with all the "old" girls: Britney, Madonna, Janet, etc. Everybody tries to will the greatness onto them.

If Britney's last CD is viewed as a success, evidence suggests she was propped up at that time. A lucky strike. This album will, one hopes, have more of her own choices.

D'luv said...

Britney, Madonna....who has time for these women? They're only ever as good as their songs...and they've been hit or miss over the past 8 years with that.

I agree that the Madonna/Britney duet was horrid. And "Womanizer" is atrocious.

Also, you left the word "to" out in your "Monroe was -- moth to the flame" sentence :)

And in another one I had to laugh because all I saw was Madonna and CPR.

Phil said...

Here's my two cents.

No, literally, here's my two cents for Britney's career.


Salvador Ali said...

XO, I agree with many of your points. I always had a hard time with Britney's first few albums. Both Xtina and Justin had a good idea of how they wanted to sound/look and had the musical vocabulary to pursue it. Britney appeared contrived and dependent solely on her dancing ability.

But I really loved Blackout. I thought it was fantastic, creative, fun and focused. Maybe it was the craziness, but Britney seemed so more human and the music was incredible.

I have hard time with "Womanizer." It's just so bland! I don't get it.

Diva Incarnate said...

When Britney does "connect" with the right material, like Madonna for starters, her essense more than anything is almost filtered through and, to me, everything around that idea of what she is as a pop star icon (I love the creamy smooth pop Goddess comment from Madonna) is idolised and viewed from the other side of the glass. It makes what she does often sound like the pinnacle of that fashion of whatever music, an event to marvel, which I do believe has made Madonna into a genuine icon. Madonna is like a ghost these days, on stage a hallucination of what we want to see and what we actually see - in the impossible situation of living up to something she may or may no longer identify with. Annie Lennox had some interesting words about why she would not go on stage with a red crop do for instance. Britney, it has always seemed, is incapable of defining herself. I have never been remotely interested in what she has to say, and still harbour nothing but hunger for her striking and gelid dance music (which is hit and miss, because she scores with such a wide demographic and thrives on media "approval" in a way Madonna wasn't quite so passive with). Gimme More was all things: glamorous, revolting and botched (these are all compliments). How Britney generates her career is a real mystery to me - perhaps that is her unique gift.

I love this blog, just thought I would mention.

Mr. Will-W. said...

really does any of this matter though? britney didn't even need that strong a track to re-launch with as there is clearly enough of a public craving for her new material. team spears knows what it is doing and i'm certain they will not let this one fail. britney is on the verge of one of the biggest comebacks music has seen. it will be epic. i think "womanizer" is just a taster of more exciting things to come off "circus".



ultraplus said...

Well, I don't think 'Womanizer' is that bad. Everyone's entitled to a bad single now and again, but I think for Brit-Brit, it was 'Gimme More' which i never thought was all that special.

Time will tell, but to be truthful I can't see Britney around in 3 to 4 more albums. Can you!?