Wednesday, March 18, 2009

britneyology update

Thousands of people have been emailing me complaining that Limited Inc is doing a terrible job of britneyology now that Brit has released her third vid from the circus Cd.

So, in the interest of keeping in with the crowd, a few remarks.

It was Flaubert who said that Britney is at her best when, like God, she is felt everywhere, but seen nowhere. As we have remarked, Britney’s ability to look completely generic and to sing as though her voice had been mixed together from various digitalized vocoder strands is what makes her unique. Womanizer is perhaps the summit of Brit’s disappearing act, which is counterbalanced by the sequences of her lounging about naked (in such a way as to not reveal her privates) on what looks like a bench in a sauna. Usually, we think of nakedness as a state in which we are undisguised. Here, though, Brit seems more opaque then ever.

The sad fact is, the If U seek Amy vid is a regression. It is a return to childhood, and in a sense a surrender to Britney’s real life circumstances, in which, through an entirely unjust series of court judgments, this 28 year old is being treated like a 14 year old. From the intro, which explains the title for even the dullest nosepicker out there, to the dance sequences, this is a disaster of a vid.

The dance sequences are particularly sad. If a martian came to earth and was thrust into a mid level strip joint at midnight on Friday in any city in the Sunbelt, the creature might devise a dance routine like Brit’s. I can only compare that to Ian Curtis’s choreography of his own epileptic attacks – in both cases, the performers open up to a genius outside of themselves. Ian Curtis’s career was, of course, before MTV, and Brit’s is after MTV. After MTV, the video is as important, and as disseminated, as the song. In Piece of Me, the sequences in which Britney dances alone highlight the eccentricity of her strip joint borrowings. Again and again, when she has the chance, Britney takes the banal and pushes it until it opens up to a whole different dimension of the uncanny. There’s no place for that strangeness in If U seek Amy, which ends by trying to have it two ways – Britney the naïf and Britney commenting on Britney. The second Britney only found herself after she went sane and shave off her hair. It was a Pauline moment, and since then her life has becoming madder and madder as she has become saner and saner.

The people around her obviously are maximally disturbed by this development. The whole of Circus was designed to eclipse and erase the breakaway, sane Britney. But Womanizer, with the banal lines about craziness, did not put her in an airtight box – and her genius came rushing in.

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