“It’s Britney, b****!” So goes the opening line (uttered in trademark sultry whisper) of the massively popular new single from the massively unraveling pop star, Britney Spears. The song, “Gimme More,” is one of the catchiest and well-produced singles of her career, and is currently #1 on the singles and downloads charts. This is a freak bit of good news in the life of Ms. Spears, who has been very publicly portrayed as the mother of all trainwrecks for the past few years, and especially in the past few weeks.
I’m not sure if the “Britney” as seen in the media is nearly as big of an existential disaster as the real girl, but I suspect the two are not entirely dissimilar. I also suspect that the Britney of the media and the real Britney are something of a symbiotic pair—the one feeds off the other. In lieu of lacking an identity, both are shaped by external (and oftentimes viciously indifferent) forces. I think this quote from Chuck Klosterman sums it up:
After I spent my time with Spears, people kept asking me, “What is she really like?” My answer was usually, “I don’t know, and I don’t think she does, either.” And that’s not sarcasm; I honestly believe Britney Spears was so insulated from the public (and so exhaustively governed by the people trying to control her image) that she became unable to differentiate between a) the person who was famous and b) the person she actually was.
Poor Britney. She’s become a photoshopped icon of pop-culture gone bad, and her media-made, abused persona is wasting away with every passing paparazzi pic. I feel for her deeply, and cringe with each new “attack” by the Perez Hiltons of the world.
If her new single is proclaiming some hedonistic urge for “more” of whatever vice is at her disposal (and with the money she has, there’s a world of wrong at her fingertips), then her soul is screaming for the exact opposite: “Gimme less!” Britney: you need to simplify; you need to start anew.
If I were her parent, or any close advisor, I’d give her the following advice:
- Get your kids back, and move to the middle of the country (Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, wherever) for at least a year. L.A. is toxic (forgive the allusion) for someone in your state.
- Once established in a small town somewhere, get involved in a church. Hopefully it won’t be a crazy paparazzi circus like when you come to my church (Bel Air Presbyterian).
- Lose the wigs and extensions. It’s okay to look like Sinead O’Connor or Felicity-era Keri Russell for a little while.
- Stay away from nightclubs, bars, or anything trendier than Joe’s Crab Shack.
Of course, I’d love to give Britney advice about her music career as well. It remains to be seen if the new album (coming in November) will be on the level of “Gimme More,” but if I was producing it, I’d suggest the following:
- Make an album full of dirty Timbaland or Neptunes beats over late-90s pop samples (I’m thinking the chorus of “Mmmm Bopp” or the guitar riff from Lit’s “My Own Worst Enemy”).
- Make self-referential / career retrospective songs: Write your version of “Cry Me a River,” or sample “Baby One More Time” (the single that started it all). Even better, record a mega-mix retrospective produced by mash-up maestro Girltalk.
- Employ DangerMouse to sample trendy euro-dance hipster music a la Kanye West and Daft Punk. Possible candidates: Air, Datarock, The Knife, Junior Senior.
- Cover Radiohead’s “Everything In It’s Right Place.” Can you imagine how cool it would be to hear the line yesterday I woke up sucking a lemon uttered in Britney’s trademark robo-rasp?
- Record a duet of “All Apologies” with the late Kurt Cobain. I’m envisioning a video in the vein of Celine Dion’s improbable “duets” with the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elvis.
In any case (and all ironic amusement aside), I hope that Britney gets her career back on track. I hope that she’s seen the bottom and found it wanting. It’s time to move on to better, more important things.