Thursday, October 20, 2011

Britney May Be A "Criminal," But We're Guilty Of Searching For Someone Who's Not There


We’ve received a request from an Unapologetically POP fan for a review of Brit Brit’s "Criminal" video off of her most recent album, Femme Fatale. Let me preface this by saying that, as a gay man, Britney’s been as essential an ingredient to my life as ketchup is to brisket. She’s been there from the start. I remember fifth grade filled with "Baby One More Time" sing-alongs, which I longed to participate in (but didn’t, because boys aren’t supposed to do such things, or so I was told). Then came the "(You Drive Me) Crazy" video in sixth grade, with Melissa Joan Heart and a then-unknown Adrian Grenier playing THE coolest bartenders. (I asked my parents if Sabrina the Teenage Witch and her man-friend could serve Shirley Temples at my Bar Mitzvah. You can probably imagine how that conversation went.) In seventh grade, everyone was listening to and watching “Oops…I Did It Again,” with Ms. Spears sporting an unforgettable red cat-suit and reenacting Titanic in outer space (that boy was HOT), and, one of my Brit Brit faves, “Stronger,” displaying that amazing chair choreography and car ride through a thunder storm. With eighth grade arrived “Slave 4 U.” Britney went sexy and sweaty in what looked like an Asian sweatshop turned bathhouse. Girlfriend was peaking, in terms of her career and ability. She tapped out with In the Zone, my favorite album of hers, and also the one that no one seemed to buy. This was Britney's post-Justin phase, and Miss Thang was celebrating being an independent glamor girl about town! I love the singles “Me Against The Music” featuring Madonna; “Everytime,” the beautiful ballad that Britney supposedly wrote on the piano; and the now venerated “Toxic,” which some say is the “Vogue” of Britney’s career. Many are unaware of the other fantastic songs on the record, like the moody, atmospheric “Breathe On Me” and “Touch Of My Hand,” which is about (you guessed it!) masturbation (sometimes all a girl needs is a quality vibrator). – Watch my favorite performances from this era, here: “Boys" & "Slave 4 U,” "Toxic," and "Me Against The Music." Girlfriend WORKS  IT in stiletto boots.

Facades don't get glitzier than this (2003)
Unfortunately, we’re all aware of what happened after. She married and then divorced Mr. Kevin Federline, subsequently revealing the turmoil that had, up until then, been hidden behind a glitzy facade. We saw her drug issues and mental collapses splashed all over our television screens. (We all remember Brit Brit being wheeled out of her Bel Air mansion on a gurney, right?) We expected a comeback with Blackout, and people even liked the singles, especially “Piece of Me,” but when we saw the POP Princess debut “Gimme More” at the VMA’s, we knew it wasn’t for real.

Finally, us fans received a proper comeback with Circus. Most everyone loved songs like “Womanizer,” “Circus” (one of my fave Britney tracks to this day), and “If U Seek Amy” (which some liked, but I prefer to block from my memory). Afterward, there was Part 2 of her comeback with Femme Fatale, and now here we are. Still, something seems to be missing. Whether we want to admit it or not, Britney is no longer the most polished of dancers, relinquishing that title to Beyoncé. Even her spunk is gone, and secretly, we all know why. This poor girl was exploited, worked, and sexualized to the bone so that the industry around her (managers, lawyers, publicists, doll-makers, etc.) could scrape every possible penny out of the Spears Machine. Obviously, she too made lots of dough from the arrangement, but it’s no wonder all we’re left with is a personality-less shell of a POP star who seems to be operating like a rusty robot. At this point, I feel as though I’m obligated to love Britney, despite her shortcomings, because this chick’s been to hell and back (and clearly, seeing the devil has impacted her ability to walk, talk, and express emotion. Or maybe it’s the tranquilizers her controllers have her on).

With all that said, I actually like the video for “Criminal,” but I state this in the current context of her career. (I’m not so sure I would have loved it in 2003.) It starts out showing Britney at a glamorous ball with her cute but abusive boyfriend. She takes a break, goes to the powder room to dowse herself with her own perfume, and then comes out to see him flirting with another chick. She confronts the a$$-hole and they go outside, where he hits her repeatedly until her real-life boyfriend, Jason Trawick (the video’s “Criminal”), saves her. Britney and her bad boy end up falling in lust, confirming their hotness for each other by having sex in Jason’s bed, going out to rob a store (nothing says sizzle like larceny), and then proceeding to have some more of the hottest sex I’ve seen in a while in Mr. Man’s shower (steamy – Jason is JACKED). They end up in a shootout by the cops, protected by the sparkle of their kiss (Literally, the bullets sparkle. Nauseating or charming? You decide.), thereby immortalizing the POP Princess. It’s a pretty video. I’ll compare it to a low-fat ice cream sundae. It looks delicious, so you take a bite, only to discover it has no taste, and that’s that! Y’all can keep pretending to see the old Britney in the new Britney, but I’ll just use my memory to savor the Brit Brit of yore whilst enjoying some of her songs and looking forward to the next big thing. The END.



1 comment:

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