Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Britney Spears, The Comeback Kid

We laughed when Lady GaGa arrived at an awards show inside an egg, a pre-mature (or perhaps immature) Cleopatra conceiving the birth of her new song.  We laughed harder when the Phillie Phanatic tried the same schtick at a Phillies home opener early this season.  But we aren't laughing at Britney Spears.  The comeback kid has arrived, and circus critics take note- Britney plans to own the whole tent.

This is more than a well-oiled machine, this is a calculated strike for all the gold in the industry, accomplished with a cheerleader's smile.  Yes, her smile is back, and that smile can melt steel in Antarctica.  When Britney had her own rebellion/meltdown- the shaved head, the custody battle, the ambulance trips to the hospital, the terrible award show performances- her CD still  topped the charts and millions of girls danced to her music in clubs around the world.

Self-destruction and a million of units sold is a rare occurrence for an artist.  Usually, the business tanks along with the celebrity.  Charlie Sheen's recent misadventure illustrates that point perfectly. We don't expect to see him in feature movies any time soon, no matter what he may tell us. Britney not only survived her media-chronicled slip on multiple banana peels, she made a gazillion dollars while falling.  What would happen when she owns her image again, when her branding is as solid as a thick oak plank?

Let's take a quick look at her most recent video.  It's a brilliantly conceived display of sensuality and innocence.  Britney is surrounded by wet, sweaty, sexual dancers, popping and humping to the beat- but there is only one shot where she is truly as sensual as they are- one beautifully conceived shot that is 100% female heat (1:58).  Just as quickly, it's gone. She is still dancing with them, but slightly distanced because ....of that smile!  Britney's knowing look, an almost mocking grin, is like a dancer in a strip club, smiling at you with sweet seduction while expertly extracting all your dollar bills.  Are you loving this yet?  Got any more fivers in your wallet, daddy?

Through most of the video, Britney is wearing a spiky leather jacket, black spandex tights with holes designed to show off her flat tummy, and black nylons with runs so large you could fit a torpedo through them. She is almost sleethy in appearance, but then the next shot is a close-up and she's bopping her head side to side, like a teeny,,...cute as a, um....teenager pretending to be a star in front of the mirror in their own bedroom.

But that kid's new video has had over nineteen (19) million views on youtube in only three (3) weeks.  Let's hope viral diseases never spread as fast as her video. The Britney Spears Company is an industry giant, an undefeated heavyweight, who may not have the best jab, but with the finest footwork, but will knock you out in the first round.  You weren't looking  for the left hook, and then the smile.  Stay down for the count Lady Gaga.  Britney floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.

Her million dollar smile separates her from the rest of the pack. Britney doesn't get as down and dirty as Christina Aguilera did in a 2002 video surprisingly similar in style to Till The World Ends.  When Christina reaches down deep, a whole lot of sex comes out- she's as trampy as the dancers she's hanging with. When Britney reaches down into her sexual soul, she pulls out pretty cut flowers for the dining room table.  A nice dinner, lovely flowers, a little sex- sounds like the perfect date.

At one point in the video, she is wearing red sheer "I Dream of Jeannie" costume and it looks awful on her, and just when you begin to wonder who was the idiot that chose that garish outfit, the camera provides a split-second view of her backside (2:55). Oh Lordie, J-Lo has competition.  Time to get insurance on that booty. Suddenly, it all makes sense. Silly costume? Nooo...excellent costume!

And that is Britney's charm, that ability to look slightly askew, innocently beautiful, teasingly sensual, and even pensive (2:15) while dancing to a pounding beat.  The world above is crumbling and crashing down, but Britney is safe below, surrounded by half-naked men, women writhing on the floor at her feet and she appears oblivious to what the director may be artistically suggesting:

Once upon a time, the world was crashing around Britney, but she hid underground and never stopped singing and dancing. Her  innocence has remained intact. And now her brand is fully alive and she's  spitting fire, with just enough spark to light your scented bedroom candles.

The song ends- Britney pops her head out of a manhole like a cute groundhog from Punxsutawney, and you guessed it, the sun is shining and she can see the green money leaves hanging from every tree. Tell the competition that they will have six more years of winter. The comeback kid has emerged from her underground den. There is only one Britney Spears and this is her perfectly orchestrated and managed smiling groundhog day.  
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