day 15 – a song that describes you We’re over the halfway point. To get all Oscars speech, it’s you guys that have made this happen! That’s right, the little people! I’m sorry, there might be tears, especially with the distinctly emo-teen-MySpace to today’s theme. Britney Spears – Circus I’m a put-on-a-show kinda girl. Circus the album is Britney at her most meta. A lot of the tracks are just about bein’ Britney. About not even Britney Spears, real slightly-messed-up-by-showbiz girl, but the public’s perception of BRITNEY, name-in-sparkling-lights icon. And so, mostly, what they’re about is the spotlight, grabbing attention, and putting on a show. I’m no Britney, but can appreciate that. As a ‘song that describes me’, it’s more about the alcohol-fuelled Mr Hyde that is Drunk Alex, dancing, stripping and generally striving for the spotlight. It was standing on a chair one night, gyrating to this song that it all clicked. But I’ve got to admit, it applies to me too. After all, here I am writing this. It’s not that I’m starved of love or histrionic* or anything: sometimes, the attention just feels good. *Though, thanks for that diagnosis Dr Cowley. If you’re reading this… this one’s for you!
Without some dope words to step to.* It’s been my birthday- a week-and-a-bit long extravaganza of partying, consumption of food and alcohol, and occasional self-harm. Which means I’m 21- taking stock of my life time, I suppose. But more importantly, each day flowing into the next and threading an endless canvas of hangover, I haven’t been able to update here. And I’ve got some really stuff kicking around on the internet, and specifically at my beloved Redbrick. First up is (co-produced with beautiful co-ed Erica A Vernon), my 60-minute round-up of 2009’s singles. Generally speaking, the best, but sometimes just the most important-seeming. I say a lot of vaguely controversial things like “DIZZEE RASCAL – DIRTEE CASHYeah, it’s not Bonkers (overplayed) or Holiday (failed single pushed until people believed they must like it). There’s a little something more to Dirtee Cash; the playful Rascal of old striking out at the world at a speed that mean you don’t notice. And that title can be only be a dig at the haters.” Though our photo-collage doesn’t seem to have been put up online, trust me when I say it was beautiful. Read the lot here. (And in the interests of multi-media content, a complete Spotify playlist.) Even more excitingly, our Top 40 Albums of the Decade comes to a close. It kicked off back in October, all the way back here. But if you’re just looking for a quick fix, and find out who was #1, check here. (For anyone keeping track, I wrote #21: The Libertines – Up The Bracket #19: Los Campesinos – Hold On Now, Youngster… #14: Daft Punk – Discovery #4: Radiohead – Kid A) I’m really proud of this list; it had a few WTF moments, I suspect, while the top end of the list was probably a bit generic (which is not to say wrong), but there are some really good you-should-listen-to-this-becauses on there. And you should listen to most of them. *A quick Google to double-check the lyrics (before bending them) proves that this is pretty much the go-to heading for ‘haven’t posted in a while’ blogs. I am no beautiful, unique snowflake.
Right now, the Q music channel is running a Britney week. Song after song by Britney, the constant video stream only interrupted by adverts. All day.Last night, I had an argument with my mom (never a pop music aficionado) over the Britney miming scandal, and the relative merits of Take That’s current touring Circus over Britney’s. Britney exposure is at an all-time-high. It’s time for a rethink. In my last post about our Princess of Pop, now Queen, I talked about Britney’s various, occasionally incongruous, identities. Watching all her videos in sequence, I think this is much more consciously realised by Britney (or, perhaps, Team Britney) than I gave credit for. The video to Womaniser shows her splitting into various aspects of herself (or, to the right pretentious viewer, of Woman). This tradition stretches back as far as Toxic, at least. It’s there in One More Time: Britney playing both schoolgirl and teacher. The fragmentation is within videos, within songs, as much as in the greater body of her work. There’s a forthcoming video (for Kill The Lights) based on “fan fiction”- a pop star who inspires her own fiction.Britney is brunette, blonde, redhead; cartoon, real, fictive. Debating the New Princess of Pop (now Britney is officially, definitely Queen- no arguments), Lady Gaga was put forward as Britney’s successor (and also superior. This opinion is foolish). She’s certainly modelled herself as such. But my issue with Lady Gaga- and at the same time the reason I like Lady Gaga- is how self-aware she is. Creating image, iconography, a legend for herself to dance into.I like it, because she’s so wonderfully arch-Pop. The costumes, the overblown weirdness, that silly voice- I think it puts a lot of people off, I’ve heard a lot of moaning about her Teacup. But, to my desperately Pop-addicted mind, that silliness is everything I’m looking for.It seems too early for it all, though- the beauty of Britney was that this all came with the reinvention (by my reckoning between In The Zone and Blackout, for those counting at home), working on a ready-made pop empire. She was already hugely popular and reasonably iconic (I’m thinking the videos to …Baby One More Time and Oops! …I Did It Again in particular) and has simply crystallised since then. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga is doing the Fame/Paparazzi thing (with, I admit, enough sense of irony/metaphor to save it from vanity) on the back of two big singles. She’s not proven- not yet. However, by far the most important thing I have learnt from watching all those videos is that Britney has a very lovely stomach. I would like to live on it. If not, opening a restaurant on it where I could eat would be acceptable. And, on the other hand, my mom points out, Take That have a giant silver elephant. (Confession: at time of polishing/going to (Word)press, the dates suggested in the opening are actually a good three or four days untrue. Sorry to break the illusion kids, but this one took a few days to hammer out. Confession II: I’m sorry this post features the B-word 14 times. Typing “her” just seems disrespectful, and frankly it’s a damn fun word to say and type. Britney Britney Britney. Perhaps that figures into why I love her so much… It’s Britney, Bitch III?)
Back on the first show (that I was actually around for) of my wonderful, now-over-but-possibly-available-on-zShare radio show The Hour, we tried to introduce a feature called ‘Alex Defends…’. The first candidate for this was Britney Spears, who I muttered fairly incoherently about as I tried to express exactly why I love her the way I do, something my good friend and co-host Sam Willet disapproves of. We didn’t do it again, but it’s something that’s bounced around my brain a lot since. The main point we got out in that conversation was that there’s no irony in the way I feel about Britney. Admittedly, there’s a certain pleasure in loving something so far into the mainstream it becomes almost niche again (I think this is a traditionally indie-kid pleasure, tending towards the most obscure or the hidden-in-plain-sight joys of music.) I also tried to establish that Britney works because she’s a Goddess-like figure of legend, for me. This is probably a case of history:I remember waiting in the car for my mom, age 10, a kid who didn’t really like music, tapping the dashboard along to …Baby One More Time.I remember doing some quiz in high school, aged maybe 13, and everyone turning to me when they asked which video had Britney in that red PVC catsuit (Oops! …I Did It Again, obv.)My first year of Uni will forever be crystallised within Gimme More (the song that brought me back into the Britney fold after losing interest, around Toxic.) Britney’s persona is key, too. It’s shifted over the years, and isn’t entirely consistent: but that’s myth for you. Obviously, the nature of pop music is such that none of the songs Britney sings are her own but, given her unique status, people will write songs about her, for her, this can become a positive. When I listened to the Circus album, I started to realise how self-aware Britney’s stuff is. Kill The Lights introduces her as “our pop princess, now Queen of Pop.” Which is pretty obvious: it’s something the media have been talking about for years now. But in Unusual You, which would otherwise be a fairly weak track, Britney addresses the way she’s presented herself over the years. Wedged among songs about the usual misadventures in love she asks her man,Didn’t anyone tell you, you’re supposed to break my heart? She expects him to. And it hits me. Through the years Britney’s played a number of key parts, some of them contradictory, most of them cyclical- she’s the Victim of Unrequited Love, she’s the Accidental Cocktease, the Devoted Girl In Love. She’s Girl, as processed by Pop; then, as that identity takes form as Britney, she becomes Britney, as processed by Pop, giving us the Victim of Fame, the Good Girl Looking To Escape Her Reputation.In the SavageCritic(s) post I linked to in the Scott Pilgrim brain’splosion down the page, Abhay mentions Susan Douglas’ book, Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media and how Douglas talks about the way“the success of the girl bands of the 1960’s can be attributed to how they allowed girls of that generation to ‘try on’ different sexual identities, whether the troubling thrills of dating the bad boy of Leader of the Pack or the hopeful uncertainty of the Shirelle’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?“Whether Britney, taking on this role in a post-sexual-liberation age, is surplus to social requirements is debateable. But, as a Boy growing up with the Mass Media portrayal of women, Britney helped lay out some templates of what girls might be like. Maybe they were a little warped in parts, but I’m still in love with the Girl Britney provided. Plus, if you can stop yourself singing, dancing and/or miming throughout all of My Prerogative, you’re either a better man than me, or dead inside.