In March of this year, something strange happened with my listening habits. For the first time- with guilty curiosity and a sense of uneasiness, I searched for Britney Spears and listened to all of the album cuts from her new album, "Femme Fatale".
Honestly, Britney and I have had a mostly hate relationship through the years. When Britney Spears broke back in 1999, (at 13 years old) I stayed busy maintaining a Sixpence None The Richer fansite (hey now- I was into Christian music at the time and I about pissed my pants when a band I'd been listening to for 3 years at that point scored a massive mainstream hit with "Kiss Me") and listening to VH1 friendly pop and adult top 40. However, by the time "Baby One More Time" hit #1, I was already growing tired of the boy band/sugar pop of the day. Though I secretly found the song super catchy, my indie snob days as a hater were slowly developing. That came to fruition when the album that changed the way I listen to music was released- Radiohead's "Kid A."
Throughout the years, I loathed her music and media overexposure. Although- when she went bonkers in 2007, I was laughing my ass off at her shaved head antics. That all changed with an unlikely source: a South Park episode.
If you haven't already seen the notorious episode, it depicts Britney has a helpless, stressed pop star suffering from the public eye. Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman find that they could get tons of money by taking a photo of her. Britney finally caves to the point that she literally blows her head off- still lives but has more than half of her head missing. The only sound she can produce is a nasty gargling sound, but the label puts her in the studio as if nothing's wrong. The episode ends with Britney Spears dying from an influx of hundreds of photographers honing in and snapping picture after picture.
That episode changed my opinion of her, and for the first time, gave her some sympathy. All of a sudden, she became the laughing stock and tabloid fodder to the recovered underdog that everyone was suddenly cheering for.
Now, I'm not giving Britney credit where credit isn't deserved. She's still and always will be Jive's puppet. Yes, she's worked extremely hard over the years and is deserving of her success. She also has the best case scenario of any current pop star in the world- minimum effort with maximum reward. Britney doesn't have to do anything but lay down a vocal track, let the best producers money can buy (Max Martin controls the pop charts) and watch the singles shoot up the charts. Even in concert, she's notorious for lip synching on stage, and her dancing obviously isn't what it used to be. It's funny that stars today like Gaga and Beyonce work their asses off day in and day out with incredible voices and songwriting talent- and by default, they are classified in the same category as pop diva.
That being said, I got over my snobbery toward Britney starting with Blackout. In the middle of her insane period, including her disastrous performance and music video for "Gimme More", the album was actually met with positive reviews. It dawned on me. The less Britney Spears is consciously there, and the more weight the production of her songs take- the better the song.
It's also perfectly convenient for her that the current music trends have shaped into the auto-tuned second disco era- perfect for a pop star whose sound was tailor made in the studio. Also, by 2008, Britney had been around for almost 10 years. As for me with Lisa Stansfield, your first true music love stays with you for life, and those same pre-pubescent 9 and 10 year olds from 1999 being 20 today- the nostalgia factor has certainly been a contribution to her ongoing massive success. While Lisa Stansfield has one of my favorite voices ever, she recorded above average for-the-time pop albums that sound very much like the year they were released. But in my mind, her sound is immaculate and I'd bend over backwards to see any kind of media exposure for her, let alone a comeback.
"Femme Fatale" is a decent album that serves its purpose- a major label churning out hit songs. And it's working- radio has NEVER been this receptive to Britney up until this point. While the credits should technically read "Max Martin (or whomever) ft. Britney Spears" in terms of contribution to the song, she gets the pick of the litter among potential hit songs.
Nostalgia and her production team are the 2 main reasons behind her unprecedented comeback, and I've learned to put my pride aside and just enjoy great pop music. Hey, if Britney rejected "I Wanna Go", it would have gone to any of the other pop stars of today. Separating the music from the artist is sometimes a quite political process, but recently- I've learned to just enjoy the music and go with it.
I can officially say I now take a neutral stance on Britney Spears.
Sorry guys, I just have to post her legendary 2007 VMA performance.