“I can't believe this is my eighth studio album and I know I keep telling you that it is my most personal record yet, but its true and I'm really proud of that”
from The Legendary Miss Britney Spears
would most likely haunt her for the rest of the career, especially because it came in the eve of the release of her infamous 2013 album Britney Jean
, whose title anticipated a rare introspective look into a star with over a decade on the spotlight (most of the times for the wrong reasons)… also, it came right after her previous album, 2011’s Femme Fatale
, became her first full-length effort without any songwriting input from the Princess of Pop, although a Japanese bonus track features a co-writing credit from her.
Of course Britney Jean
deserves most of the criticism it receives and yet, it also deserves way more than just being outright ignored even by most of Britney’s diehard fans: Britney Jean
is more than just Work Bitch
and 13 b-sides, is more than Brit’s most dated-on-arrival release… Britney Jean is a case study of what was pop in its time, what changed and why it stopped being as popular as it once was….
POP BEFORE BRITNEY JEAN https://preview.redd.it/p5ecdbd9ce221.png?width=1500&format=png&auto=webp&s=d0662fd24b364cf6cf25b1961e9d15f98d9d39b6
Early 00s pop music was being left aside by the general public during the heydays of gangsta rap, Timbaland/Pharrell-infused R&B and rock/nu-metal… at least until around the period between 2007 and 2009, the start of the Golden Era for popheads
: The anthemic choruses, the prominent synths, the light and care-free nature of the lyrics, everything was there to pump you up and make you dance… however everything would change in 2013, when streaming was finally introduced to the Billboard formula. After the satirical K-pop track Gangnam Style
by Psy took the world by storm, it was noticed how in the United States the song was blocked from the top spot by the inconsequential One More Night
by Maroon 5, even if Style had the lead in sales
for most of the 12 weeks it stayed at the Top 10 (as you might have guessed, radio had something to do with that), pushing Billboard to update their methodology and add streaming to the mix
The first song that benefited from the change in the tracking methodology would prophetize what would come next for the charts in general: Harlem Shake
, a nearly-instrumental meme song debuted at the top spot and stayed there for 6 weeks total. Another novelty song, Ylvis’ The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)
would visit the Top 10 later in the year based on virality alone.
Although rap, indie music and more traditional pop music found their way during this year, the presence of outliers like Lorde’s Royals
, genre-defying tracks like Avicii’s Wake Me Up!
(a country/folk tinted EDM anthem) and Florida Georgia Lane’s Cruise
(considered the grandfather of the bro-country genre, made popular on pop radio thanks to a tackled-on rap feature by Nelly), and the aforementioned viral hits not only showed that general audiences were craving something new, but their success would pave the way for a big change in pop music.
BRITNEY BEFORE BRITNEY JEAN
"Sometimes you don't need to use words to go through what you need to go through, sometimes it's an emotion you need to feel when you dance, that you need to touch. And the only thing that can touch it is when you move a certain way."
Britney Spears on the For The Record documentary, one of the rare glimpses she gave us on her life before Britney Jean
Britney, of course, was partially a pioneer and a tail-rider of the maximalistic electro sound of the era, as proven by the influence
and cult following of what most people consider her magnum opus, or at least her more direct and honest album, 2007’s Blackout
, which is ironic considering that Britney only has two writing credits in the whole project and how even The Unstoppable Danja called it ‘impersonal’
, Britney would continue to ride the same sonic palette with her follow-up, 2008’s Circus
and then move onto Femme Fatale
, which, in spite of its “forward-thinking” nature (as described
by the label-appointed producer and current persona non grata Dr. Luke) and slick production, it was heavily criticized for its anonymity and lack of input of the singer in the record, which led to Britney to defend herself stating, rightfully, that she had nothing to prove
THE MAKING OF A PERSONAL ALBUM https://preview.redd.it/tzfh8fqsce221.jpg?width=600&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=2e7bf1a1a7f9469be632470e1d6bb53397ff2f62
The mastermind behind Britney Jean
was none other than hitmaker will.i.am, whose involvement on the record came as a surprise to no one given how they have collaborated twice at that point and get along really well (you can read more about it in this post
I made a couple of months ago), however, the Black Eyed Peas frontman doesn’t deserves all of the credit for the record as Britney herself decided that she would be more involved and had a pivotal role into the making of this record.
Although the early stages
of the album pointed towards
a more hip-hop release, will.i.am’s involvement and her chemistry with Britney put her forward into the recording and making of the album.
Realizing that she wanted a more straightforward release that wasn’t as bouncy and genre-hopping as her predecessors, Britney searched with will.i.am
a series of collaborators that could help her bring her ideas to life, as she didn’t wanted to sing impersonal songs that her team just happened to receive; this, unfortunately, ruled out the involvement of the Saint Patron of pop production Max Martin, although it relegated Dr. Luke to a sole bonus track so that’s a win in my book. Britney Jean
is her only release in which she’s credited as a co-writer in each track, including bonus tracks… her closest before that was In The Zone
in which 9 of the 14 (including bonus) tracks sported a Britney co-write.
THE PERKS OF BEING A PERSONAL ALBUM
I have been through a lot in the past few years and it has really inspired me to dig deeper and write songs that I think everyone can relate to […] I want to show you the different sides of Britney Spears.
I am a performer.
I am a Mom.
I am funny.
I am your friend!
I am Britney Jean.
Britney Jean Spears
Britney has never been the kind of performer that would pour her soul into her lyrics, and even have occasionally distanced her private life from her lyrics (she famously rejected the Timberlake-bashing Sweet Dreams My LA Ex
, later given to ex-S Club 7 member Rachel Stevens as her debut single), although in the few glimpses we have gotten from her real persona (the stunning Everytime
and the dubious My Baby
for example) have always leaved her fans with the idea of her getting more involved with the subject matter of the tracks… I mean, the exploration of fame in tracks like Circus
and Piece of Me
are great, but what about explorations of who is Britney? Britney Jean
is her first album released in her 30s, and after finally deciding to get this involved in the songwriting department 15 years into her singing career was no fluke: chalk it up to coincidence, to the fact that it was long due given her background (Britney had lived A LOT of unwanted stuff during her career, married twice, had two kids, survived the most public mental breakdown unimaginable and more while being one of the most successful female performers currently working… also, that year she had ended her engagement with her manager Jason Trawick) or to misogyny (if you wanna go there) but female singers seems to go personal and/or mature in their 30s, with some popular examples including Madonna’s Like A Prayer
(described by her as being "about my mother, my father, and bonds with my family
"), Mariah Carey’s post-divorce genre-bender Butterfly
(if her birth year is believed to be 1969), Beyoncé’s whole post-Matthew Knowles era (4
was released three months before she turned 30), Nicki Minaj’s back-to-my-roots release The Pinkprint
and Katy Perry’s purposeful woke pop release Witness
(Katy, I love you but 💀) among others.
Another thing to consider is that doing “personal” songs have always being interpreted as tracks with stripped-away or piano-driven arrangement, something that Britney, who had sung about being on the club or having sex (or even both on the same track) so many times it kinda become her trademark, is not something she’s might get allowed to do, especially when the current-at-the-time pop scene and Britney’s then-current sound were a far cry from the kind of sound these “confessional” tell-all songs normally have.
#BritneyPleaseSavePopMusic (this was a real hashtag that was worldwide trending topic on Twitter in September 2013)
With the anticipation of what a Britney-fied personal record would sound like, anticipation was in an all-time high among fans… so it was natural that her most introspective record would be anchored with an EDM song called Work Bitch
. In Britney’s defense, will.i.am pointed out almost immediately
how the braggadocio track didn’t represented the album but it was rather about Britney Spears herself.
Promoted with what was heavily rumored to be
a 6.5-million-dollars budgeted video which was supposedly heavily sanitized
from its originally sexed-up original version (more on that later), the video itself represented most of the promotion the whole album received, as the album’s second and final single (Perfume
) was left to rot in negligence after the album’s release.
Outside of a couple of TV appearances (not performances, just interviews), including one to promote her then-upcoming “2-year” Las Vegas residency Britney Spears: Piece of Me, and an E! documentary about the making-of the album and said residency, no actual promotion took place for Britney Jean, which led to the inevitable.
BRITNEY UNLEASHES HER MOST “PERSONAL” ALBUM https://i.redd.it/1no6q6iqce221.gif
was unleashed to the world on December 3rd of 2013, one day after the Princess’ birthday, and was a big commercial disappointment, debuting at number 4 on Billboard
with sales of 107,000 copies (a little bit more than a third of the sales of Femme Fatale
), even lower than those of her debut album …Baby One More Time
; 3 years after its release, BJ had sold less
in the United States than FF
in its opening week, although it was eventually certified Gold
by the RIAA… this February. Internationally, the release didn’t fare any better and debuted at record-low positions for her releases in most international markets, including missing the Top 30 in the UK.
As most of you already know, reviews we’re nasty all around, the worst of Britney’s career. Because of the somewhat mean content of some of those reviews
, I would instead resume what are the biggest perks critics had with the release:
- The album’s production (carried mostly by will.i.am protégé Anthony Preston, who hasn’t done anything ever since) was considered monotone, repetitive, dated, backward-thinking, overproduced and by-the-numbers. The album, full, on EDM beats and synthesizers, doesn’t really have that much of a breathing spot as there’s not that much of musical variety.
- Lyrically, the album was considered a disappointment considered its nature as a “personal album”, with the lyricism being considered somewhat superficial given the self-titled naming and Britney’s hype surrounding the content itself.
- Vocally, Britney Jean was ripped apart by critics and even some listeners. When the opening track’s autotune-less “warm up” vocal sessions leaked in 2014, critics complained about Britney’s (lack of) vocal talent and added fuel to the debate about wherever she’s actually talented at all, accusations that the song producer William Orbit dismissed.
SING A SONG OF SIXPENCE, MISS BRITNEY SPEARS
After one of the songs leaked ahead of the album’s release, there were accusations
that backing vocalist Myah Marie (who had appeared on Brit’s previous two albums) was the lead singer not only on said leaked track but also in a large portion of the album (this is what she sounds like
), accusations that Marie herself denied
as well as Britney’s reps.
Her representatives claimed that Marie wasn’t involved in neither Perfume
, the tracks that were the source of most of the controversy
, and ultimately she wasn’t credited in none of those songs, although she’s credited as a (not background) vocalist in several of the other tracks of the album (mostly the Preston-produced songs as Work Bitch
, Tik Tik Boom
, Til It's Gone
, Chillin' With You
and Now That I Found You
), including Alien
(in which she’s not credited), who had a vocal steam leak in 2014
which showcases how uncanny is Myah’s impression
of Britney is. A credited background singer is Sia in her co-composed single Perfume
, which was the source of a weird misstep when Britney was caught lip-syncing to a version of the song with Sia’s vocals forefront in the mix
A lot has been said about how Britney’s signature singing ‘baby’ voice
is not her real one, how do they compare
and how much damage
has done to Brit’s current vocal chops, and even though she can still sing
wherever she wants to, it’s quite obvious that she’s not that comfortable with it and, as such, she prefers to enhance her voice with the use of technology and some studio trickery… also, she might have gotten used to it considering how effortless and vivid were her earlier performances… here’s I’m A Slave 4 U
at the 2001 VMAs just because how iconic it is.
BRITNEY JEAN… BY BRITNEY JEAN SPEARS
"People can take everything away from you, but they can never take away your truth.
The question is: Can you handle mine?"
Britney Spears in a song that’s not from this album and not originally from her
Described by critics as “a concept album about the loneliness of pop life
”, Britney Jean
actually open with quite a promise with Alien
, a mid-tempo, melancholic, airy, ethereal dance pop opener that works as a more teenage-sounding version of Ray of Light
, which is not surprising considering the involvement of said album’s mastermind (the aforementioned William Orbit) and that sonically picks-up where FF
left off, but lyrically is quite different, as it portrays Britney having an intimate and personal realization that she, after years of tumultuous and erratic events, has lost grip of who she was and how she felt like an extraterrestrial in her own world; however she realizes that she’s not longer alone as she looks at the glow in the stars as a light to guide her home away from her insecurities of the past, and to feel safe and finally finding comfort in her true skin, as the chorus repeats the catchphrase ‘not alone
’ “until it is pitchshifted up like a departing space ship
” Originally intended
to include Gaga in the song (and also supposed to be released
as a single, which unfortunately didn’t happened), Alien
was considered the conceptual and musical highlight of the project by critics, and is easily the most personal, vulnerable and my personal highlight of the project… which made everything that came afterward a hard pill to swallow. Before that, I can’t help to mention THE GLITCH (2:14 in the song
), which was apparently
, as everything wrong with music of the period, will.i.am’s fault. https://preview.redd.it/sqy5pdvjce221.jpg?width=1200&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=fc818c3624856731e041c2380840004b0c8edea6
(alternatively known in censored form as Work Work
, or in the explicit version as Bitch Bitch
) is a hard hitting EDM smasher and heavy mood-whiplash, which was definitely not co-written by Sebastian Ingrosso
, in which Britney gently asks us (over a basic club beat which grows more overloaded as the song moves forward) is we want a hot body, an European luxury car (either a Bugatti
, a Maserati
or a Lambo skirrt skirrt skirrt
) or to sip martinis while partying in a big mansion in France, only to disappoint us by calling us bitches and telling us to better work as if we were supermodels and she was RuPaul
is, if you wanna practice some mental gymnastics
, more ‘personal’ than its given credit for, as Britney details how much benefits she gets from hustling all these years, and inviting us to dance with that smashing wall-of-sound-laden beat that drowns most of the track. Way more forward-thinking and exciting that everything that comes after it, WB
has become somewhat of a new classic for the Princess of Pop, and is pretty much deserved of said designation. Perfume
, co-written by Sia, is another album highlight (actually Britney’s favorite from the album
) and one of the finest ballads of Brit’s late-catalogue. Written about her ex-fiancé Jason Trawick, the song deals with Britney’s insecurity about a current relationship, with Britney singing with some of her strongest vocals in years about how she believes that her partner is cheating on her and how she puts on her perfume in order to mark her territory. Released with a tie-in with her perfume Fantasy, the song kinda flopped worldwide and halted all of the promotion of the album, however it still remains (alongside the rawer Dreaming Mix
, included as a bonus track) as one of the most interesting songs in 2010s Britney catalogue.
The music video, directed by known troll and middling talented videomaker Joseph Khan, has an unreleased director’s cut in which the straightforward concept of a cheating partner is changed
to that of Britney playing the Angelina Jolie role in a gone-wrong version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith
sans the boyfriend who is also an assassin. It Should Be Easy
finds Britney’s voice drown in both the auto-tune setting used by Kanye for the Runaway coda
and the vocals of guest-star will.i.am in the chorus, all while produceco-writer David Guetta rehashes Swedish House Mafia (which originally broke up the same year in which BJ
was released). The song, about Britney imagining a bright-normal-future with a man who had stolen her heart, stating that love “shouldn't be complicated
”. Although I like this song, and her team obviously likes it to as it commissioned remixes to be serviced to clubs, it signals when things start to go somewhat downhill. Tik Tik Boom
, the T.I.-assisted fifth track, was always dubbed as a potential third single (remixes were commissioned but nothing official ever came up), and it’s not hard to see why: as one of her rare collaborations with a rapper, the static-y, dance-floor ready production presents Britney teasing a male partner with a night of… well… tik tik boom… that means sex, doing so while serving some circa-2001 sexy vocals as T.I. raps about treating her like an animal up to the point that PETA (which hates Britney
) should be called in response. It’s fast, it’s straightforward and yet, it’s kinda forgettable and also very disappointing coming from or Princess Urbanney.
Guetta comes back with Body Ache
, another outdated EDM bop in which Brit (accompanied by vocoder and several dozens of vocal distortion treatments) sings about the kind of ‘I wanna dance so hard it gonna turn you on’ anthem which Miss Spears can do on her sleep, with a backtrack that sounds straight out of the EDM will.i.am was doing with the Peas during the Beginning/E.N.D. era. Also it ends in a somewhat anticlimactic way.
Personal Britney makes a return with this track that wouldn’t be too out of place in FF
: The Guetta co-written Til It’s Gone
, in which Brit realizes that, after losing the love of her life (Trawick), her life would never be the same, or how “you never know what you got 'til it's gone
”. Coming some two years to late sonically, in terms of lyrics the track it’s another story, as some interesting imagery pops here and there and it’s nice to leave the dance floor behind, especially when talking about a woman who (at least in the previous albums) rarely shut up about them.
Katy Perry arrives on the record but not as a feature, but as a writer, in the Diplo-produced, Sia-co-written and Prism
, in which some interesting EDM beats moves out of the way after the opening (they come back, don’t worry) to reveal a refreshing and very welcome electropop rock song with some great Britney vocals about letting someone to guide her after she’s willing to let herself be his ‘passenger’. Great lyrics, daring production, good vocal performance… it’s not hard to see why critics loved this track so much, and it’s a shame it gets buried among so much underwhelming stuff. https://preview.redd.it/hkdoktqmce221.jpg?width=970&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=b349cd2e99a44dc732760b6f131be7dc3be1da38
Chillin’ with You
, the album’s most infamous moment, finds Britney dueting with her sister, ex-Nickelodeon star and attempted country singer Zoey Meredith Brooks, about hanging out together and drinking wine (Brit likes red, Chase Matthews' ex likes white wine) while, as the southern white suburban moms they are, they feel they have nothing else to worry about. Although the lyrics are… well… cute, and the subject matter is decidedly novel by Britney’s standards, the mixture of country and EDM doesn’t mash as well as the producers might had expected… also, the fact that their vocals were so obviously recorded in different sessions (as showed by the kind of chemistry you only see in cheesy 70s movies starring John Travolta and Lily Tomlin
) makes the whole ordeal so surreal.
The album closer in the standard edition is Don’t Cry
, a FUCK YOU MR. TRAWICK song in which Britney reassures his man that it’s not worthy to cry as their relationship was always directed to end no matter what they do, and how she’s gonna go to not see him all tear eyed. The bouncy but subdued dubstep back track by pop goblin and producer will.i.am enhances what is arguably Britney’s best vocals in the whole album and some really nice lyrics which still doesn’t work as an album closer.
Sia comes back in the first bonus track of the deluxe edition, Brightest Morning Star
, and she brings with her current pop Pariah (that would be Dr. Luke, but he’s only in this track) to the mix, on a track about God
(or maybe about her kids
, according to Dr. Puke), or at least one that implies to be one; in Sia’s words: ‘Britney was extremely sweet. She came in with the title ‘Brightest Morning Star’ and told me that’s how Jesus found his way. She wanted to write a kind of gospel song that wasn’t ramming it down your throat
’. Despite the good intentions, BGS
is no Jesus Walks
and it gets short in the musical department, with a surprisingly weak instrumental which doesn’t do any good service to the song.
Britney continues her religious quest with Hold on Tight
, a mid-tempo ballad that in which Miss Spears details how God comes into her dreams (or it might be an Incubus
?) showing her the path to righteousness, even when the road is not as friendly with her, and… to be honest, this is my least favorite song on the album, it’s just so forgettable even if it’s quite refreshing in the context of BJ
To end the evening, Britney continues her unintentional audition to become a gospel singer with Now That I Found You
, a shameless EDM track (with early-10s euphoric drop and everything) about how incomplete she was until she found Him (to be honest, this could also be another love song, but after two bonus tracks about God it’s easy to see where she was pointing towards with the vague lyrics) and how everything is better now. Unlike the forgettable predecessors, NTIFY
is fun (dated? Sure… but also fun), it’s bright, it’s colorful, it’s happy, and one of my favorite songs on the record… even if co-writer Guetta basically ripped off his own hit Without You
from 3 years before.
u/radiofan15’s UNWANTED OPINION ABOUT BRITNEY JEAN Britney Jean
is not an autobiography, it’s not a tell-all gossip-venting machine, it’s a clean, overproduced product of misdirection and lack of focus… and yet it’s actually fascinating in several ways: it’s arguably the greatest resume you would find of how pop music sounded in between 2008 and 2013, it’s a great bridge between the impersonal heavily-polished Femme Fatale
and the serviceable and engaging Glory
, which saw Britney leading the way on how everything would sound from the start.
It’s quite ironic how the album’s naming (taking a cue from Janet Jackson’s Damita Jo
, her actual middle name) plays against it, as self-titled releases (unless they are debut albums) are associated with being in control of your output or reinventions (pop examples includes Paramore
as their first release as a trio, Beyoncé
to fit the minimalistic sounds and Janet Jackson’s janet.
to showcase independence from the Jackson family) and unless you’re Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel or Weezer, the idea of having a second eponymous release usually means that audiences should expect to experience the performer in a never-seen before way. 2001’s Britney
was the album that give a meaning to the phrase “I’m not that innocent
” spurred in her previous effort, with lyrics talking about womanhood and sexuality being complemented with R&B vibes and rock/hip-hop elements. Britney Jean
, when compared to Femme Fatale
, is way behind the difference between Britney
and Oops!... I Did It Again
, which in retrospective is even worse as the relative freshness and reinvention of Glory
leaves the ‘openness’ and ‘variety’ of BJ
One of the album’s biggest mistakes is in its sequencing: the first three tracks are the obvious highlights, the next three are basically DOA EDM songs, the next four are the most “adventurous” musically speaking and the bonus tracks are all about God. Taking out some of the ‘pure club’ anthems could theoretically create an album more deserving of its ‘personal’ label, going full Spinal Tap and amp up the production values to do something crazier might have given us something that was at least digestible in a single listening.
The album, as it is, is not perfect, but it’s far from the dumpster fire more people called it, including some of the most interesting Britney songwriting in years (or even her career) and some tracks that are already started to show signs of cult classic. The only positive thing most people seems to agree with is how short it is: with the alternative mix of Perfume
is ‘only’ 50 minutes long (the standard edition is just 36 minutes long), which is something most performers (even today) seems to struggle with.
Also, she didn’t came to play games with the art cover and aesthetics this era, the album cover and the booklet is her most gorgeous to date, with the former having her most flattering front picture of any of her albums and the neon typography creating a very pleasing contrast with her elegant black-and-white imagery (in the deluxe edition) or the elegantly, milky pastel coloring of the standard edition.
THERE CAN BE 100 LISTENERS IN THE ROOM AND 99 LEAVE BUT ONE... - BRITNEY JEAN THE DAY IT DEBUTED https://preview.redd.it/hpjl86hfce221.jpg?width=1024&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=a01c8129a31203474b2bafbc17ea994d5f83e132
Britney and her team gave up quite easily on Britney Jean
and, honestly, they shouldn’t be blamed: the offer to have a Vegas Residency with a salary of $15 million dollars per year
seems like the kind of offer a pop star and mother of two with enough money already for several timelines would accept, with the album itself being more of an afterthought.
Britney was originally slated to remain on the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino for two years but ultimately extended her run for another two years, before finally touring overseas (without an album attached to the performances) during 2017 and 2018.
Because of the lack of promotion, Britney Jean
underperformed when compared to Miss Spears’ previous releases, with estimated worldwide sales (as of April 2018) being close to 1.3 million copies, less than a third of Femme Fatale
Truth be told, BJ
flopped hard… HOWEVER, not everything would have turned out that terrible (not even in a million years it would have sold as much a FF
but at least the downfall could have been smaller) with some actual promotion and interest from Brit herself.
SOME REACHING… I MEAN… THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BRITNEY JEAN BJ
is, in my opinion, a compilation of the era, the resume of “in the previous episode of” that you get on serialized TV shows, a farewell to the bombastic era of synth-heavy EDM club anthems with gratuitous drops and interchangeable lyrics. During the genre’s opus, some performers tried to bend this sound (and their equivalents) to their benefit, either mixing it with their style or playing with the boundaries of the sound: it could be a Taylor Swift doing a We Are Never Getting Back Together
to get a broad crossover hit, a Lady Gaga mixing multiple genres to create a sonically complex pastiche called Born This Way
, or even straight-up jumping almost seamlessly from rap/R&B to club bangers like Nicki Minaj did in Roman Reloaded
. Britney in Britney Jean
did almost the opposite of that. Britney Jean
is, in some ways, a time capsule of the era in its rawest and purest form (some might differ and replace those buzzwords with generic and bland), with the average user being able to trace mostly any track to a style, influence, sub-genre or even performer. Listening to BJ
is like watching a 70s movie in VHS in an old, square TV, basically an unintentional period piece
that reflects the volatile, bombastic and extravagant style of those golden years of 2008-2013, which, within the mindset of Britney Jean
sounds kinda tired and bland, surprising no one when that branch of pop went back into obscurity and irrelevance almost as fast as grunge music did when Kurt Cobain died. Britney Jean
came up in a time of transition of popular music, with streaming showing the kind of power it had on the charts and more subdued, minimalistic music taking the world by storm. Popular music, as you might already noticed, evolved into a slower, more melodic, calculated, numb, almost anticlimatic entity which was more fitting with our current social and political climate. To paraphrase Todd in the Shadows
: 2013 had a hit literally called Happy
and 2018 had both a hit called SAD!
and another called Happier
with a video about a dog that dies.
In terms of Britneyology (both the study of Britney Spears and the religion dedicated to her persona), BJ
is also a glimpse into Britney the full-fledged artist. Britney has never been the kind of performer that gets heavily involved into her music, with Britney’s role being generally limited to the choice of songs, sequencing, development of sounds and themes with her assigned team of writers and producers, and performing of course; sometimes Britney gets involved into the heavier portions of her music (the classic Everytime
is a great example of it) but most of the time she remains quite anonymous, with her voice and choice being overwritten by the men on charge, something that became quite apparent during and after the Dark Ages (2004-2008) with the cancelling of the legendary Original Doll
, her lack of songwriting credits in both Blackout and Circus, and her much-criticized anonymity in Femme Fatale
was Britney deciding who does want to work with, what does she wants to sing and even how to equilibrate her musical and visual persona. Britney has always being in control of how is she portrayed on official media, most famously rejecting an animated concept for the video of …Baby One More Time in favor of a Lolita-inspired take on catholic school girls, and then the slow process from jailbait to grownup woman. During the post-production of the Work Bitch video, she clashed
with director Ben Mor over the kind of content the video should show, as she was a mother in her 30s now instead of an unreachable male gaze fantasy.
, the Legendary Miss Britney Spears showed us how much she has changed since that controversial 2003/2004 period (the last time she was that involved with an album) in which she received the Kiss of Death from Madonna, suffered her infamous accident and, of course, married twice in a calendar year. This new Britney was a much-different person, and her voice deserved to be heard, and even if the results weren’t the greatest, it was a step into the right director for Britney to get what she always wanted: being a full-fledged artist capable of taking her own decisions and learning from her mistakes.
POP AFTER BRITNEY JEAN https://preview.redd.it/382f3hucce221.png?width=1500&format=png&auto=webp&s=b270179e2de3c085b7dd38ea838588f2f45d9e4b
Coincidentally in 2014 most of the ambassadors of the dominant pop sound of the early 10s were either taking a musical break, flopping or changing lanes, so that year paved the way for the transition of what do we define as popular music, with the winners of the evolution race being trap (Fetty Wap’s Trap Queen
), meme music from awful people (Bobby Shmurda’s Hot Nathans
) or untalented losers (T-Wayne’s Nasty Freestyle
, Silentó’s Watch Me
), trop pop (OMI’s Cheerleader
, Justin Bieber’s entire Purpose
era) or whatever outlier track dared to pass through those filters.
What happened afterwards is a horror story most of popheads
tells in fire camps a la Are You Afraid of the Dark?
BRITNEY AFTER BRITNEY JEAN Glory
, the follow-up Britney Jean
, received very positives reviews and was considered a strong return-to-form for Britney, and even if it wasn’t as successful as her label might have wanted, the truth is that, at the end of the day, whatever Britney decides to do next (and considering the direction she seems to be taking) it can be as underwhelming as Britney Jean
Dear Reader (especially those of you who stayed with me in the wilderness lo, these last five months),
This is the last G-File [pause for dramatic effect]…of this era of professional limbo I’ve been in. By this time next week, this “news”letter will be a product of [Name Redacted]. Before I continue, let me just say thank you to the tens of thousands of you who signed up for this thing when I left National Review to start this endeavor with Steve Hayes and Toby Stock (Toby’s the suit, so it’s okay if you haven’t heard of him).
They’re both super guys, but they’re Midwesterners, and I find some of that stuff rubbing off on me. For example, prior to spending so much time with Hayes, I don’t think I used “super” as an adjective—outside of conversations about comic books or physics or quoting Fargo (“you’re a super lady”)—more than a couple times a year since I was a kid. Now I find myself using it to describe good meals, smart people, nice days, etc. There are other signs as well. I feel more shame about cursing, and I feel a strange, salmon-like urge to find a good Kroger when shopping for food. They’re super, don’t you know? And so is ranch dressing, which I’ve discovered is good on everything. The Audacity of Ope
Speaking of Midwestern stuff, I’ve always had a soft spot for Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson. A Tea Party guy back before the grifters and scammers got into it like so many ants in the Jell-O salad at a Wauwatosa fish fry, he came to Washington to bring the commonsense Midwestern values of a churchgoing businessman to Washington. He sincerely believed we need to live within our means, defend the Constitution and—apparently—hector and cajole the Chinese Communist Party to target the president’s
domestic political opponents.
That was an ope moment
for me. Some Turds Will Never Sparkle
So let’s just say it: What Trump did yesterday was, simply, indefensible. It is indefensible from any angle and any distance. As Steve Hayes might say at a Racine’s Best Kringle Contest, “Where to begin?”
China doesn’t have due process, the rule of law, or human rights as we understand them. People are executed, put in prison, put in camps, and put in prison camps for political infractions or simply practicing the wrong faith. It would be outrageous if Trump publicly called for the United Kingdom or Holland to investigate one of his political opponents without going through proper channels, but at least those countries have legal systems where we can have some faith in the justice of the outcome. But China? China!?
Moreover, the United States and China are in the middle of intense trade negotiations, and the president cavalierly throws out the fact that there’s something else he wants from the Chinese. He doesn’t have to say quid pro quo. The whole context is shot through with quid-pro-quo-y-ness (quid-pro-quosity?).
It is particularly gobsmacking in the context of the relentless push from the MAGA nationalists who’ve been determined to make China our new existential foe for the 21st century. This conflicts with their core mission of perpetual turd-polishing. So, the new nationalists cry: “The Chinese are evil!” “The Chinese are our enemy!” “The Chinese are a corrupt technocratic kakocracy!” But also: “Thank you president Trump for asking the Chinese to get the truth about Joe Biden!”
This is not nationalism. This is Trumpism, where the needs of the nation and the state are subsumed into the president’s personal desires. Nationalists don’t wear T-shirts that read “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat” and they don’t exhort foreign tyrants to do their dirty work against domestic political opponents.
I wonder if when you get your America First membership card, buried deep in the user agreement is the language that specifies Except when the President’s political foes can best be taken out by the ChiComs.
It’s also politically indefensible. First of all, all of the people who tried valiantly—and unpersuasively—to defend Trump’s “Russia, if you’re listening” line as merely a joke are left standing three feet off a cliff like Wile E. Coyote before he starts to plummet. He certainly wasn’t joking yesterday. He wasn’t joking when he told George Stephanopoulos that he saw no problem taking foreign opposition research. He wasn’t joking when he asked for that “favor” from Zelensky.
But let’s say you just don’t care about any of the high-minded stuff or the hypocrisy. You just want Trump to keep “winning.” But will his agenda—whatever that is—be advanced? Infrastructure week, long the “Free Beer Tomorrow” of American politics, is now the political equivalent pie in the sky. Does this expand Trump’s coalition? Does it make it more or less likely he’s impeached?
“Aha! Right!” you might respond. That’s his genius. He’s making the Democrats impeach him and the constant whining and moral outrage against impeachment is a ruse. After all, if you’ve been watching, reading, or listening to the usual suspects, impeachment will be good for Trump and the GOP and a “disaster” for the Democrats.
“Trolling” has evolved—or, rather, devolved—as an internet term over the last few years. But not long ago, there was a common phrase called “concern-trolling.” It means to pretend to be very worried about the well-being of your political opponents. It was once a staple of the Washington Post op-ed page. “I want two vibrant and healthy parties,” some liberal columnist might write, “and that’s why I am worried that the GOP’s pro-life position will cripple it in the long run.”
These days, it is amazing how many of my friends on the right are suddenly very, very, concerned about what the Democrats are doing to themselves. It’s almost like they’re reassuring the audience that this storyline will end well.
That doesn’t mean they’re wrong. This could blow up in the Democrats’ faces. But most of right-wing media these days seems really eager to talk about pretty much anything other than what Trump has said or done. The Whistleblower Doesn’t Matter Anymore
And there’s perhaps no one they want to talk about more than the Whistleblower, except for Adam Schiff, who, let the record show, is a dishonest and partisan hack whose only impressive quality is his ability to mask his hackery in the dulcet and somber tones of concern-trollery.
I keep seeing clips of right-wingers from shows I don’t watch ranting about the Whistleblower as if the case against Trump still hinges on that person’s motivations and credibility.
The really unhinged folks call him or her a deep state operative, spy, saboteur, etc. The calmer folks say the Whistleblower is a “leaker.” All of these terms are wrong, if the facts as reported are true (admittedly a potentially big if). Even if she/he approached Schiff’s staff to ask for guidance, that doesn’t make him/her a liar—it does make Schiff a liar, but we knew that.
At some point, we need to hear directly from the whistleblower. But the inconvenient fact is that most of the allegations in the report have already been corroborated. Trump says, "This is an exact word-for-word transcript of the conversation, taken by very talented stenographers.” His insistence on this point would make me suspect it’s not an exact transcript—even if it didn’t say in the document that this “is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion.”
But if you take Trump at his word, that it is a verbatim transcript, then the need to confront the whistleblower—never mind roll out the electric chair for the traitor—unravels considerably.
The transcript supports three out of four of the whistleblowers allegations: Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Biden, Trump asked for Zelensky’s help to investigate the fantastical—and Putin helpful—tale of the missing server in Ukraine, and Trump wanted Zelensky to work with Giuliani, as the whistleblower alleged. And this leaves out all of the things Rudy Giuliani, Mike Pompeo and Donald Trump have confessed to by now.
The reason they want the whistleblower exposed is pretty obvious: Trump and his defenders are weakest when they have to defend Trump’s behavior or some principle (see my column today
). They are most effective when they can destroy someone else. That’s what Trump enjoys and that’s what more and more of his fans enjoy too. The cruelty is the sauce. The New Reformers!
Oh, and spare me the “We need to know what happened in 2016” stuff. I have no problem with the Durham investigation. And before I jump on the anti-Bill Barr bandwagon, I want to know more about what he actually did, rather than the spin that’s being put on it. But this is not the way you launch a proper investigation. This is not the way you talk about a proper investigation. This is the way you float a trial balloon to a fairly hostile foreign government that sees everything through a transactional prism: “Please ratf*ck my opponent, I’ll make it worth your while.”
Seriously, all I ask is that people stop working from the assumption that we’re all idiots. You’ve got clowns going on cable news nightly pretending that Trump was constitutionally and legally obligated to raise the Biden case with the Ukrainian president. Seriously, I heard one guy suggest that if he hadn’t importuned Zelensky to investigate Biden, that would be impeachable. For God’s sake, just shhh.
In the past, when I would point out that Donald J. Trump (First of His Name, Chancellor of Trump University, Regent of the Taj Mahal Casino, Ponzi Czar of the Trump Network, Admitted Lord of the Swamp, Heroic Victor of the Eminent Domain Wars, Overseer of the Trump Foundation [discontinued], Master of the Strategic Bankruptcy and Defender of the Money-Laundering Oligarchs, Servant of the Saudis and Exposer of JFK’s True Murderer) was a shady guy, his defenders would say that’s what they liked about him; he knew how the swamp worked and he would use that knowledge to Make America Great Again. And now the same people are appalled at the suggestion that he isn’t a passionate enemy of corruption everywhere?
*About The Other Side *
My friend Tim Alberta tweeted:
Barack Obama stands in front of the White House. With the entire world watching, he declares, “China should start an investigation into the Romneys.” Republicans wouldn’t just call for impeachment. They would call for charges of treason.”
To which a fellow who goes by the name “Orange Muppet Energy” replied:
And the blue checkmark flying journo squad would be explaining how it's actually entirely reasonable while two months later insisting that the tan suit was his only scandal. Just as they did with every other scandal. Everyone involved is sh*t.
I largely agree with both tweets, even if I think the second is too exonerating of Trump. The scenario with Obama is a hypothetical, while Trump’s behavior actually happened. The probably accurate suspicion that the media and the Democrats would behave as badly—or just almost as badly—as many Republicans and media conservatives are behaving now isn’t an excuse. But it is part of an explanation. It took a long time to get us here, and pretty much everyone deserves some portion of blame (including me).
I’ll write more about that another time, but suffice it to say, I’m dedicating a big chunk of the rest of my life to trying to do something about it.
Stay tuned. Various & Sundry
Canine Update: The girls are doing great. They were very happy to see us when we got home last Sunday, but truth be told they were happier to see the Fair Jessica. This confuses some people because they see so many of my videos walking the beasts, scritching the beasts, giving the beasts treats, etc. But this is a nice case study in how media can distort things by giving less than the whole picture. My wife works mostly from home, and so she spends a lot more time with the doggers. She takes them on the truly epic adventures on the weekends. She also feeds them most of their meals—though I do my share. The problem is that she doesn’t record them. I’m open to the idea this is a failing on her part, but one of the reasons the dog videos are so much fun is that dogs don’t care about celebrity. They do care about lost balls, though. Stick-ups are a concern as well.
Anyway, Zoë and Pippa seem to be enjoy each other’s company more than ever. There was a time when this schnozzle-tush smash-up could have resulted in a fight. Zoë continues to let Pip chase her in ways she never did before. Some people were concerned that Zoë started to play too rough in this video, and it’s true, she did. Zoë’s a bit like the Hulk. In Bruce Banner mode, she can have lots of fun. But if she gets too excited, she starts to turn metaphorically green and goes into “smash”—or, in this case, “chomp”—mode. Pippa seems to understand that the best way to respond to this is to basically play dead on her back.
Oh, one last thing. Someone insulted Pippa on Twitter and I responded with a fairly juvenile retort. That’s not important. What I really liked was the way folks rallied to her defense. Some of the replies are awesome.
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