Monday, March 8

#FreeBritney

There's a movement on now, accelerated by the recent release of the New York Times documentary, "Framing Britney Spears", that I want to raise everybody's awareness of.

Britney Spears has been in a legal "conservatorship" since 2008 managed by her father when she had what can only be described as some sort of breakdown. Under the conservatorship she has been stripped of all rights any kind of human being should have, she has been threatened with removal of visitation rights with her children, and she has been exploited for money. She is literally treated like a child (and not in a good way), and has no say over her treatment, her money, whom she's allowed to communicate with, or even the ability to retain legal counsel.

In November she released a quick Instagram saying she was "just fine", but she sure did not look it, and we know that the conservatorship holds visitation rights to her children, the most important thing in her life, over her head as a constant threat, so it might not be what it seems.

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It's hard from the outside to know what's going on, but there is so much money at play, and so many people making so much money due to the conservatorship, and Britney herself clearly upset with it and seeking to remove her father, that the courts need to do a thorough and impartial review of the whole thing which they seem to be dragging their heels on.

The reason I am a bit passionate about this is that I have something I need to confess to y'all. I'm a giant, raving, Britney Spears fangirl! If you don't care for Britney, then move on, because this post will be my trip down memory lane.

I was in high school when Britney first made a splash with her iconic music video "...Baby One More Time". Britney and I are right around the same age, and I had been a dancer myself up until high school.

I absolutely adored everything about her music video!!!!! It was a girl taking charge. A real girl, with real power, owning her sexiness and oozing confidence.

If you think Britney is dumb, or a pawn, you haven't done your research! After signing with Jive Records (nobody else wanted her), they got producer Max Martin to work on some songs for her. "Hit Me Baby One More Time" was one he had previously written that was rejected by Backstreet Boys, TLC, and Five. Britney heard it and got excited feeling sure it would be a hit. Britney worked hard herself on getting just the right tone and relaxed feeling in her voice.

The music video, as important as the song, was very much shaped by Britney herself. I quote from Wikipedia:

The plan was to have the video in a cartoon-like environment, in a likely attempt to attract the audience of younger children. Spears was unhappy with this, and argued that she wanted her video to reflect the lives of her fans and wanted to set the video in a school. Spears pitched this idea to Dick, and further explained she wanted the video to have dance scenes. The original setting was scrapped and replaced with Spears's concept. Dick's original idea for the wardrobe was jeans and a T-shirt, but during the wardrobe fitting Spears decided to change it for a schoolgirl outfit. Dick said that "Every piece of wardrobe in the video came from Kmart, and I was told at the time not one piece of clothing in the video cost more than $17. On that level, it's real. That probably, in retrospect, is a part of its charm." The knotted shirt design was Spears's idea, she recollects saying, "The outfits looked kind of dorky, so I was like, 'Let's tie up our shirts and be cute'"

Mission accomplished! The song is one of the best selling singles of all time and the music video one of the most watched and iconic of all times. This is typical of Britney. Yes, she has lots of helpers and collaborators, but the instinctual direction is always hers.

When the album CD hit later, in 1999, I of course snapped it up and practically wore it out.

Other amazing songs on it were "(You Drive Me) Crazy" which also had an amazing music video. It included love ballads "Sometimes" , "Born To Make You Happy", "From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart", which really spoke to me at the time, what with high-school boy troubles and all. Ha ha! One of my favourites on the album was a cover of "The Beat Goes On" by Sonny Bono and Cher.

I think Britney's version was way more amazing. Britney sung it at 1999 WMAs dressing like Cher and prefacing it with "When I first heard this song, I knew I had to sing it, so this is for you Cher...". But I really liked the production on the album version. It's so cool!

But this song is a great example of the extra special magic she brings when connecting to her audience. Take a look at her performance of it at a concert in Hawaii:

What joy she has in performance! What joy she engenders in her fans! How self-possessed. I think she was 18 years old or something at the time.

Britney had been performing from a very early age. One of her earliest national performances was on a TV show "Star Search" at age 10. You can already see her trademark style, belying the idea that she was in any way "manufactured" by her producers.


She also had a successful run on the Mickey Mouse Club with co-stars Christina Aguilera and later grown-up boyfriend Justin Timberlake (what sort of talented kids might they have squeezed out???)

 

She quickly followed up her first album with her second, "Oops!... I Did It Again" a year later in 2000.

It had another amazing lead music video.

I learned all the choreo from that video and a bunch of the others, and danced to the songs. My family thought I was obsessed! I was a  little "old" to be doing that. Ha ha! I was like Maddie Ziegler below:

One of my favourites on that album was a cover of the Mick Jagger / Keith Richards song "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". In this case, both versions are fantastic and reflect their era.

That album also has the incredibly touching and self-referential song "Lucky", which was maybe one of the first signs that all was not well in the Britneyverse.

This is a story about a girl named Lucky

Early morning, she wakes up
Knock, knock, knock on the door
It's time for make-up, perfect smile
It's you they're all waiting for
They go
Isn't she lovely, this Hollywood girl?
And they say

She's so lucky, she's a star
But she cry, cry, cries in her lonely heart, thinking
If there's nothing missing in my life
Then why do these tears come at night?

That song and video still makes me cry today for Brit Brit (writing this with tears streaming down my face!).

Her next album was just one year later, in 2001, and was called just, "Britney".

In this album she broke out from being the Mickey Mouse Club kid, and got a bit raunchy with songs like "I'm A Slave 4 U".

All you people look at me like I'm a little girl
Well did you ever think it'd be okay

For me to step out into this world

Always saying little girl don't step into the club

Well I'm just tryin' to find out why

'Cause dancing's what I love

But again one of my favourite songs was a cover of "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" originally written by Merrill and Hooker in 1975 for the Arrows, and popularized by Joan Jett's cover in 1982.

I must confess that I do like Joan Jett's cover better, but Britney brings her own flare to hers and transparently and enthusiastically does it as a tribute to Jett!


At around this time Britney did a "Joy of Pepsi" commercial that is probably one of the finest things like this ever done.


In the video it cuts out to various middle-America types watching the video. For example, a diner is burning to the ground because a young male short-order cook is so mesmerized by Britney that his grill catches fire; an old guy watching the commercial takes an extra gulp of oxygen as Britney is dancing; and an old man holding a Pepsi says "easy boy" as his dog barks at Britney on his TV. Priceless!

Britney also did a movie called "Crossroads" which, in my own personal opinion, was freaking awesome!!!!

After taking a year out for the movie, her next album was "In The Zone" released in 2003.


On this album she shares writing credit on 8 out of the 12 songs. It's most popular song was "Toxic" with another iconic and amazing music video.

Britney is so glamorous in that video, and moves so well. And the production was just so unique for the time as well. It caught fire!

That album also features a collaboration with the original Material Girl, Madonna, also a favourite of mine (I grew up listening to her and still do).

Hey Britney,
You say you wanna lose control,
Come over here I got somethin' to show ya.
Sexy lady, I'd rather see you bare your soul if
You think you're so hot, better show me what you got.

The video basically has Madonna playing a sexy lesbian cat and mouse game with Britney, and just when Britney thinks she corners Madonna, Madonna evaporates into thin air leaving poor Brit Brit very confused. As part of the promo, at the 2003 MVAs Britney and Madonna kissed on stage with the cucked Christina standing by.

Madonna later says she was surprised with how "aggressively" Brit kissed her, as the auditions were more like little pecks. Just a brilliant piece of promotion that to me looks more engineered by Britney herself than anything (it was her album they were promoting). Below is an excerpt from Oprah interviewing Madonna about the kiss, and what Britney has to say about Madonna at the tail end in a pre-recorded bit is very cool.

One of the songs on the album was another tear-jerker for me, really anticipating the troubled times Britney would soon find herself in. It was a song called "Everytime".

It's an absolutely beautiful ballad featuring a very, very sad Britney, hounded by the paparazzi and having stressful relationship problems and a breakup with then-boyfriend Justin Timberlake. In the video she commits suicide at the end in a bathtub. I'm so sad writing that. She was criticized for "glamorizing suicide" at the time, but in retrospect it was a massive cry for help. I can't help but cry every time I watch it now. The YouTube video is still getting comments, or rather getting comments anew after the recent documentary. Here were the top ones at the time of writing:

There is nobody who inspires the love of her fans as much as Britney, and you can see it from the comments.

Britney released a "greatest Hits" album in 2004 along with a few original tracks.

One of them was a cover of Bobby Brown's"My Prerogative". I like Britney's cover more, but you can compare the two!

After this, Britney released a single called "Mona Lisa" that was ostensibly to be part of her next album tentatively titled "Original Doll" where she wanted to make a big break with what she had done in the past and wanted more artistic control. This was around 2004. There were evidently strong forces against her that eventually resulted in cancelling those plans. Instead they released the song on an EP called "Britney & Kevin: Chaotic" that tied into some marketing around a truly terrible reality TV show titled "Chaotic" about her life with Kevin Federline, a backup dancer she married and had two kids with.

 Mona Lisa was actually a quite good track, though rarely heard:

Around this time Britney tail-spun into what was a very troubled time for her and she was clearly having some sort of nervous breakdown while still trying to put a brave face on things. She got married and divorced and had some kids along the way and was dealing with a drug problem and going into rehab twice.

Her next album, Blackout, was a great comeback album, however, that Britney was very much personally involved with artistically. It was released in 2007.

This was perhaps here finest album. I quote from Wikipedia:

In its legacy, Blackout has been cited as a career highlight for Spears, as well as a major influence on the 2010s decade of pop music. The album has been featured on multiple decade-end, 21st century, and all-time lists of best albums by several publications. In 2012, the album was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's music library. It was also ranked at 39 on The Guardian's 2019 list of the 100 best albums of the 21st century.. In 2020, the album was ranked at 441 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. 

The lead song on that album is called "Gimme More" and it opens with the iconic spoken lyric:

It's Britney bitch

announcing that Britney is back!

My all time favourite Britney song is on that album, called "Piece of Me". It was written for her by long-time songwriter collaborators Karlsson and Winnberg who observed first hand how badly Britney was treated in the press and by the paparazzi. Britney loved the song and really got excited to do it.

I'm Miss American Dream since I was seventeen
Don't matter if I step on the scene
Or sneak away to the Philippines
They still gon' put pictures of my derriere in the magazine
You want a piece of me?
You want a piece of me

I'm Miss bad media karma
Another day another drama
Guess I can't see no harm
In working and being a mama
And with a kid on my arm
I'm still an exceptional earner
And you want a piece of me

Hot on the heels of Blackout, the next year in 2008 she released "Circus".


Its lead track and accompanying music video was "Womanizer":

It's a bit of an anthem song, where she sings about womanizing men and takes control!

The album also has "If U Seek Amy", which is either about searching for drugs at a party or searching for another girl to have sex with, or both. It caused a little stir amongst  conservative middle-America because of the lyric

Love me, hate me, say what you want about me
But all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy

The, ahem, alternate reading is

Love me, hate me, say what you want about me
But all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to F.U.C.K. me

and once you hear it you can't unhear it (they make fun of the conservative mom's in the music video):

Britney released another greatest hits style album in 2009 called the Singles Collection. The bonus original song on it was "3" about threesomes of all things! It was written and produced by Max Martin, hearkening back to earlier days.

In 2011 Britney came out with a new album "Femme Fatale".

It's title track is "Till the World Ends" which is a great clubby-pop dance floor song.

I felt she sort of "phoned it in" for most of the rest of the album, though. It was unclear how much she was really involved or if she was just being managed and going through the motions at this point.

Britney did a season judging on the Simon Cowell's X-Factor. I thought she was the absolute hilight, but I could possibly be biased...!

Britney mentored the "teens" category, and she was amazing as a mentor. So caring and such good advice.

Her next album was "Britney Jean" in late 2013.

It features the great song and video, especially for us spanko types, "Work Bitch" in which Britney wields a bullwhip and whips her dancers into shape!

Go Brit Brit! Several of the songs on this album, including Work Bitch, were in collaboration with William Adams, a.k.a. will.i.am from Black Eyed Pees and Fergie fame. This was an intensification of the collaboration from one song on her previous album.

Again, on this album it was unclear how much Britney actually did. There was a backup singer Myah Marie who can sing virtually identically to Britney who may have done a lot more than is acknowledged. Myah's dad Murray Langston told Star magazine, “My daughter sings for Britney Spears. The truth is, Myah can sound just like her. Maybe Britney doesn’t know whose voice is on her album. Maybe she just comes in, lays down the track, leaves, and doesn’t care." Myah made a non-statement, not denying it but saying how much she loves and supports Britney.

Britney also collaborated on a song that went onto a will.i.am album called  "#willpower". The hit track was definitely "Scream and Shout" with Britney!


After "Britney Jean", Britney did a two year residency in Las Vegas. I was fortunate enough to have gone to see her show!

I went in October of 2014. This was a photo I took.


I was that close to Britney! I splurged on the most expensive seat I could get. The show was electrifying and everybody around was as big a Britney fan as me. Everyone was standing up and dancing throughout. You could palpably feel how much warmth there was for Britney and how much her fans loved her. Here's the thing about Britney. Objectively she does not have the best voice, or is the best dancer, or has the hottest body on stage, but it's the package that's so amazing. Her energy. Her work ethic. Her enthusiasm when performing. The whole package. She connects.

In 2015 Britney collaborated with Australian rapper Iggy Azalea to do Pretty Girls.


All around the world, pretty girls
Wipe the floor with all the boys
Pour the drinks, bring the noise
We're just so pretty!
All around the world, pretty girls
Jump the line, to the front
Do what we like, get what we want
We're just so pretty!

It was a fun and ironic song making fun of Valley girls, dumb blondes, pretty girls, and the boys that chase them. I like that it has a nice female dominant theme!

That same year she collaborated with Giorgio Moroder, an older Italian man known as the "father of disco". Here's a then and later of him.


A mischievous 75-year-old Moroder gave Britney a somewhat back-handed compliment on their collaboration:

"On my new album, Britney Spears wanted to do the Suzanne Vega song 'Tom's Diner.' The song doesn't have a big range, and I added a bridge and some instrumental stuff. Britney sounds so good, you would hardly recognize her."

Suzanne Vega is an American singer-songwriter. She originally sung the song acappella (no instruments)


It was taken up by an Electronic band called DNA who sampled the original and added a dance beat to it. That version became a big hit.


Apparently, this version of the song was also very famous because it was used in the development of the MP3 format that spelled the doom of the old music industry!

I like the Moroder / Britney version best.



Her latest album to-date is Glory released in summer 2016.

Glory was a bit of a labour of love for Britney. After having done Pretty Girls, which she did not consider was at all artistically original, she wanted to do something different for this album. She worked on it for more than 2 years, recorded somewhere between 30-40 songs with many different collaborators most of which she discarded. She restarted 6 months in with a different executive producer and a new spate of collaborators. In March 2016, Britney said that she was "being more hands-on" with the album and that it is "the best thing I've done in a long time," though she noted that she did not know when the album would be finished and that she was "not rushing anything [...] so that my fans will truly appreciate it."

I personally love Glory. It's a real album you can just put on the sound system and take it all in.

One of the hit singles was the very sexy Make Me...


But my favourite track is probably Private Show. It's very unusual for a Britney track and really fun. Britney gets writing credit on this track.

 
Put on a private show
Pull the curtains until they close
I'll put on a private show
We’ll be wiling out on the low
Work it, work it, boy, watch me work it
Slide down my pole, watch me spin it and twerk it

She used this song to launch a new fragrance, which had a very sexy commercial with the song.

That brings us more or less up-to-date with where Britney is now. She was supposed to be this little pop-tart that was supposed to last maybe one, at most two albums, and then fade away. But she's so far delivered her ninth studio album, which includes the genre-defining Blackout album. Never count Britney out!

I hope she gets treated fairly in the ongoing dispute regarding her conservatorship and eventually regains her complete freedom.

#FreeBritney




23 comments:

  1. Britney's annus horribilis was actually what started my awakening to just how wicked and soulless the media is. She was clearly not well, and the cretinous press made fun of her relentlessly. I understand she is a public figure and events like the head shaving incident occuring in public will be reported on, but the incessant snide mockery was honestly gross. Not a single ounce of compassion for another person in clear distress. They're honestly lucky Britney is stronger on the inside than a lot of starlets, because her blood could easily have been on their hands otherwise.

    And on a completely unrelated note, you'd better believe 13-year old me took Schoolgirl Britney across my lap many a time in my dreams and gave her a nice red bottom and a squishy wet pussy. She turned tens of millions of '90s boys into men with that little knot.

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    1. OMG you are so right. You are also my buddy for life now! Thank you for commenting.

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  2. I'm also a Britney fan, although not for her music. I think she's just beautiful, and also I admire how hard she's worked. In that way, she's like Madonna, who also really worked hard for what she has. Thank you for the historical summary and all the cool pictures and links.

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  3. I can't say that I was ever a big Britney Spears fan, but I have nothing against her either, and she has put out some good numbers over the years, which I have enjoyed.
    I really do feel sad for her about the (far too public) breakdown she had around the time where she suddenly decided to shave her head bald. Personally I think that it was a culmination of having had to spend a good part of her teenage years and early 20's as a global star, surrounded by far too many people who were probably more interested in her as a product and for her money, than in her as a person. During the period of her life, where most of us get drunk and do dumb shit, whilst still living as home, she was touring the world and performing on stages in front of thousands of people. So when things finally slowed down a little bit, she had her "teenage freaking out" period, but at a much later point in her life, and without the "safety net" and secure structure parents normally provide for their teenagers. Add in a frenzied media presence, global fame, fans, and constantly present photographers, and you have a recipie for disaster.

    I haven't really followed her life in the LONG while, but I did hear about the recent thing about her trying to get "released" from her dad's custody. Knowing >bleep< all about her current mental state, I obviously am in no position to comment on what is the right decision in that regard, but I really do hope that the courts take a serious, objective, and impartial look at her case, because I'll willingly grant that at a surface, it does look a little strange that a what? Roughly 40yo woman should be her dad's ward in that way...

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    1. Totally agree. Hard for anybody outside to judge, but what's required is a transparent impartial process (transparent in the sense of how it is conducted, not re the details).

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  4. Who wants to see Julie in the signature Britney Spears attire, spanked and then placed upon the wooden pony for a timeout? No shoes, so she can be forced up on her tiptoes in those over the knee, grey socks? Almost like a tribute punishment.

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    1. Go on then girl. Give us a Britney tribute. Cant wait to see your red bottom in that outfit!

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  5. well I like her cause she gave us a really cool unintentional upskirt getting out of a car and we found out she aint a fan of panties...should gotten spanked for looking where I should not be looking but it was fun

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    1. I think brit brit wanted you to look ;-)

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  6. I have inside information on the reasons the court granted the conservatorship and there is merit to the decision.

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    1. Not even Britney wants the conservatorship overturned, she just wants her father out of the picture in terms of decisions over her person and treatment. And as I state above, we don't know the real reasons, but there is definitely the appearance of a rigged system with a lot of money at play. Justice demands transparency of process.

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  7. Wow. Where have I been? I had no idea this was going on. One article indicated she had a “court appointed” attorney advocating for her, which seems ridiculous. Of course, she can’t access her own finances, and her father is not going to pay someone to oppose him. The whole thing is crazy and it doesn’t sound like Britney wants the whole conservatorship overturned, just her father removed. Regardless, I’ll be following and rooting for Britney to get to the point she can lead her own life without the need for these restrictions and entanglements. Now I’ve got to track down my Hulu account so I can watch the documentary!

    roger

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    1. Exactly. fans demand transparency of process and Britney's choice of lawyer - her estate can certainly afford it.

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  8. I first learnt that Britney was in a tough spot legally last year, when some there was a backlash to some Twitter accounts moving her TikTok videos, if I remember correctly. No-one is equipped to deal with the sort of meteoric rise to success she had, plus her whole persona was kind of "I'm the naive, small-town, wholesome girl next door that'll let you teach her all about making love."

    The South Park episode about the pressure society put on her was pretty accurate. The one iconic breakdown where she shaved her head and attacked that car was handled terribly by the media, treating her like a sideshow spectacle rather than a woman needing help with her mental health.

    I'm not a superfan but I had Lucky on a compilation album and found it surprisingly deep and heartfelt. In a different life she could have dyed her hair and fronted an emo band. I thought her cover of I Love Rock 'n' Roll was fantastic, and Toxic fucking slaps!

    I saw Crossroads and don't remember much about it, I'd say it's very similar to Burlesque in that it's a light-hearted movie aimed at women that wouldn't have been so critically panned if not for starring women trying to broaden their range.

    Did teen Julie have a poster of Ms Spears on her wall?

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    1. No, I was too old for that, but I was a big fan regardless!

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    2. No worries! That photo you took is amazing, I love how excited those women in front of you look! And you can see SOOOOO MUCH of Brit Brit and her dancers - makes me nervous for your expensive seat!

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  9. I also hope that Britney gets treated fairly and eventually regains her complete freedom. I am not a particular fan of hers, but I think she is a great artist and one of her songs has a special meaning for me. Not long after I met my partner "Oops ... I did it again" was released, and it seemed to be playing everywhere we went. We are still together now more than twenty years later and I now know something I didn't know then - she is into spanking! When I am across her knee, I sometimes think of the song and of Britney Spears. (No, I don't imagine Britney spanking me, if I as much as suggested that another woman might spank me, I wouldn't be able to sit down for a week!)

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  10. Fame and Youth, not a good mix, her story is one of many. I think because of her Dad she is worth around $60 million, as to the overall situation, have not really heard both sides. The one thing I know or think I know, females have so many personalities as they grow, willing to be more open, my wife told me, young women, like to be 'naughty' because they get away with it, is is 'cute'. She said Britney is the same as any young girl, money is not the total factor, the female brain just something that control at times is not possible. So the best for Britney. Jack

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  11. Hey Julie, thought you would enjoy this Britney Spears mashup from my favourite indie band, Pomplamoose. They just released it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-DH9aW6O-4&t=174s - Frank

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