If you’re looking for trouble…

It is not the goal of this journal to engage in cheap gossip. However, it has come to my attention that Britney Spears has, apparently intentionally, crossed over into an area of my interest.

I know almost nothing about Britney Spears, except that she was a music star a while back and has since gone on to a career in gossip headlines. Her appearance the other night at MTV’s VMAs was front-page news on, of all things, The New York Times, which got my attention, but when one of my favorite comics bloggers Occasional Superheroine devoted a column to it, I had to see what all the fuss was about.

First, I know nothing about the music of Britney Spears, except that she probably doesn’t make enough of it.  It seems to me, if everyone talks about you being washed up, the answer to that is to work more.  Maybe the work will suck, maybe it won’t, maybe it will take you in strange new directions, but if you don’t go away sooner or later they have to take you seriously.  If Bob Dylan or Elvis Costello or Madonna packed it up every time critics said they sucked, our musical landscape would have a much different shape today.

So okay, maybe Britney Spears doesn’t have that kind of ambition or talent.  So fine.  But then, here she is, making her “comeback.”  Now then, the thing about “comebacks?”  You don’t call it a “comeback.”  You don’t get to decide you’re making a “comeback,” it’s for other people to say when you’ve made a “comeback.”

Now then: Ms. Spears, for reasons that utterly baffle me, chose for her “comeback” appearance an homage/parody/whatever to the opening of Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special (and please note that the ’68 Comeback Special was originally known as something like “Singer Presents Elvis” or some other godawful corporate title).  She has cleverly changed the words of “Trouble” to the words from “Woman” (both songs were written by Leiber and Stoller, and have the same melodies).

(I, for one, do not criticize Ms. Spears for gaining weight.  If “hotness” is what she was after, she looked plenty “hot” to me (although her spangled bikini did not seem to fit her well).  HOWEVER, if you’re going to go out on stage like that, perhaps it’s best not to open with a song that contains the lyrics “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan.”  Because all I could think of after that was “And then eat it.”)

The question is, WHY, oh why, would Britney Spears choose to honor/parody/whatever one of the true diamond-hard everlasting moments of Pop Greatness for her “comeback?”  The “Trouble/Guitar Man” number at the top of the ’68 Comeback Special is still electrifying and flabbergasting 40 years later — and Britney Spears makes a deliberate allusion to it, hoping to compare herself to — what now?  Elvis?  Twelve years after he changed the face of American culture, ten years after being drafted, eight years after starting his string of never-ending soul-crushing movies?  Britney is inviting us to compare her years in the wilderness to that?

All would have been forgiven, of course, if she had then delivered.  But she did not.  Her performance of the number is abysmal — she shuffles around the stage as though she just woke up, not bothering to lip-sync, much less sing, pacing through the dance routines as though practicing in front of the TV instead of performing in front of millions of viewers.

Anyway, there’s my two cents.

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20 Responses to “If you’re looking for trouble…”
  1. The Britney “comeback,” to me, means that she’s trying to escape all the gossip rags and become what she started out as- known only for her sexy image and music — instead of being a divorced trailer trash momma with two kids and two divorces under her belt at age 25.

    I, unfortunately, know a lot about her because I grew up in the 90’s pop era when she exploded onto the scene. I was never a fan, but you COULDN’T know about her and all that was going on around her if you watched MTV as much as I did back then. She is one year older than me, and that frightens me that someone can surge and plummet in popularity in this short amount of time, ruining your reputation (and/or life) in the process.

    At the rate she is going right now, with all of her breakdowns, shoddy performances garnering criticism by everyone and his grandmother, and being constantly in dragged through the tabloids while her career flounders, I would not be surprised in the slightest if she committed suicide by the age of 35.

    As for the Elvis thing, she has never had good taste and has always liked to compare herself to greater performers. There was a time when people were accusing her for ripping off Madonna, but I fail to remember for exactly what; I think people wanted her to be the next Madonna, and they should think twice before asking for that.

    • That was supposed to be a double negative– “couldn’t NOT know about her…”


    • Todd says:

      garnering criticism by everyone and his grandmother

      I would be the grandmother in this scenario.

      As for the Elvis thing, she has never had good taste and has always liked to compare herself to greater performers.

      Hey, nothing would have made me happier if, even looking the way she currently does, she opened the number with the Elvis homage and then tore the roof off the place. I love it when a performer gets his/her act together, and America in general loves a good comeback. That’s why the performance baffled me so much — she didn’t look like she knew who Elvis was, much less bother to show up for rehearsals.

  2. greyaenigma says:

    Oddly, the only thing I’ve heard about Britney lately is the Chris Cocker video.

  3. jbacardi says:

    I honestly doubt that Britney came up with that idea, tribute to Elvis or whatever, on her own. I’d say her choreographer, musical director, someone in her entourage, thought that would be a kewl idea and Ms. Federline Spears said “Okeh, yeah, whatever”.

    • Todd says:

      The sinking feeling in my gut tells me you’re exactly right. She’s probably never even heard any of Elvis Presley’s music, but her “people” said “hey, you know what she needs? a comeback! we should have her do an homage/parody/whatever of Elvis’s 68 Comeback Special!”

  4. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps the myth that this person had anything of value to offer humanity– i.e., a talent to sing/dance/entertain, or the ability to inspire a generation to do more than gyrate nearly naked or mindlessly party displaying your birth canal– would be an interesting topic for you to explore…

    • Todd says:

      Why would a person need to do more than inspire a generation to more than gyrate nearly naked or mindlessly party displaying their birth canals? I, personally, can think of no higher calling.

      Actually, the way you describe her, she bears a striking resemblance to Rasputin, who loved nothing more than to inspire his countrymen to gyrate nearly naked and mindlessly party while displaying their birth canals. I wish Britney luck in not ending up poisoned, shot, beaten and drowned by zealots.

      • veedub says:

        ya know, it might take just as many tries to off britney as it did rasputin…

        she has succeeded to the crown of tammy faye bakker as “person-most-likely-to-be-left-alive-with-only-cockroaches-for-company-after- the-apocalypse.”

        either that, or, as someone else suggested, a suicide at 35.

        i’m just sayin.

  5. nom_de_grr says:

    Leave Britney alone!

  6. thunder24 says:

    Here’s where I say something insightful and help the discussion along.
    or not.

    I’d still hit that. 😀

  7. Anonymous says:

    “Why would Britney”… is already the wrong approach and question. Why do you see an individual reasoning? This is no play. “Britney”, as one can see from Moore’s film, is an idiot, in the real sense of the word. Really, nothing personal, she is. How many interviews and subsequent white-trashtastic failures does it take to show over the YEARS, the chances to prove after her mother-managed first years that she understood anything, are gone. We talk about a “poor” girl who is rumoured to make 700thou a MONTH without doing anything. Such is the sublime banality of the U.S. media culture. Contextless, she is discussed as if in some dire straits, rather than wondering why MTV or anyone needs her – which is a much more dire reflection on culture. She is the inverse-Madonna, thus the (Madonna-made)MTV kiss registered more than with Christina A. back then. She is closer to the neo-con’s sense of the world and drug-intake, than Elvis.
    She has no idea of Elvis’s comeback, nor the quote, nor could she be bothered to recall when the more important issues are at hand – she IS fat, fat in a way that she should have been citing Elvis’s last tours, where he took bathroom breaks etc..
    But even then, she wasn’t near enough to his greatness to draw on what voice reserve he still had then, so why quote. It’s just disgusting, not enough for tragedy, nor for pathos. It is the closest to legalized child-porn sanctioned by mothers that the media culture managed since the days of Brooke Shields. And still we discuss her as if an individual… She has been described at best times having the talent of a bad burlesque stepper, hardly a dancer, and her voice can hardly stand up to Marilyn Monroe. What people mean when she is fat, is that, she is FAT in all areas, many of which aren’t visible in the physically taut sense. But by the way, she looked and walked like a horse, and yeah, I expect something else when you wear a bikini, deal with it.

    • Todd says:

      So, in a way, you’re saying that her downfall is merely a symptom of the current neo-con implosion. Just as the neo-cons were granted enormous power and squandered it on idiots, sycophants and self-serving politics, Britney, living in a Bush-like bubble, has no idea how idiotic she looks to the public, and her notions of a Britney renaissance where everyone loves her are as much of an illusion as Bush’s notion of American liberators being greeted with flowers in Iraq.

      If that’s the case, it’s one more thing Bush needs to be held accountable for.

      • Anonymous says:

        Illusion, as nefariously and machiavellian as they come. Well…yes.

        Now, I don’t throw everything to the neo-cons, her mother had alot to do with the template. But the environment in which she is praising our President and asking us to follow him without question, and thanking Jesus Christ at the MTV awards years ago for bringing back pop music all the while she is “emancipating” music by prancing around as a high-school uniformed slut… THAT stuff fits perfectly to the bill rung up in the “Christian” White House culture she is a part and parcel of.

        That whole Disney crew of Christina, Justin and Britney et al. show over and over what we all know: it’s those hypocrites that are doing the hard stuff and breaking the taboos.

        It makes a hell of a lot more contextual sense than attributing her the skills of actually THINKING — did you ever hear her speak? Circus horses have managed more adequate sentences stamping it out with their hoofs. Yes, that’s right, I used the “horse” analogy there again.

  8. mr_noy says:

    Shouldn’t having once been good be the main criteria for a successful comeback? The little I know about Ms. Spears suggests that her early success was due primarily to her aggresively marketed image as a virginal piece of jail-bait.

    Women shouldn’t be penalized for choosing to have both a family and a career and frankly Britney’s body (if not her taste) is in a better state than most mothers of two that you’re likely to see at the beach so I’m not going to criticize her for her “weight problem”. However, when your success is based on constantly reminding people that you are lusty, busty AND pure as the driven snow, you really shouldn’t be surprised when getting married and having kids causes your career to stall. Britney literally screwed away the only appeal she ever really had and it’s hard for me to feel too sorry for her. Who knows, maybe she was pressured into it when she was a minor and shouldn’t bear full responsibility but all of the pills, crummy movies and ill-fitting jump suits couldn’t obscure the fact that Elvis was once a vital, relevant artist who produced a sizeable catalog of significant and influential work. All Britney had before her decline was an intact hymen.

    Movie tickets?: $9.50
    Britney Spears Pepsi Commercial shown before the trailers?: Free
    Britney Spears Pepsi Commercial featuring Bob Dole in a creepy cameo?: Priceless

  9. teamwak says:

    This is definately one of the most entertaining LJ comments/Talkbacks I’ve read in a while 🙂