Saturday, October 19, 2013

W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I. Post 13: Britney Spears

This is a series dedicated to women who despite success in the U.S. Music Industry, have est. a very complicated image for themselves.

Round 13 of this series goes to the woman BuzzFeed contributor Matt Stopera considers his Lord and Savior. Nicknamed "Godney" and the "Holy SPEARit", this entry is going to the woman with the most U.S. Music Industry success I can think of RE: the women I've covered thus far...Britney Spears.
Along with Rihanna, Britney has the most albums to date of any of the W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I. to date, though a recently announced album title, Britney Jean, will put her ahead.

First thing's first...yes; this is the woman who started off in the 90s relaunch of The Mickey Mouse Club (Right as it was about to feel the ax of cancellation.) that would also launch X-Tina, Keri Russell, Who's That From The Notebook, Justin Timberlake and even Tony Lucca (The Voice S2 does count as a launching pad...even for "Dads with Dreams" and "Moms with Dreams" who forgot how condoms work.) After attaining some tangible success albeit rather brief, Spears' life seemed to dwindle to normalcy. Enrolled in school, being a normal girl, all the basic stuff that every other person is subject to.

Cut to her debut effort, the 1999 released ...Baby One More Time. The lead single and title track, was met with fairly positive reviews. Despite the seemingly vapid lyricism [pop music like that isn't exactly looked at for social commentary] the song's success was pretty goddamn astonishing. The song reached #1 and went to #1 everywhere it was released. This would be the time where anybody else commenting about early Britney Spears would make "jail-bait Lolita" remarks in regards to the music video for the song. Now shut up and let's move on.
The second song released from the album, "Sometimes", was met with slightly less favorable reviews from critics although personally, pop music like that era Britney Spears was supposed to be simple as fuck. The song did end up #6 on the Pop Songs chart, giving her another Top 10 Pop hit [In case you've ever wondered why Hot 100 charts matter more, every other chart is niche driven. Those charts operate mainly on radio airplay and not sales of the song itself...just try not to ask too many questions.]

The third song from the album, "(You Drive Me) Crazy" did see a resurgence of chart success. The song itself was met with positive reviews like the debut single. However, "(You Drive Me) Crazy" was featured in the soundtrack for the Melissa Joan Hart and Adrien Grenier movie Drive Me Crazy. The video for the song did throw Spears back into good graces with the public as it did rather well on the TRL and other music video circuit. The song ended up going to #10 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the Pop Songs chart.
A 4th single was released called, "Born to Make You Happy" but that didn't chart in the States. It charted successfully in Europe, so there's that.
The last single released was the fairly cheesy but long-term "meh" song, "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart". Apart from a mention on a VH1 & Blender "Awesomely Bad" montage (Yes, I remember that much; no, I hate the idea of therapy.) the song wasn't as catchy as her 2 big hits from the album, but still went to #14 on the Hot 100.

Mainly because of the title track and "(You Drive Me) Crazy", ...Baby One More Time went to #1 on the Hot 200. However, this est. something that Spears like everyone else in this series has been justifiably scrutinized for not relying on her singing. Terrible person and #2 in the W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I. series, Nicole Scherzinger, did gain some internet praise for an imitation of Spears' singing [which dissenter consensus describes as "infantile cooing"] on Conan (When she was vaguely relevant for her stint on the X Factor US which Spears would do a stint of herself; that shit's coming later.) The point is, that for every other artist in this series so far, no one has been maligned for her singing despite commercial success quite like Spears.

Her sophomore effort, Oops!... I Did It Again did build on her commercial success as it went to #1 on the Hot 200. Yet what propelled that success was the lead single and title track which went to #1 on the Pop Song chart and #9 on the Hot 100. The song did garner favor with critics who despite taking issue with her singing, note that for pop music Spears makes some good shit (Don't take my word that music critics would ever say "this is some good shit".) The music video is one of her most revered; the red catsuit, the futuristic "Marvin the Martian ELEGANZA"...and well you can most likely consult with BuzzFeed contributor Matt Stopera if you seek more die-hard Brit-Brit information.
The second single released from the album was "Lucky". The song is one of her more narrative deliveries (The music video has her tell the story of an actress named Lucky for Christ's sake.) and admittedly one of her best songs. Like the title track, "Lucky" garnered praise from critics and marked the first time 2 songs of hers in a row that had done such a thing. The song peaked at #9 on the Pop Songs chart and at #23 on the Hot 100.

Third from the album, "Stronger" which at the time of release was considered the best track from the effort [although the title track has aged more in "Best of..." lists]. The song ended up peaking at #11 on the Hot 100, proving that by then she had become something of a force to be reckoned with. The music video although not heavily touted in terms of "Best of" lists, does serve as another great effort. The main highlight of the video is the choreography with a chair.
The last song released from the album was "Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know". Although released to mainstream radio, the song failed to make an impact on U.S. charts. Yet considering that the album had gone to #1 by then, it was more or less moot or in vain.

Cut to her third effort, Britney, which went to #1 making this her 3rd #1 album in a row. Though the lead single and arguably in the Top 3 of her best songs, "I'm a Slave 4 U" didn't chart that well. Despite going #4 on the US Hot Dance Club Songs and #15 on the Pop Songs charts, the song only went to #27 on the Hot 100. A song created by The Neptunes [Pharrell and Chad Hugo of N*E*R*D] for a pop star as big as Britney not cracking the Top 25? Nothing explains why the song under-performed, but the video was legend unto its own. Centered around a more salacious image of Spears, the video revolves around hypersexual choreography and heavy panting (More or less; the video ages well in "Best of..." list terms. Fun fact? The main outfit was replicated by terrible America's Best Dance Crew contestants Sass X7.)
Second from the album was "Overprotected". Critics were mixed on this song; some liked this sort of angst-ridden adolescent venting (In terms of Britney's music, that is. Bubblegum Pop is something tough to scrape from a singer's shoes.) while the others couldn't mesh with Britney's delivery. Chart wise, the song's original version did well in Europe; The U.S. only saw very little of the Darkchild remix and that floundered as it only went to #37 on the Pop Songs chart and #86 on the Hot 100.

Third from the album was the song, "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" which served as the theme song to her full-length feature debut, Crossroads (That movie where Taryn Manning played her friend before she had to whore herself in Hustle & Flow to pay her bills because of Crossroads.) The song despite it being a ballad, did garner positive reviews from critics saying [in a very loose context] that for a Britney Spears song this was well mastered. It returned Spears to some commercial form as it went #21 on the Pop Songs chart.
Fourth from the album, was a cover of the song made most famous by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts; "I Love Rock 'n' Roll". Apart from being in Crossroads, the song didn't fare that well. Not a travesty, but it went to #13 in the UK...which made it the lowest charting position she ever made in the UK [until "Radar" did worse].
A fifth song, "Anticipating" was released...and barely made a dent on French charts...and her last single form the effort, "Boys" while going to #32 on the Pop Songs chart...did dismal as it only went to #22 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart.

Cut past the fact that Crossroads was a dead end to her next effort, In The Zone. The album would go to #1 making this her fourth album in a row to go to #1. The lead single from the album was "Me Against the Music", a collaboration with her VMA kissing partner of sorts, Madonna (Yes, the cranky woman who hates hydrangeas with the terrible and forced British accent that called Lady Gaga "reductive". -_-) The video is most noted for playing off the sexual dynamism inferred between Brit-Brit and Madge as they nearly kissed at the end of the video (Though I think the Mazda RX-8 featured in the video should've gotten more attention.) Even though Louis Virtel hates this song, the song did amass some success as it went to #1 on the Hot Dance Club Songs, #11 on the Pop Songs and #35 on the Hot 100 charts.

Second from the album is a song that I think qualifies as her best. "Toxic" is famous for 2 things...

1. It was intended for Kylie Minogue (Speak of the Post 14 for W.W.C.I.I.T.M.I. devil, eh?) and her album, Body Language.

2. Being Spears' first #1 [on the Pop Songs chart] and first Top 10 of the Hot 100 since "Oops! I Did it Again".

The video for the song is perhaps one of her best to date (Although if she was inadvertently trying out for a flight attendant position, she'd be bloody awful at it.)

Third from the album, "Everytime". The song was regarded as one of her better songs that were "ballad territory". The music video for the song fared well on the circuits and I remember it being on VH1's Top 20 Video Countdown for quite some time. The song peaked at #4 on the Pop Songs chart and #15 on the Hot 100.
Finally, the last song released from the album was "Outrageous"...which received mixed reviews and didn't do a goddamn thing on U.S. charts compared to her previous songs as it went to #23 on the Pop Songs chart and a dismal #79 on the Hot 100.

Cut past a greatest hits album that went to #4 on the Hot 100 [and her cover of "My Prerogative" by Bobby Brown that went to #22 on the Pop Songs chart; and her music video for "Do Somethin'" which went to #100 {not a typo} due to digital downloads] and a heavily maligned UPN program called "Chaotic" AND a whole lot more shit came her 2007 album, Blackout. For cynics and smart-asses alike this is "Shaved Head" Britney era we're entering. By now she'd become Best Week Ever ironic fodder, a tabloid staple and a "commando"...because she wasn't wearing panties [Also, Kevin Federline was a thing. He fathered Britney's two sons so he did something right.] and a whole lot of other shit [annulled/55 hour marriage, Kabbalah (spelling?) {Thanks Madonna...err Esther} and too many other things].
Despite all this shit, the album went to #2 on the Hot 200. Yes for all the meltdown crap, Britney's album was in the Top 5. The lead single "Gimme More" for all its purple, blue and natural strip club lighting in the video was still catchy enough to have it go to #1 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart and #3 on the Hot 100.

The second single released was the tongue-in-cheek "Piece of Me" *When an artist goes tongue-in-cheek, this is most likely some PR person showing them every bit of relevant commentary about them and telling them "Go make a song about this!"* This and the previous effort and even the last song released from the album would all fare rather well on the music video circuit. Unlike the lead single, "Piece of Me" would only go to #18 on the Hot 100 but it did go to #1 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart.
Finally, "Break the Ice" would close out the Blackout era. The video would be the best out of these 3 and age kind of well in the bigger picture. It marked her third #1 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart and would go higher than "Piece of Me" on the Pop Songs chart, peaking at #21. However, the song only went to #43 on the Hot 100, but again; this is when Brit-Brit went bat-shit. Having a #2 album with 3 consecutive #1 singles even if it was on a niche chart was nothing to sneer at.

Cut to her next album, Circus, which was a tongue-in-cheek reference to her whirlwind public image by then. The album went to #1 making this her 5th album to do so. This was in large part to the first 2 singles and adorable controversy* from the 3rd single.
The lead single, "Womanizer" was described as her "comeback single" and showed a slightly saner version of Spears. The song is in my Top 3 of songs done by her. "Womanizer" fared very well in the music video circuit and even went to #1 on the Hot 100; her first song to do this since her debut single [it also went to #1 on the Pop Songs chart and #9 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart.]
The second single and rounding out my Top 3 songs she's ever done was "Circus". Her most lavish video to date [personally], the song fared just as well on the music video circuit as its predecessor in this era. The song itself was met with similar positive reception as the lead single and went to #1 on the Pop Songs chart, #3 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart.

The third single, "If U Seek Amy" was a moderate success in the States going to #8 on the Pop Songs chart & #19 on the Hot 100 [that had its run on the music video circuit]. What made this song was that it buzzed adorable controversy*

*Adorable controversy; (n.): When an artist or group in the U.S. Music Industry
releases a song and/or music video that ruffles the feathers of uptight Quaker-like
people and/or social groups.*

The song came under fire for its "objectionable content" that spelled out the raunchy albeit facetious nature of the song. If you didn't figure it out, this is the chorus of the song...

"Love me; hate me
say what you will about me
but all of the boys
and all of the girls
are beggin' to
If U Seek Amy"

(Fine; if that wasn't enough, it spells out "F-U-C-K me". Genius work, indeed.)

Finally, "Radar" was a song that although critically hailed...didn't fare that well. Originally on her album Blackout, the song was added as a bonus track for Circus. Then it took a while for the song to appear on any U.S. chart. It finally peaked at #30 on the Pop Songs chart and...*gulp* #88 on the Hot 100.

Cut past her 2nd greatest hits album [and the really mediocre at best "3" personally which somehow ended up at #1 on the Hot 100 and #2 on the Pop Songs chart...O_o.] to her 2011 released Femme Fatale. This is her 6th #1 album; how this bitch or her team does it, is at times...fucking unbelievable. Give or take the last 2 singles released for U.S. markets, this is probably her weakest set of released songs to date in terms of singing to me (What the fuck you gon' do Matt Stopera?!)
The lead single, "Hold It Against Me" while personally grating went to #1 on the Hot 100 and on the Hot Dance Club Play chart. The song and video met fairly positive fanfare from critics who noted that its sound should get the job done as a "club banger".
Second, "Till the World Ends" which played up the "2012 = Doomsday" bullshit at the time of its release. The song and video were met with just a touch more fanfare than the lead single but still had commercial success and its video [along with H.I.A.M.] had fared well on the music video circuit. The song peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the Pop Songs chart [while going #1 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart].

Third, "I Wanna Go" which along with keeping the sonic influences of this effort, was a sort of return to the bubblegum pop Britney had been acclaimed for. Although one of her daffiest videos to date (Guillermo Diaz drinking milk even if it was sexy; Britney smacking bitches up with a microphone...just what the fuck was going on?) the song is one of the better tracks from the album. It ended up peaking at #7 on the Hot 100 and going to #1 on the Pop Songs and Hot Dance Club Songs charts.
Finally, her best sounding effort from the album personally, "Criminal". The song was a type I never expected to even mildly enjoy from Spears. Yet considering how "I Wanna Go" was having to make do, I was glad when this song seemed to have some substance to it. The video for the song was noted for having her boyfriend Jason Trawick, star alongside her...and for lack of better phrasing having his manhood all up inside her whilst in the shower (Man, my eloquence makes 50 Shades of Grey seem like it was supposed to be written and read aloud by Bobcat Goldthwait. -_-)
However, the chart-gods were not pleased at a Britney Spears song having peaked at #19 on the Pop Songs chart and #55 on the Hot 100.

Cut past God knows how many remix albums and another greatest hits album and a collaboration with on "Scream and Shout"...and a song for The Smurfs 2 soundtrack called "Ooh La La" to her latest planned album, Britney Jean. The lead single "Work Bitch", for all of its lyrical flaws (Typing them out will result in 15 points of your IQ dropping.) seems to have struck a cord with fans yet again. The video was released to positive fanfare who seem to think this is Britney's best video in years. The shade stops here so we can get to the point of why she's in this series.

So what makes the woman who has had 7 Top 5 albums; 6 of them going to #1 with an 8th expected to live up to expectations? Well, it mainly lies with the criticism of her singing voice, her ditsy demeanor and her run as a judge on the X Factor US. Her singing while not outright terrible isn't Adele or Lady Gaga great. However, she started out in bubblegum pop music; that shit does not require the artist or group in question to sing well. It never has and it never will. Her demeanor had come under attack, but mainly for coming across like a dipshit [She actually said this to Blender Magazine when asked about the benefits of being an international pop-star...

"I get to go to a lot of overseas places, like Canada."
-Britney Spears

And if you hold your ear upwards, you'll hear Social Studies teachers' cars start in closed garages.]

She recently completed a stint on S2 of the X Factor US as a judge. Her tenure was met with mixed results. The consensus was that despite her friendliness, bitch was out of it (Like Paula Abdul level out of it). Her catchphrase/critique was "You were so amazing!" [and mispronounced Ke$ha's name as "Kee-shuh"] Credit is given that her final act left that season, Carly Rose Sonenclar, was named runner-up of the season.
All in all, it's just a matter of public perception despite the fact that this woman has had 6 #1 albums and 7 Top 5 albums overall. She's done what pretty much every other pop singer has done; had enough talent to est. something, rely on sex/controversy or both to pimp herself out and be a shiny happy person when the album prompt called for it. Nothing new here, people. Move along.

Next up; if only she was cool in the States instead of being all "Can't Get You Outta My Head" to UK and elsewhere audiences.

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