What Britney Knew

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So….it’s 2011 and Britney Spears is still famous.  Fine.  So is Nick Lachey. (Why?  Nobody knows, but I saw him in Us Weekly the other day.)  In Britney’s case, however, I saw this going down differently.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew we’d be looking at photos of Britney Spears in 2011 and possibly even into 2041.  And I’ll admit it: Britney Spears is entertaining.  She has had many highly public breakdowns, break-ups, and dance-offs.  She has had two babies by a man we all knew was ill-suited to her (soap opera!).  She has had parental drama, sibling drama, and general trashy drama.  In a world in which we are STILL speculating about whether or not Jessica Simpson is pregnant, Britney Spears’ extended time in the limelight is no surprise.

What shocks me however, is that despite the ups and downs Britney is still, above all, famous for doing exactly what she did to make herself famous: Singing.

Do you hear me?  Singing!  Britney Spears is a professional singer.  Isn’t that weird?

to this

I know that for a long time we’ve all been explaining away Britney’s seeming lack of musical talent by describing her as an “entertainer.”  That designation has always struck me as largely unfair to her though.

Take her “Blackout” album, which she barely promoted  because it was released mid-nervous breakdown.  The record is filled with typical breathy-sounding Britneysong.  Still, it performed well on the music charts.  It included hit singles of the sort we’ve come to expect.  It was a musical-ish entity despite the fact that it involved almost no dance moves or crazy midriff-baring outfits (and what it did involve was this).

Britney doesn’t just have a career as a freelance photo-poser a la Jessica Simpson.  And she’s is a good dancer (or was) but she’s not a professional dancer.  No, she is an album-recording, music-“co-writing” singer, like Christina Aguilera and Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson but, somehow, more famous.  Her visa paperwork for her numerous world tours most likely lists her profession as SINGER and/or MOST FAMOUS SINGER IN THE WORLD.

That thought is weird enough, but it gets worse.  The more digging you do into Britney’s background, the more it becomes clear that she is not just some random person who enjoys song.  Singing has been her life’s work, and I do mean her full life.  She has appeared on Star Search twice, was one of the adorable boppy kids on the Mickey Mouse Club, and grew up performing at fairs, churches, American Legion dinners (I expect), and more.  In fact, the collection of early Britney montage videos posted online leads me to believe that, at some point in her life, she felt she was primarily a singer.  Not a dancer.  Not a performer.  Not an “entertainer.” A singer.  A movement-less singer.

This, for example:

Which turned into this (the first clip disproves the video’s very optimist title instantly):

And eventually became this (she’s not even wearing a microphone here):

But despite her turn for the musical worst, there is the irrefutable fact that Britney has an album that is doing well on the charts.  She has a sold-out arena tour during which she “performs” musical songs.  She has all of these things RIGHT NOW.

Frankly, if it is weird to be one of the most famous faces of a profession in which you lack the most basic qualification (singer = singing), it is really weird to still be that face over a decade later.

Sometimes I wonder if it is it possible that Britney has a great Broadway or jazz voice that we just don’t know about.  She has a really deep, throaty thing going on.  She has some power behind her “notes.”  Is her management forcing her to sing in a breathy/off-key/weird voice for some unknown reason?  Are they deliberately writing her songs that have no melody?  Is there some challenge to midriff-baring and singing at the same time that regular people do not know about?  Because all that early singing effort seems really sad when faced with modern-day “entertainer” Britney.

I used to wonder aloud whether Britney knows she doesn’t sing well.  I wondered that aloud as recently as last week before finding this:

Well, question answered.  She knows.

As far as what this says about us, I guess we just have a soft spot for a good little pageant-style singer/dancer/gymnast/actor/pose-striker/”entertainer.”  Isn’t that right, America?

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3 responses to “What Britney Knew

  1. This is how I see it. I’m a huge Britney Spears fan. And if you listen to her albums from … Baby One More Time to the Femme Fatale you can hear her style change and alter the way she chooses to sing. Though there are still elements of her throaty voice still used, case and point, ballads. But clearly she prefers to sing in a way that is sexier and fun, the signature Britney sex growl.

    Britney is an icon, a living legend. She defined pop for the new generation and she is STILL the face of pop ten years later, you don’t do that by producing bad music. Rather than always doing the same thing she’s innovative and produces something original to the music scene. You can tell which album a song came from simply by its style and/or dance vibe. You can tell it’s her by how she sings. She’s said the word “baby” (Babay) the same since Hit Me Baby One More Time.

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