Today in Gchat: More Thoughts on the Princesses of Pop

In which we wrap up what has accidentally become female popstar week by expounding on Rihanna, Britney, Madonna, Beyoncé, and the packaging of female popstars:

Lila: SO I am reading your post right now
and about to watch this “mind-blowing” Rihanna video
Tania: OMG I’m so excited for what you are about to experience
get ready
Lila: WHOA hair
Tania: oh I KNOW
just wait
there’s more
Lila: oh this is hipster central within 7 seconds of starting…also is she speaking in a british accent? or is that somebody else?
Tania: no apparently that’s agnyss dein or however the eff you spell her name
the model
Lila: ??!?!? um, why?
Tania: who knows
just wait for how amazingly more crazy things get
Lila: who styled her for this? it’s such a bizarre video just clothing wise
let alone this pillsexflashinglightsdugs stuff
Tania: it’s like hipster fetish porn
the whole thing
Lila:  OMG is he giving her a tattoo?????
me: YES
on her BUTT
Lila: why do hipsters love to watch people hang out in bathtubs?
Tania: because it’s hot? and kind of drugged up?
Lila:  there is a scene in which she throws up what appear to be ribbons
is that intentional?? or was that supposed to be so quick nobody noticed it was ribbons?
Tania:  YES
she throws up ribbons!!
totally crazytownness
Lila: ok, that video was, in the words of you, CRAY
Tania: you mean, in the words of kanye
i can’t take credit for that
as much as i’d like to
Lila: this Rihanna video is sort of at odds with the Britney strategy
it’s like she can really only compete on an aesthetic level with other pop acts by carving out some sort of niche that’s more a “feeling” than actual song-related anything
because this song could be sung by any person
me, Britney, Beyonce
Tania: YES you are exactly proving the point of my post!
Lila: the britney strategy is about being the most middle of the road aesthetic possible
rihanna I feel like is going a madonna route
identifying with a more counter-cultural aesthetic
Tania: YES
that’s exactly the comparison i was gonna make but I decided the post was already too long
she’s totally pulling a Madonna, back when Madonna was still awesome
Madonna could not sing to save her life
but she had this unique aesthetic
and that sexual deviant thing happening
this is obviously not the britney direction
Lila: no of course not
Tania: britney was totally vanilla
even when she was she was being “sexy” and “provocative”
it was very vanilla, very safe
very oriented towards teenage boys
Lila: and also Britney of late is making songs that overtly reference what is happening in this Rihanna video, and in the videos she just sort of shimmies in a midriff-baring shirt and smiles
Britney, lets not forget, released a song that, when said outloud, is called F-U-C-K Me
Tania: OH RIGHT
I FORGOT ABOUT THAT
Lila: yes yes yes
and in the video she’s at a wild party and people are missing clothing and everybody is getting dressed as if it’s an orgy
but, like, does Britney have any idea what she’s doing?
or is some middle-aged fat guy calling the shots
b/c it’s sort of embarrassing to watch her try to be “unleashed”
Britney seems so unwitting
Tania: well that’s why the Rihanna video works and isn’t embarrassing for her
she really goes for it
she’s very convincingly sexed up and drugged out and intense
Lila: exactly
I feel like Britney is sort of an irrelevant factor in her brand
she just shows up
I assume Rihanna is a little less heavily managed
or at least more cleverly managed
Tania: and unlike Rihanna she never managed to figure out another angle
or have any control
Lila: no wonder the bitch shaved her head and attacked paparazzi with an umbrella
speaking of crazy Britney, I read this sort of fascinating take on that situation in NY Mag: http://nymag.com/news/intelligencer/features/28528/
Tania: OH this is interesting
woah this is super interesting
Lila: “What the press, which was busy moralizing (“her poor little boys”) and faux-empathizing (“she needs help”), never acknowledged was that Spears’s crack-up was the most interesting performance of her life. She seemed to be trying, with befuddled brilliance, to tell the truth. She recoiled from celebrity culture by mortifying her own flesh. She stripped herself, publicly, of her sexuality.”
Tania: there’s so much feministing we could do with this article
Lila: I know
but this I feel like isn’t even a feminist perspective on it
it’s like a commentary on celebrity culture in general
Tania: but it’s also a comment on the manufacturing of female sexuality
in a big way
Lila: oh for sure
me: and the thing is
that madonna and rihanna have VERY sexual images
but those images are all about them being in control
and them being powerful and dominant
they had agency
Lila: RIGHT
Tania: and it’s very edgy, and relatively unsafe
I mean Rihanna just had a single called S&M not too long ago
whereas britney’s sexual image was totally passive
and totally the kind of thing old men manufacture to sell records to teenagers because it’s generic and nonthreatening, no matter how “wild” she’s supposedly being
it was completely about what teen boys find attractive
Lila: yup
Tania: which is the opposite of how madonna and rihanna are sexual
self-defined and aggressive instead of packaged and passive
in this way that is very much more about how they, as grown women, want to be perceived sexually
also, CRAZY exhibitionism
but that’s part of the whole subversive deal
and some people are exhibitionists
Lila: oh for sure
Tania: oh dude
i feel a phd thesis on sexuality and passivity in female pop stars
writing itself in my head
i love this shit
Lila: HA
well it’s fascinating
Britney is passive in a way that no other artist has been
not Christina…like when she went through her weird dark period
Tania: xtina!
Lila: and not Beyonce
Tania:  yeah i never think of beyonce as passive
at all
Lila: no
Tania: i mean her brand of sexy is pretty safe
Lila: right but she controls the safeness
Tania: she never comes across as anything but in control this days
I mean she is in control, she fired her entire management
ie, her dad
which is around when, come to think of it, she started really using her voice to full capacity, on 4
instead of watering it down to a more pop-ish sound
Lila: well it’s her voice, anyway
that is the star of it
Tania: yeah that’s where Beyonce’s power is really, even though she’s sexy
Lila: but now that you mention passivity as the hallmark of the britney brand I’m thinking it is rare to see somebody SO passive become so famous, right?
or at least famous for so long
Tania: i feel like at this point, her fame is more about the fact that she was SO famous ten years ago
Lila: but she’s still, like, plugging away at her career of singing and dancing and such
she keeps churning out hits
me: i feel like britney is so secondary now, though
I mean she’s still successful
but she’s been WAY upstaged as far as female entertainers, no?
Lila: well yes
however
she has this nostalgia factor
because she’s been around so long
Tania: i feel like people are just like “oh, well, she’s britney, so i guess we should play her song in nightclubs”
Lila: right

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