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Britney Spears: Capitalism's Last Stand

By Mish Way

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Imagine being Britney Spears. You can’t, right? You can try, but you can’t come close to understanding what it must be like to be that famous. So famous that within hours of your latest single dropping it hit #1 in 36 countries. So famous that when you go through a break-up it’s treated as world news, above rapes and murders and fires and all that not fun stuff. So famous that when you pop out a child, it’s as though you split the Atom. Being a pop star is beyond the limits of conventional thought.

Britney Spears is the Queen of Pop, a position Madonna passed down the crown when they made out at the MTV Awards that one year. (The Queen of Pop crown is real tiny, it’s actually just a gold cap for your tooth that gets passed on the tongue during an open-lip kiss.) And the gold cap is what unlocks the secret door to the ultimate now-you-are-in-the-record-books-performance, which is a residency in Las Vegas. Think Celiné in a power suit, Elton straddling a grand piano deckled in gold. Now, it’s Britney, playing 100 shows in 2 years at the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas. Securing a Vegas residency means you have surpassed current and contemporary culture and are now just legendary, like in the Elvis sense of the word. This is the money gig. This is the ultimate exhaustion. Yes, you will roll out of bed in the morning and become Barbara-mother-fucking-Streisand. When you die, the government will put your face on a Forever Stamp.

Which brings me to Britney’s latest single. “Work, Bitch,” as Britney stated, pays homage to her gay following. On This Morning in the UK, Britney explained that her gay fans needed to hear some of their street slang thrown back. It was for them, because she loves her gay fans. Plus, I would imagine it’s fun to say “bitch” over and over in a song. But I don’t see “Work, Bitch” as the ultimate gay anthem, more so the ultimate capitalist cheer. “You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti? You want a Maserati? You better work, bitch.” Truth. And Britney knows this.

will.i.am co-wrote and produced the album with the Queen. As annoying as he and his hair is, the guy knows how to write a pop song for Britney. This is a hard thing. I mean, it’s Britney. We’re talking about the de facto face of what our generation understands as “pop music.” She is The Face of a generation of bubble gum, sexualized, computerized pop perfection. Simplicity. Infancy. Virginity. It works. (Bitch.)

When you’re a queen, there’s an enormous, illogical amount of pressure put on you to adhere to some abstract concept of “royalty.” With Britney, it’s no different. When you watch interviews with her, it feels like you’re watching a trained professional, not a person. Has she ever been able to be herself in front of the public? At this point, what would that even look like? When you are that valuable, that caged, that money-making, you get a lot of protection backhanded with harm. Every time Britney “screwed up” and done some crazy shit—in my opinion, these were her most fabulous moments but I’m not one of her managers—there was a team ready to fight off the media attack, make an excuse, and save her image. She is an Orca whale at Sea World—a powerful beast, but at the end of the day she’s still trapped in a bathtub doing tricks for tuna.

When I was in seventh grade, Britney Spears’ first album dropped. Every girl in my class memorized the “Hit Me Baby” dance off by heart. You could hear us singing that chorus from miles away. And parents freaked, because if you had the nuance to read between the lines, the virginal, teenaged Britney Spears was dripping with fuck. Since then, she’s put out dozens of chart topping hits, married a knob, had children, shaved her head, fallen apart, picked up the pieces, put out more hits all with a camera tracking her every move. What did YOU do in the last ten years?

Britney’s new album, on a whole, falls flat. But I’m not here to tear Britney Jeanapart. I’m here to acknowledge that she’s kind of amazing. And now, at age 32 with her step into the glittery puke of the desert of Vegas, she has become passé, riding off into the distance as is her right. She’s no longer shaking things up, but she has settled into the path of the iconic pop legends before her. At last, the Queen has found her domain.

Follow Mish on Twitter: @myszkaway

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