After watching Britney Spears’ latest videos:
Can we agree that she’s not as interesting a video persona when she’s ripping off Madonna as when she was trying really hard to be recreate every. little. thing. great about Janet Jackson’s video persona:
I mean, right?
In truth, I didn’t much care for Britney Spears when she was stealing from Janet so boldly, but at least it played to the one skill she has – performing. She also seemed to really enjoy it. She’s downright, genuinely beguiling in “Slave 4 U”, which though derivative in the extreme, is still the finest work she has yet done.
But as a next generation Madonna, she’s simply out of her league. She frankly lacks Madonna’s keen awarness of all the things that give her power in a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy – white beauty standards (blonde hair and all) and white womanhood (with all its attendant parts, “purity,” its need to be protected and free from taint, it’s allure as a result of being venerated, etc) – and what any of that even means.
If anything, her last couple of videos are a stunning depiction of just how unself-aware Britney Spears truly is. She’s not inverting her blonde ambition and she doesn’t seem to want her videos to communicate anything ironic, thoughtful, or interesting the way Madonna often does. There is nothing in these videos. She’s just not present.
But ironically, I do think she’s become the thing that people often (incorrectly) thought Madonna was – contemptuous of her fans. People love Britney reflexively and, if she knows anything at all, she knows that. And so she sleep walks her way through this phase of her career in a way that feels like obligation rather than passion without any fear that her laziness will jeopardize her status as an icon.
In other words, I think her heart isn’t in it. And it really shows.
Spears emulates Jackson a great deal, but she doesn’t seem mention her name nearly as much as she evokes Madonna, which is very strange to me. The basis of her whole act is taken from Janet – female dancing performer with a headmic – which was never really Madonna’s thing, correct me if I’m wrong. Although Janet was more in control (no pun intended) with her career and evolved as an artist, while Britney hasn’t. The only thing she really has in common with Madonna is being White and (bleached) Blond.
Truthfully, “Me Against The Music” would have made more sense if it was Janet Jackson on the other side of that wall dancing with a choreographed number of her own, not Madonna rolling around in leaves on a swing. (In fact I would have enjoyed that a lot).
I don’t like to speculate on race the factor, but I wonder how much of that is relevant. Its too easy to see sexy blond Madonna and connect her with sexy blond Britney and conclude that they are somehow ‘alike’.
I also think that Janet’s cache as an icon this past decade was severely damaged by Nipplegate so I think Britney just stopped namechecking Janet because it doesn’t get her the same thing that name-checking Madonna gets. But you are so right, that they are both blonde white girls makes it an easier leap for folks.
Its amazing what a split second of a nipple can ruin the entirety of a two decade career legacy huh? Everything was going great for Janet in the ‘All For You’ era, gearing up for her next album the next year, headlining the Superbowl and next thing you know it, she’s off the radar. Damita Jo still did very well [all things considering] because the teenybopper TRL fans she gained in 2001 was on her side, but after that it went downhill.
I am however, very happy that her smaller scaled tour is doing very well. In hindsight, it would have probably been better had she done this in 2006 instead of a new album, and then go onto bigger arena tours like she used to after seeing he demand. She waited too long to tour from 2002 to 2008.
It is interesting that Janet couldn’t sell out many venues of ‘Rock Witchu’ tour (which was phenomenal, by the way) and unfortunately wound up having to cancel, yet Britney’s ‘Circus’ tour was one of the highest grossing tour that year when all she did was lazily lip sync to the CD and walk around the stage (speaking of, in the ‘For The Record’ documentary Britney mentions going to Janet’s concert and discusses with her dancers wanting to use some of the things she saw). Don’t get me wrong, Janet has her lip syncing thing too, but she sings over a pre-recorded track that sounds live and has fooled many people.
That said, I am/was a Britney fan, mostly because she reminds me of Janet. I remember her attending the mtvICON special and recalling seeing Janet in concert and declaring she wanted to be her in one of the interviews. I’m just disappointed she decided to ride the Madonna train later on. Lady Gaga is much more like Madonna than Britney ever was.