In recent weeks, it has been easy to feel onceself gravitating towards Britney Spears.
First, she lost that loser husband and the next day he was saying nasty things about her and shopping at Wal-Mart. US Weekly has the pictures to prove it, along with a shot of a triumphant Britney striding through Times Square, as news of her divorce scrolls across an electronic screen behind her. She was so doing well when she debuted that cute brown bob haircut and came to New York. At least 72 hours passed before Britney began worrying us again and making poor choices.
Britney's life story and elusive anti-personality have always compelled Betty, but what about the music that she used to make? It's certainly in danger of being forgotten among the fanfare, Vegas weddings, reality shows and diapers, so Betty dusted off her copy of Britney Spears Greatest Hits: My Prerogative to bring you this report.
Track One, "My Prerogative" is awesome. This is Britney sticking it to the haters! Can you handle her truth?! She gives a preview of the growly thing with her voice that she will pull out again for "Stronger". The production is slammin', with lots of squeaky violins and robot effects on the vocals.
Track Two is "Toxic". Britney is kicking so much ass here. The greatest piece of watered-down hip-hop in the entire history of pop music.
By the time you get to Track 3 a.k.a. "Oops! I Did it Again" you might as well just give up. Britney is ON FIRE! And who the hell is playing bass on this song? He's a freaking genius!! The vocals are also exceptionally well recorded.
I think Track Four is "I'm a Slave 4 U". I love this song for many reasons, but here are the top two: this is the song where Britney spells out how much she loves "dancing", which is what she always used to cite as the chief reason men were attracted to her when pressed by an incredulous media. This song also contains the line: "Baby, don't you wanna dance up on me?". Prepositions can be transcendent that way, and indicate this song might have been written by the Swedish guy who also wrote "Baby One More Time" and "Oops! I Did It Again" (which features the standout, cyptic line "I cry watching the days").
Clearly, Britney is an international phenomenon not just because she sings simple lines that bring English to people ("Crazy" - another great dance song all around - is probably the best example), but because she reinvents the language, which paradoxically makes it more universal and less culture-specific. Britney is like Joyce and Pynchon, but blonde.
"Stronger" is great, and gains poignance post-Kevin. Betty kept skipping back to the beginning to hear Britney growl "Ooooh Yeaaah-hahh!" at the beginning. It also has a magnificent stop-and-start break before the last chorus, and more robot singing (really, one of Brit's strengths).
"Me Against the Music" (with Madonna) doesn't move me, but by this point you're almost to the home stretch: "Baby One More Time", "Crazy", "Sometimes" (one of Betty's personal favorites, which - wait for it - kicks it up a key for emphasis in the last chorus), the slinky sleeper hits "Boys" and "Outrageous" and, the quintessential (though not even close to the finest) Britney song, for better and worse, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, till death do us part, the ultimate dealbreaker that separates the haters from the acolytes: "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman"!! OK, who saw Crossroads?
Anyway, I think you get the point. I'm not saying there aren't duds in her catalog, but if you buy this album it may bring you real joy.