November 29, 2006

Ode To Old School Britney

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As snowflakes gathered in stubborn clumps along the creases of my marshmallow-like winter jacket last Monday morning, a part of me died. The first cut is the deepest, as Sheryl Crow would say. Climate anxieties aside, this column will (for once) be a shining beacon of shallow optimism in our soon-to-be frozen hellscape because, after several years of questionable deterioration, Britney Spears finally seems to be reentering human society with no Federline in tow.
My reception of Britney has always been an ambivalent one. As a music critic, I find myself repulsed by her affinity for third grade song titles rife with acronyms (“I’m A Slave 4 U”), her dilution of musical trends via mass manufactured pop and her tendency to substitute vocal range with breathy platitudes. As a person with ears and a soul, however, I find myself unwillingly singing along to her catchy choruses and mesmerized by her energetic dance numbers. After all, I’m only human and Britney has always proved to be entertaining.
Despite having been criticized for giving a “knee-jerk” review of Britney’s musical talents (please enlighten me on how In The Zone furthered the landscape of music in any way), I have more often than not, been a defender of Ms. Spears. The cultural phenomenon that followed Britney’s entrance in the music scene influenced an entire generation of materialistic youth (aka my generation). You may be weary of her virgin/sex kitten ambivalence, always accompanied with an even more misleading dose of naval bearing, but she was the original teen queen. And before the good girl/bad girl parts of the resident teen-star-who-can’t-really-sing were separated forever a la Hilary Duff and Lindsay Lohan, Britney managed to embody both.
Like my inability to entirely condemn Paris Hilton’s self-proclaimed “celebutante” antics despite an internal shudder that accompanies every appearance of her face in print media, I couldn’t help but secretly wish for a Britney comeback, even at the height of her Mrs. Federline days. Initially, it seemed hopeless at best. While counterpart Justin seemed to have evolved from his hair gel-rific *NSYNC days, Britney’s Matt Lauer interview left me with more questions about Lauer’s decision to not wear socks rather than her actual responses.
Then, following an unbelievable string of events that included the birth of baby #2, the release of K-Fed’s album (????) and rumors of Britney being abandoned by her bandana-fixated husband, came the most unbelievable incident of all: Kevin was getting Fed-Exed. Suddenly, it was like old times again: micro mini-wearing Britney traipsing around town with navel in plain sight. Rumors of a new album surfaced, Britney seemed to have started combing her hair again and all was well in the realm of celebrity.
I know I’m exaggerating, but I just can’t help it! Too long have we (more likely, just I) suffered from a drought of infectious pop hits. Sure, thoroughly bleached substitutes surface every now and then with slight rock or R&B overtones, but can you honestly vow that anything less than “Toxic” will get you through the last three minutes of your daily fiendish treadmill run?
Despite the downhill progression of the weather, both in actual degrees and in quality, you can at least be assured that one facet of life is getting better. With the much anticipated TomKat wedding finally freed from being pure fantasy and substantiated with an overeager kiss of robotic proportions, perhaps it is time for me to stop being so cynical. After all, if even Britney can bounce back from the dredges of tacky, who knows what else is possible? A discounted tuition instead of talking trash cans at Trillium?