This phrase usually conjures up the feeling of grand expectations and rolled-eyes followed by a very lucrative, but overproduced work of “pop-perfection” we easily let pass and quietly worship for an overly unacceptable duration. However, I cannot help but be forced to acknowledge the rather ballsy move this comparatively “voice-less” authority of pop has just made this evening.
Britney Spears has released a song, called “Perfume,” without auto-tune, an obtrusive thumping bass-line, over-bearing backing track, or a cliché dance break-down… and the year is 2013. It is simply a ballad co-written with indie artist, Sia, delivered in a voice that hasn’t been heard in over a decade: there are no apps, convoluted concepts, or gimmicks, the greatest of all evils. Her new record, which will be released close to her birthday next month, is entitled, “Britney Jean.” This is, naturally, her own name, but never referenced in such personal terms. The last time she did anything so blatantly self-referential was in 2001 with her album entitled “Britney.” It was, however, just that: the half of it.
Congratulations, Britney, you have successfully released a song that is fundamentally different from everything else on the radio and in the internet sphere. Remember when “artists” wanted to be “singers” and their voices sat in front of a hard-hitting beat that made you want to dance before you even felt the beat drop? Oh, that’s right, she did that in 1998, while all of the present “ stars” on the radio were still teething. There were no guidelines to becoming, being, or surviving being a star, and now that there are essentially formulas for the infants of the industry, we have unfortunately forgotten the “ringer” one trying to make it must go through… just to keep making it. The “queens” of 2013 can’t deny that the foundations they rely upon were drawn out in the pop-playbook by the girl they listened to when they were twelve.
Britney has finally resurrected, stripped-away, remembered what being in pop-music is all about: making music that says, feels, and expresses something approachable, even if it’s simple. Yes, this is, in fact, a feeling so universal and popular that works because, most importantly, it is essentially “pop” music. Britney, still, has this innate ability because she undeniably was there where it all began. It isn’t hard to recall her comrades in the war against the “front of change” in pop music of our youth, but you only have to go as far as our current TV singing competitions to see them “working.”
Since 2008, when Britney’s voice was unwillingly taken from her by people trying to save her life from the industry that brought her the greatest fame imaginable, she has released a spate of records that she “performed” and we bought willingly. Not because of what we wanted to hear, but because of what we had once heard and remembered coming from a person who first made us feel something, made us feel understood via an album we got at the department store, bought with our allowance, found in out Easter baskets. Before many of my generation became trendy hipsters who now enjoy vinyl records from someone else’s yesteryears, we didn’t pretend we never listened to pop songs of our youth we once thought were groundbreaking. Britney’s records truly resonated with our “juvenile” emotions whether we or others accept them or not. Is that embarrassing? Generations before us had the likes of the Beatles to sing songs emblematic of their youth. We had Britney Spears and she has had the staying power to make the same mark they had, but on our generation.
Above all of the “yes, you survived and gave us something” stories, what I wish to emphasize is that although you have gone through the ringer of the entertainment industry, Britney, unlike the great Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, and others, you have indeed survived. I and we should be so grateful that you continue to push boundaries, expand your talents, and show them to us because it is what we, as people, should do. I cannot help but wonder what the “greats,” such as those previously mentioned, would have created if there had been something or someone to save them. But because you have survived, and since survival can’t be taught, the least we can do is take notes.