Thursday, February 22, 2007

Get It (The DFA Demo)

Song: Get It (The DFA Demo)
Artist: Britney Spears
Album: Unreleased

So what is up with Britney?

I would never say that I was a fan of Britney Spears, yet I have always felt a certain affinity for the girl and have often defended her when she is bad-mouthed. I don’t quite understand why, maybe it’s a big-brother instinct… but I often feel like she is treated unjustly, and a good example how f’d-up our current celebrity culture, and partly culture in general is.

Even though I was in Spain and not really following anything that was going on the world (pop culture included) we received the brief news that Britney had shaved her head via a local Spanish paper while in the seaside town of Sitges. Because my Spanish is about as good as my knowledge of pop-country… all we really knew was that Britney shaved her head and saw the picture. I knew nothing of the rehab or the “she’s out of control” media blitz that was happening just about everywhere else. Now that I’m back I’ve been subjected to all the articles, the negative as always New York Post cover story, and the Inside Hollywood Edition Tonight “news” programs that love to rip apart the celebrity lifestyle while making serious money from it.

Briefly the story of Britney Spears goes like this… Cute girl from small town Louisiana who auditions like crazy, gets on the Mickey Mouse Club, gets a record deal (after many many auditions and failures) releases her first single and watches it and it’s accompanying album soar to the top of the charts. Multiple number ones (and constant judgment of her budding sexuality and image) later… this girl had become the reigning teen pop queen with millions of global fans, but watched as her albums sold less (partly due, no doubt, to shrinking music sales in general and the quick death of teen pop) and her behavior constantly scrutinized. Her relationship with Justin Timberlake ended and watched his solo record spawn multiple hits (including the Britney bashing hit single and video “Cry Me A River”) while she tried to muster hit singles from her latest (and frankly best) album “In The Zone.” “Toxic” was pretty big, “Everytime” was part embarrassing and also confusing, and then suddenly she was with some backup dancer who sort of looked like Vanilla Ice, married, and having two kids. She retreated from the spotlight only to be hounded like never before… she entered a gas station barefoot, split from the hubby via text message which was caught on camera (are we really to believe this?) and now has been partying with Paris Hilton and supposedly “going crazy.” (Note that only about half of this paragraph could actually be proven with fact.)

Because of my little knowledge of the event this whole hair cutting thing was fascinating to me (As Britney, for unknown reasons) always seems to be. I thought that it could possibly be a way to “ugly” herself to try to disinterest the prying photographers that hound her… though that doesn’t really make sense, and only compounds the problem. Then I thought this was a spiritual thing, cutting her locks to “cut away” some of the negativity she’s been through… a failed marriage, a questionable career, it was a “re-birth” so to speak… something she’s been hinting at (though completely obtusely) in the “Everytime” music video. And then I thought it could just be a total re-imagining of the Britney image. I imagined a futurist, bald, completely hot Britney in a techno-cool video matched with a hot elctro track that would symbolize Brit 2.0.

But instead what we are being fed is that she is an out of control party girl, estranged by her family, and on a number of drugs, cocaine, ecstasy, you name it. And the hair cutting was just an awful “in the gutter” moment and a symbol that the girl has absolutely lost control. And here is where I get angry.

The facts are, Britney is just one of millions of kids in this country and around the world that like to go out, party, have drinks, and yes… experiment with drugs. What we are being told, for the most part, is that if you do any drugs you will be hooked, immediately be on a downward spiral, and your life will undoubtedly end unless you repent and, if you’re a celebrity, go into rehab. Rehab is the new hot local for celebrities that need an image boost because some drunk as hell annoying tart caught said celebrity cutting loose and took a shot on their camera phone. What is little reported are the number of people that do let loose, act the fool from time to time, yet maintain jobs and continue to be successful. That said, because I have spent my entire work experience as a semi-corporate cog with very little feeling of actual control in my life, I would have no idea what it would feel like to actually be wealthy enough to do what I wanted. It has effected star after star and this happens, no doubt, due to the higher class we put them in. It’s like giving candy to a baby and then slapping it when he eats it. Ugh.

And why is it that when Justin Timberlake brags about doing drugs and is even smoking a joint with the interviewer from Rolling Stone (they were in Amsterdam) for a recent cover story, it is treated with a sense of street-cred, and not proof positive that his life is out of control and headed for a breakdown? Simply, woman are still held up to a double-standard, and our culture seems to love to rake them through the coals. As Britney grew into her sexuality and gave the public what they asked for (young girls looking like they want sex) she was ridiculed and constantly scrutinized. And mostly, it should be pointed out, by woman. Britney poses suggestively on the cover of Rolling Stone and she’s a slut, Justin poses shirtless and it’s “Wow, I didn’t realize how cut he was.” Now imagine if HE was the gay “one” in N’SYNC.

I get really fired up about this because there is seemingly nothing positive that we get from our sick interest in celebrity culture and their lives. Why do we need to see pictures of underwear-free Britney? Does that really make her a bad person? I mean… really. Any why is it that a movie can be shot with seemingly willing actors yet if proper clearance and permissions are not signed off on, the film will never see the light of day… yet anyone with a camera can take pictures of anyone and sell them to the highest bidder. Why is someone peeking in the bushes and sneaking looks is a stalker but with a camera they are just paparazzi and doing their job? Honestly, the best thing we could do in this country is simply make it illegal to take someone’s picture without consent. It makes sense and would elevate our culture with that simple step.

So I defend Britney, and the possible “mess” that her life might be right now. I see pictures of heroin and crack addicted former Libertines singer Pete Dougherty and think the guy looks like he just got out of the gutter. But Britney, even bald, looks pretty okay. (Maybe it’s the Californian sun.) Or maybe this IS some strange marketing scheme to re-claim, and re-imagine, her career. I have no idea any more. We are constantly lied to by the media and press and artists representatives… what do we believe? Lindsay Lohen is late for work and we are told it’s from exhaustion or an appendicitis, or… hell I don’t know I don’t pay attention enough to know. But then all of a sudden she’s in rehab! And is she really there to help herself or is it for publicity and the public’s sake? We’ll never know, and nor should we care. Lindsay… just do a good movie!

The one hiccup in my affinity for Britney is the fact that… I don’t think she’s probably a very good “artist.” She’s an entertainer for sure, and a killer one, but her diary-talk songs she’s written or co-written are pretty… well, let’s just say Fiona Apple need not lose sleep. Early last year a demo was leaked of a song she did with New York hipster-dance remixers the DFA. They have remixed the likes of the Gorillaz, Nine Inch Nails, Junior Senior, Hot Chip, Goldfrapp, Tiga, The Chemical Brothers, Fisherspooner… the list goes on and on. Also, one half of the DFA, James Murphy is responsible for LCD Soundsystem, one of the hippest and critically praised dance acts from the New York underground. They spent an afternoon with Britney and they came up with “Get It,” a cow-bell strewn funk bouncer that has Britney cooing randomly about “And it hit my heart” and “I am here, going insane.” I have read that it was never to see the light of day because her record label thought it was too “wierd,” while when asked about the collaboration, Tim Goldsworthy, the other half of the DFA was quoted as saying:

“That was weird. Won't do that again. No offence to her - she's lovely. Got a foul mouth, though! When we work with people, we hang out, listen to records, share stuff. But with Britney we had absolutely no way of communicating. She didn't know anything that we knew.”

Regardless, I actually quite like this song. Lyrically it’s really tossed off, but for a demo… it’s got a great bounce and could hint at something really interesting in her future. I will still pray for Britney, and would love her to prove her distracters wrong. The chances seem slim, but I just wish that when someone finds themselves trashing Britney they would take a hard look at our cultural landscape of the moment, and see that Britney is just the product that we asked for… and have lambasted when we got what we want. How does anyone deal with that amount of ridicule? Could you?

Maybe after all this Britney will just bring the hat back. It could use some help.


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