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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

In Defense of Britney Spears

posted by on January 2 at 16:39 PM


Author Stephen Elliott makes the case in this week’s issue of The Stranger. An excerpt:

A large part of the criticism of Britney comes from the fact that she doesn’t write her own songs. If she did, it’s likely the rest of her transgressions would be easily forgiven. After all, artists are supposed to be self-centered and crazy. I have to remind people that Elvis didn’t write his own songs, either.

“Are you comparing Britney to Elvis?”

“Yes, I am.”

Remember, Elvis wanted to lead the war on drugs. He arranged a meeting with Richard Nixon on this very topic. He showed up to meet the president of the United States stoned out of his mind and wearing a cape. But not just any cape, a half cape that went to his elbows like an unfinished Batman costume. Tell me Elvis is a genius, I’m not going to disagree with you. But can we agree on what the word genius means? The word genius almost always begs for a modifier—a “musical genius,” a “physical genius,” an “empathic genius.” Sometimes I wonder if these qualified terms aren’t interchangeable with “talented idiot.”

I’m talking here about Britney Spears performing at the Super Bowl wearing socks on her hands. Compare that high-energy performance with the totem-faced members of the Rolling Stones swinging their guitars over their craggy shoulder blades. Apples and oranges, of course. The Stones write their own music and play their own instruments. They were never chosen, they insisted on taking the stage. Without any help from anyone else, the Rolling Stones are still a great band. Britney is just a performer. It’s like comparing an actor and a director. Getting back to that “genius” word again. Stanley Kubrick is indisputably a genius. Tom Cruise, not so much. But I’d still rather hear Tom say, “Worship the cock.” And I’d rather watch Spears dancing with socks on the wrong appendages than four old men clapping their hands over their heads. And I love the Rolling Stones. I’m just saying.

The whole essay’s here. I’d quote more, but just go read it.

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the majority of criticism aimed at britney nowadays has very little to do with her music, let alone a minor detail such as songwriting credits.

it's no secret that the majority of the top 40 hits you hear aren't written by the person singing them. if this isn't already apparent to you, you're probably fucking delusional.

i do agree that it's not much of a strong foundation for criticism considering how ubiquitous it is. what pop star doesn't have a whole crew of people doing EVERYTHING but eating and shitting for them.

Posted by greg | January 2, 2008 4:59 PM

i don't buy it. elvis wasn't a genius by any stretch (read any decent bio). what he was was the right person in the right place at the right time to "invent" rock and roll. and by "invent", i don't mean invent. elvis was a brilliant singer and a pretty damn good showman. britney on the other hand is a tool. saying that you find character in her singing is like saying that you find character in micky mouse's acting. it might be there, but micky isn't the one creating it.

Posted by >>> | January 2, 2008 6:58 PM

It's challenging to engage in a serious conversation about Britney Spears. My friends are proud of their musical tastes and I frequently embarrass them, but there are limits. Over time, derivative acts such as Stone Temple Pilots and Everclear have gained a grudging hipster acceptance. Ten years from now, I predict, we'll think about Nickelback in an entirely different way.

huh? only a few times can one half paragraph negate every point you are trying to make, but it totally happened here.

Posted by cosby | January 3, 2008 9:55 AM

Re: the article, tl;dr.

Britney is little more than an entertainer. A half-assed dancer who wishes she could sing. If we're to take her seriously as such, she should try actually entertaining. Her trainwreck of a life is entertaining, but that's not part of her show. She's a hack singer who like most these days relies on a team of songwriters, producers, beat makers and a heavy, heavy dose of pro-tools' "auto tune."

Posted by Jeff | January 3, 2008 10:06 AM

I thought this article would have been an actual defense of Britney's music, instead it was another blasť indictment of her supposed vapidness. Blackout features collaborations with the greatest music producers of our time, and is certainly a timeless classic. I don't know who (or what) is behind her music career, but they're geniuses and should be commended on keeping popular music relevant in an era of indie crap.

Posted by dude | January 3, 2008 2:57 PM

God Damn. If this isn't vindication for everything I've ever thought and said about Britney, than I don't know what is.

She is what she is. Blackout is an awesome dance cd.

Woo Hoo.

Posted by Richard | January 3, 2008 4:02 PM

Not sure yet if the album justifies the praise, but this is some of the best writing I've read in quite a while. Delightful!

Posted by Stinky | January 3, 2008 11:30 PM

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