Posted by: Karenannanina on: May 13, 2013
Site owner Ms Gigi Collado has reminded me that I’m supposed to be a writer and hinted strongly that I do some real writing! Unfortunately I’m about to go on a week’s holiday…
But when I get back, I’m going to write 10 new “In Depth” reviews of Britney songs. These reviews are the bedrock of the site, yet I still haven’t reviewed every song on every album – so there’s plenty of work to do.
There’s so much work to do, in fact, that I’m not quite sure where to start! And this is where you guys can help me. I’d be very grateful if you would suggest the tracks that are most badly needed! (Reminder: They have to be ones I haven’t already done!)
I would prefer to review tracks on official albums (including bonus tracks) because I can get production information about them, and because I can listen to them in high-quality stereo on my famous headphones.
My thanks in anticipation!
Posted by: Karenannanina on: May 9, 2013
One of the favorite ways for Britney fans to pass a dull evening is to think of other artists’ songs that we wish she had sung. This has been going on since the dawn of time, or at least the beginning of the century, and ancient fans like myself can remember wishing Britney had sung Vanessa Carlton’s wonderful “A thousand miles”. There are loads of songs that would benefit from her voice, and her career would benefit from singing them.
Most times it’s pure jealousy – we just wish our girl had had first dibs on a great song. Why should freaking Rihanna get all the best songs then make them ordinary with her hard, flat, metallic, samey-same, boring, boring voice? Her grabbing “Umbrella” was bad enough but let’s face it, the best thing about “Stay” was Mikky Ekko. And I don’t even like male vocalists!
Other times we hear a song that seems so suitable for Britney that, inside our heads, we can actually hear her voice singing it. Damn Brit’s management for failing to hear what’s so obvious to the rest of us! Why waste our time messing about with effing Dr Luke when all they have to do is listen?! I mean COME ON….
Or (wistful sigh at this point) we may wish that, on her next album, she would take a different direction. Something more personal please please please. Something that gives her a chance to show off all her unique and endearing vocal skills please please freaking PLEASE. There are songs out there that both point the way and are easily within her range.
Here’s a little list, in alphabetical order by original artist, of some randomly chosen songs from 2012-2013 that I would submit for your consideration as possibilities. Give us your judgment on them, and tell us which songs YOU would have on that list!
Adele – Skyfall (B doing an Adele song? Why not? She deserves to do a Bond song at some point in her career and this one isn’t a belt-fest!)
Carly Rae Jepsen – Call me maybe (No harm coveting a great song, right? And Carly lacks the vocal personality that would keep us listening to her in a year’s time…)
Destiny’s Child – Nuclear (Smooth, rather touching sdong, but a bit of a non-event with DC – could Brit inject a frisson of emotional depth?)
Frank Ocean – Thinkin’ ‘bout you (A lovely, extremely haunting song that would fit B’s range and falsetto so well)
Gabrielle Aplin – The power of love (The old FGTH song transformed – but wouldn’t it be even better with B?)
Jessie J – Domino (World class power pop, but Jessie’s vocals, while undoubtedly great, are one-dimensional)
Jessie Ware – Wildest moments (B doesn’t sing personal drama songs like this but don’t we want her to?)
Justin Bieber – Yellow raincoat (Not a Belieber, but if I heard B sing this song I know I’d burst into tears)
Katy Perry – Part of me (Another personal drama, and a very strong song that might suit B’s voice)
Lana del Rey – Blue jeans (Lana mentioned that B was one of the very few singers she listened to, so it would make an interesting comparison to hear B sing a Lana song. I wish Lana would write for Britney!)
Little Mix – Wings (Yes, a band song but in my head I hear B’s voice singing it)
Maroon 5 – Payphone (Another band song, but combines melody with a rockier edge, and is a direction B could take)
MIA – Bad girls (Almost DEMANDS to have B’s vocal personality on it; it could BE a B song)
Mikky Ekko – Pull me down (A really lovely song, different from anything B has ever done)
Nicole Scherzinger – Boomerang (Sounds a little like a B song anyway – all it needs is more Britney!)
One Direction – What makes you beautiful (Very strong song, could be magical with B’s voice)
Pink – Just give me a reason (Lovely ballad, and Pink does a great job, but it would benefit from B’s subtler approach to ballad singing)
Rihanna – Stay (Wasted on Rihanna, and B could take it to another level. But keep Mikky Ekko!)
Tegan and Sara – Closer (Britney could give it greater depth, meaning and edge)
OK – over to you!
Posted by: Karenannanina on: April 28, 2013
This strange article was written for PoorBritney.com two years ago, but never posted here. I know some readers will be saying “What was she smokin’ that day?!” but I think it was worthwhile to write it in the hope of reaching out to a few fans who will know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. I’m going to talk about a phenomenon that is almost inexplicable, yet is experienced in some way by many people. I want to see if any readers agree with me that Britney’s singing evokes this experience.
I’ll begin with a sidestep. One afternoon a few weeks ago, while I was working, I began to think about a certain song. And even thinking about it made me cry. Not just once – seven times in the same afternoon. I just couldn’t think about this song without being taken over by some strange emotions that I couldn’t quite identify. In my mind I kept being transported towards a different place and time, with its own emotional atmosphere. It felt important and significant that I could almost glimpse this place and time, yet if I tried to focus directly on it or analyse it, the feelings began to disappear.
The song was “The Folks Who Live On The Hill” as sung by Peggy Lee. She was a gentle, sweet, sensitive singer and she chose to sing this song in the softest voice imaginable. No belting, no histrionics, no show-off climaxes. The song was originally from a stage musical and wasn’t sentimental – it was actually quite humorous, in its own subtle way, poking fun at some “white picket fences” folksy imaginings. The way Peggy Lee sang it seemed so straight and simple, yet for many listeners it taps directly into a deep emotional well and is more profound than funny.
In my review of “Unusual You” I referred briefly to the experience of “Sehnsucht”, and this, I believe, is what surrounds Peggy Lee’s “The Folks Who Live On the Hill”. Sehnsucht is a German word that, in its most literal sense, means “longing”, but the experience is a lot more complex and intangible than that. The great Irish-born writer C.S. Lewis, in attempting to explain it, admits that “I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you – the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism… the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something which has never actually appeared in our experience.”
He continues: “[The poet] Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
Wikipedia makes a gallant effort at a slightly more prosaic account: “It is sometimes felt as a longing for a far off country, but not a particular earthly land which we can identify… At other times it may seem as a longing for a someone or even a something. But the majority of people who experience it are not conscious of what or who the longed for object may be. Indeed, the longing is of such profundity and intensity that the subject may immediately be only aware of the emotion itself and not cognizant that there is a something longed for. Yet though one may not be able to identify just what it is, the experience is one of such significance that ordinary reality may pale in comparison…”
Triggers for these experiences vary widely from individual to individual. C.S. Lewis gives his as “the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of “Kubla Khan”, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves.” The Transition Gallery’s JT 09 project refers to “images of intense urban wilderness… washed out beautiful boys… fragile Northern landscapes”.
For me, it’s the image of Baby and Joe in Peggy Lee’s song (even typing those words makes me cry), some Grant Wood paintings, the song “Wonderful, wonderful” by Johnny Mathis, the low, pink afternoon winter sun in a suburban street, overhead power lines, street life (hearing “Summertime” by Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince actually makes me feel faint) and…. Britney Spears’ voice. The songs that hit me hardest are a random enough selection, but here are a few examples: “Anticipating”, “Radar”, “Unusual You”, “Tell me what ya sippin’ on”, “State of Grace”, “Sugarfall” and “Why Should I Be Sad”. Some of these songs should be superficial and jolly, but Britney transforms them into something almost mystical. They all make me experience Sehnsucht. The words don’t matter. I barely hear them.The sound of Britney’s voice transports me to the edge of that elusive, mysterious place.
Is it because Britney’s soft, sweet voice has the same direct entree to the emotions as Peggy Lee’s? Do her off-stage whispers touch us on a subconscious level? Is it that the impression she gives of innocence and naivety makes us long for things we didn’t understand as children? Is it because she ends words and phrases with a gentle, fading cadence instead of a sharp, snappy assertiveness? Is it because she always chooses quietness and stillness over loudness and drama? Is it because her unusual phrasing, steering away from conventional singers’ mannerisms, sounds so honest and heartfelt? Is it the way she sometimes holds back a fraction from the beat and seems to make time slow down? Is it because it sounds as if SHE is always searching for that longed-for thing that she can almost glimpse out of the corner of her eye but never quite grasp? This is a woman who has been on a long spiritual journey.
I threw out a lot of options there, and I’m not going to vote for any of them. I don’t want to influence you in any direction because this whole thing is very personal. I know it’s a very different thing to analyse how she creates the experience of Sehnsucht than to analyse the experience of Sehnsucht she creates, but each of you is probably hearing different things, and responding to different songs in different ways. Even if a lot of us agree that she calls up strange and elusive feelings with her singing, we may not be in agreement about exactly how she does it. I’d love to hear what you think, because I want to develop this subject further.
I have to finish on an anxious but hopeful note. The “Blackout” era was particularly rich in these strangely evocative vocals, and “Circus” has its moments, although far fewer of them. “Femme Fatale” hasn’t any, in my opinion – but that is ONLY my opinion. As she approaches her 30s, Britney seems to be leaving that searching phase of her life and moving into a more settled one, and its possible that this might be reflected in her singing. “Femme Fatale” seems less subtle, less sensitive, more assertive, more functional. Yet somehow I believe in that dear, sweet soul of hers, that big heart, that modesty, that lack of confidence, that awkwardness, that other-worldliness. I think she’ll continue to touch our deepest, most unfathomable emotions. I hope and pray that she does, because artists like this may only come along once in a lifetime.
Posted by: Karenannanina on: April 26, 2013
I don’t know if y’all watch the TV series “Nashville” but there’s this young singer called Juliette Barnes who’s famous for puttin’ on the big stadium shows and one night, after the show, she’s having some doubts…
Manager: Congratulations! Fantastic performance!
JB: That was NOT a performance, that was an act. OK, there is nothing artistic about wind machines and smoke!
M: It’s your fans’ favorite part of the show! It’s amazing! It’s perfectly on your brand.
JB: What if my brand just isn’t perfect anymore?
M: OK look, you know – as well as I do – the fans are fickle. One wrong step, you’re struggling…
JB: So what? Am I never supposed to change? Ever?
M: Listen. You are a multi-million dollar industry. A left turn now could be an exit into obscurity. Please think about it long and hard before you mess with it too much.
Later, she’s still thinking about it, and talking to her friend and guitarist Deacon Claybourne:
JB: It feels like I’m in a straightjacket. You do one thing they like and they make you do it over and over and over again and that’s it – there’s nothing else. Don’t laugh at me! It’s not funny!
DC: I’m not laughing at you. I remember having the exact same conversation. A number of times.
JB: I just don’t know that I only want to be this girl who dances around in sparkly dresses, with smoke billowing around her. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun, and I want to give my fans what they want, but… what if I decided to walk away from being that girl? And nobody comes with me. What am I supposed to do?
But anyway, she goes ahead and does it. Performs a song completely out of character, in blue jeans, with Deacon, sitting on a chair. The crowd seems to like it, but later, on Twitter…
Manager: There was a reviewer there tonight. He live-tweeted the whole song.
JB: That’s good, right?
(Manager and Assistant look at each other meaningfully)
JB: Show me!
(Assistant hands her the smartphone)
JB (reading out loud) “Who does Juliette Barnes think she is? She’s a manufactured pop-tart. #failjuliette. She should stick to sequins and pyrotechnics to hide the fact she’s not an artist. #wantmymoneyback”
Manager: Don’t shut me out of big decisions.
(She tells them to get out and starts to cry.)
Does this sound like something that could have happened in Britney’s career? Remember how, when the Onyx Hotel Tour was cancelled after her knee injury, her people stated that nobody would want to see a show where she just sat on a chair and sang… Not her brand, right? It all seems so familiar.
What do you think would happen if Britney decided not to be “that girl” anymore and walked away from the sparkly costumes and pyrotechnics?