New Britneyology

Britney the Underdog!

Posted by: Karenannanina on: February 25, 2012

I’ve always been one who has rushed to the aid of damsels in distress. But when damsels are getting it easy and having things their own way, I can be a little begrudging.  This is how I feel about the Blessed Beyonce and Mother Teresa of GaGa.  And, back in 1998-2000, that was how I felt about Britney Spears.  She didn’t need me. She was doing absolutely fine on her own, and not only that, the little bitch was taking the spotlight away from the artist I was really stanning for –  Mariah Carey, who was having a miserable time. Of course I had filed away a mental note about Britney, “has the best white-girl ass I ever saw” but overall I was not a fan. However, this was soon to change, and as Mariah needed me less and less, I perceived that little Ms Spears was needing me more and more.

Every new phenomenon in the world of celebrity gets a period of grace, in which he or she is written about with awe and wonderment. This can extend for quite some time – every music journalist in the world is still waiting in line to interview GaGa and gush about how she’s not only the future of pop music, but also its present and past. Britney had her period of grace too, with an avalanche of breathless magazine articles and even “Britney Spears Days” on TV. But in her case, it didn’t seem to last. Maybe the media have matured into something a little wiser and less vicious these days? Maybe Britney’s outward appearance of chipper squeakiness annoyed the hell out of them? Maybe they hated the pop revolution she Spear-headed? Anyway, they were looking to take her down after a year or two.

Even by the benighted standards of those days, Britney’s treatment was pretty extreme. I can’t think of any other artist who has been the subject of an almost entirely destructive and thoroughly malicious biography at the age of only 21, but Britney was thoroughly maligned in Larry Getlen’s “Britney – Not That Innocent”.  Since this was based on the compilation of numerous articles by Getlen that had been appearing in the National Enquirer since Day One of Britney’s career, you can see that she never had a truly clear run. Above all, some people wanted to portray her as sleazy.

From the get-go, Britney bore the brunt of a ferocious attack as an early sexualizer of young girls. Some of the two-shoed parents who still blame celebrities for making sinners of their children should ask their teenage daughters why they love to wear their school skirts 8 inches above the knee.  Hormones will not be denied. Yet the American Family Association called upon “all God-loving Americans to boycott stores that sell Britney’s albums” and Nestle, one of the main sponsors of her first headlining tour, withdrew their support.  Meanwhile, self-righteous, self-publicizing, self-important big-mouthed rabbi Schmuley Boteach was forever producing open letters (why open?) concerning the almost unfathomable depth of her moral degradation.

Ironically, a few years later, Britney’s pioneer work in sexualizing young girls and flinging filth at our pop kids appeared to have been forgotten, as one pop historian after another went amnesiac about the wondrously steamy “I’m A Slave For You” video and bleated instead about the supposedly innovative and game-changing nature of Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty”.

Anyway.  Larry Getlen took a delight in every setback endured by his youthful victim. Here he describes what happened at the Grammys in 2000: “…the shocker of the night was the winner of the award for Best New Artist – Christina Aguilera. Britney, despite selling more than 9 million albums and becoming one of the most popular celebrities on the planet, had been deemed not worthy by the industry.”  While many of us might feel that this is a case where the messenger deserved to be shot, the saddest thing is that what he said was true.

Even to this day, while the Grammy awards committee loses all sense of proportion when faced with GaGa’s gimmicks and Adele’s pachydermal bellowing, they still can’t bring themselves to acknowledge Britney’s genuinely seismic original impact and continuing profound influence on pop music. In 13 years of producing Number One albums, she has been bestowed with just one Grammy, jointly with Bloodshy and Avant, for “Toxic” as Best Dance Recording in 2005. Aside from that, she’s been totally and consistently snubbed, year after year.  A whole string of One Hit Wonders, and acts as disreputable as Milli Vanilli, have received more Grammys than Britney, so don’t give me the old “they only reward genuine talent” sneer.

She’s done a little better at the various MTV Awards, but still begrudgingly. Fans laugh annually at the way MTV inevitably hints that Britney will be there. Clearly they understand that she has the power to generate interest and publicity like no other, and to attract viewers, but (apart from what appeared to be a sympathy vote for “Piece of Me” which won 3 awards in 2008) she’s been snubbed by them too, totalling only 6 awards from 30 nominations.  Some of the most influential and most copied videos of all time, such as “Toxic”, “I’m A Slave For You” and – incredibly – “Baby One More Time” failed to win MTV Awards.

It was particularly obvious that Britney would soon be needing my help some time in 2002, after the UK “Crossroads” premiere debacle.  For those who don’t know what actually happened, Britney, arriving late, didn’t stop to chat with her waiting fans.  A couple of press photographers started booing and tried to get everyone else to join in (with extremely limited success), and disparaging remarks allegedly made by a couple of mothers (not fans) were syndicated around the world.  A kind of catharsis for Britney haters had finally arrived, and a torrent of pent-up Britney-hatred was unleashed in the UK tabloids.  At least her career has outlived the News Of The World!

Speaking of Crossroads, it was inevitable that the celebrity gossipers and bloggers of the time would judge it harshly, probably before they even saw it. I wish I had a dollar for every time I read that it was a flop. It wasn’t. It made a decent return on its investment and held its place in the UK’s top ticket sales for several weeks. Obviously, since this was Britney Spears, her acting had to be panned too, yet when I spent a few minutes in the late-lamented Borders bookstore in Bristol, England, one rainy day 5 years later, and took the trouble to check out the reviews in half a dozen movie guides, I found that every one of them praised her performance, using words like “slick”, “professional” and “credible”.

Meanwhile, her fanbase was beginning to show early signs of the bitchiness we have come to know and hate. Former-and-now-embittered-ex-fan Ruben Garay was disappointed not to be invited into Britney’s inner circle by her “people” or by Britney herself, and posted an extraordinary blog on his World Of Britney site, where he bleated about the unfairness of it all, said Britney wasn’t the girl she used to be, and promised to bring as much bad news and comment as good in future. He was more than true to his word, and for as long as he continued to run the site, one malicious story followed another. People (very much including myself) began to vent their rage against him on the WoB Forums, and eventually, in a final attempt to destroy Britney’s career, he closed the site down, making sure every media outlet knew that, and why, he’d done it.

So sure were the journalists of yesteryear that a teenage pop star, whose main appeal was to other teenagers , couldn’t and wouldn’t last that they were writing her musical obituary almost continuously throughout 2003, in preparation for giving her forthcoming album “In The Zone” the bum’s rush it would obviously deserve.  No doubt they hoped their prophesies of doom and disaster would be self-fulfilling, but it didn’t work out that way. When the album arrived, and shot dutifully to No.1 in the US charts, Britney was everywhere, and was still clearly the biggest sensation in pop music. She had done something the experts had deemed impossible – she was a teenybopper bubblegum pop star who had grown up and brought her audience with her into young-adulthood. Research showed that her demographic was not 9-15 as had been assumed, but 16-26.  About this achievement, the “experts” were mysteriously silent.

It’s strange that people EXPECT Britney to be, not only untalented, but ignorant about her own profession.  Just today I was reading the reaction of some “fans” to the unlikely rumor that she was in the running for a position as a judge on the US “X Factor”. If their asses were in front of me right now, my Cat boots would be swingin’, since most of them were saying “Britney Spears judging a live singing contest?! NO!!!” Do they not realise that she’s been in showbiz longer than most of them have been alive? Do they buy into the deluded notion that she’s a “manufactured” star? Don’t they know that she came up the hard way, through talent shows, state fairs, local gigging – all of it live – and penniless months at performing arts schools in New York, where she spent endless days in singing and dancing lessons and practise? Why WOULDN’T she know better than most people which contestants in a talent show have the qualities it takes to make it?

It’s all part of this culture of undervaluing everything she does, even when it’s irrational to do so. We are expected to believe that she makes no contribution to her own albums and videos – but where is the evidence for that? Everything points to the contrary, and has done so right from the beginning. Who refused to go along with Nigel Dick’s plans for the BOMT video, and came up with her own ideas? That was Britney, before her career had even begun.  Everyone close to her personally has always maintained that she is the very opposite of a puppet and does what she wants to do. Remember how she fired everybody after she married K.Fed?  Can a puppet fire the puppet-master? No, to be able to do that, she had to have both power and authority.

Britney gets no credit as a singer, in this benighted era of endless “belting”. People don’t just say they prefer the belters. They talk as if Britney was some ignorant farm girl who mooed at the Kentwood cows then dropped from the skies into Max Martin’s studio with no history of singing.  Again we’re supposed to have amnesia about her long journey to the top, making it the hard way. We’re also supposed to forget the toughness of the auditions for the New Mickey Mouse Club, the phenomenal achievement in being selected from so many applicants, and the fact that, at that point, her singing ability was rated only a little below Christina Aguilera’s. It’s her choice to interpret songs using character and personality instead of screaming the hell out of them. Songwriter Michelle Bell said of Britney: “She seemed like she also loved being… a chameleon when she sang. She liked playing a character in each song and she found a way to bring it out.” I wish more singers would follow her lead. One who DOES is the new young star whose enigmatic, smoky, erotic, understated vocals are already making her a minor icon in her own right – Lana del Rey. She says she never bothered much with what other singers were doing, yet she was attracted to the way Britney sang.

Britney’s professional competence as a musician has been shown by the testimony of producers, who have pointed out on more than one occasion that she requires very few takes – sometimes only one. But she gets no credit for this either! Firstly the cynics brush it off with the sneer that producers are all on her payroll and they have to be nice about her.  Which is plainly bullshit, since she must have even more embittered ex-producers than embittered ex-security guards and you can be sure that at least ONE would have come forward to spill the beans. The Brit-skeptics then deploy a wonderfully two-pronged attack. She lays down lead vocals in one or two takes? Well, that proves she has no passion or involvement in the music. But then I pointed out to one armchair expert  that, if the word got around that she took all day to lay a track down, he’d be snarking that it took that long to get a useable take, and he admitted that what I said was true. She can’t win.

The desire of the media to do her damage has extended into almost every part of her life and career. She was the first high-profile victim of the paparazzi’s then-new technique of taking a digital “burst” of pictures, each capturing a nanosecond in the birth of a facial expression, the blink of an eye, or even a muscle contraction, then looking carefully for the nanosecond that shows a celebrity looking her worst. In this way, they were able to con the world into believing that a muscle contraction is actually cellulite, when they must have known perfectly well that, one nanosecond later, the alleged cellulite had disappeared. But that’s trivial stuff compared to the malicious captioning of nanoseconds to tell a tabloid-style, completely fake story. “Britney Spears in tears as she angrily confronts her bodyguard” yada yada yada. “Britney Spears’ expression shows what she really thinks of Pepsi!” yada yada.

During the darkest hours of her life, the custody battle where she lost custody of her beloved children, the media and public at large were only too happy to be suckered in by a campaign of daily smears and ridiculous legalistic pettifoggery. Instead of sneering at the ridiculous stories, or at least looking into them a little more closely, they bought into every one of them. She was a bad mother because she drove her car on a Louisiana license instead of a California one. Really? She was unfit to be around children because she was a habitual user of alcohol and drugs. Again, really? Ex-bodyguard and chief witness for the prosecution Tony Barretto admitted that he never saw her take drugs, or be drunk around her kids. A named individual associated with Kevin Federline came forward to allege that Britney was also unfit to be around kids because she was involved in frequent lesbian frolics at her home. Are we to believe that the News Of  The World didn’t bother to try and locate one of these lesbians for an interview? They followed up every other salacious allegation about Britney’s life and would have paid well.

During these troubled times, it was not uncommon to hear media commentators remark that they woke up each morning wondering if she was alive or dead. Yet, on finding that she was still alive, they spent the rest of the day going to work on her. With photo-agencies and celebrity bloggers leading the charge, she was scolded, blasted, judged and never shown the slightest sign of sympathy. It was rumored that Perez Hilton was looking forward to writing about her celebrity downfall and death. Shortly after that, Perez posted a blog full of excitement at actually seeing her in person for the first time, as her car drew up beside his at traffic lights. On realising that she was actually a human being, he began to warm to her, and has been kinder to her ever since.  TMZ’s Harvey Levin seemed to have the same epiphany around the same time – an awareness that she had been ill-used in the past, and that everybody had made a lot of money out of exploiting her misfortunes.

And then came the breakdown, hospitalization, conservatorship.  At last it seemed that the media in general had decided that enough was enough. Her rites of passage to survivor status had been completed in spectacularly painful style, and they began to treat her more respectfully, with the narrative of her life now a very positive one of recovery, career success, wonderful man in her life, lots of family time, happiness.  And at this moment, suddenly the combination of bitchy queens and queenly bitches in her fanbase turned into full-time skeptics. The baton of snark dropped by the general media has been all-too-eagerly picked up by people who should be supporting her.  It seems that she’s destined to live her life in perpetual shade.

39 Responses to "Britney the Underdog!"

When it comes to talent, i know she has it and that’s all that’s needed for me, i don’t really care what the rest of the world thinks, however, the fact that she’s really the only artist from 98 and the early 2000’s who’s still going strong and going head to head with the new bitches and holding her own doing it, speaks volumes!!!

The fans alone can’t be the reason why she’s still relevant 13 years later?!?!?

As for the media/general public finally accepting her and the fans ripping her apart now, that’s just truly sad. Fans aren’t required to eat up everything she does, but for them to brutally rip her apart the way they do, i just don’t understand why they would do that????

The one thing that i’ve truly hated, was when people tear her apart as a human, people can criticize her work and talent all they want…we all don’t have the same tastes and standards but her as a person, she’s one of the sweetest people and i just don’t understand what she has done to these people for them to hate her so much, like what has that girl PERSONALLY done to you. Her being sexy as a teen is not deserving of hate!! Her making a few mistakes as a new, young mother (i’m sure PLENTY do) is not deserving of hate, her making mistakes in life is not deserving of hate. That’s what i don’t understand, i know there’s people i hate and guess what, it’s because they have personally hurt me in some way….but Britney, she hasn’t done anything to anybody…yet people hate her, it’s not fair at all!!!

Wow ! clap clap !

Without wanting to sound pompous, I think it’s in the top 3 best articles you have ever written !

It’s true most people keep their heads in the sand when the subject of what Britney was doing pre-Jive comes up.
The most ironical is that we are the one deemed as delusional (even if most of her stans are the opposite, that is to say cynical). Ah the power of self persuasion!!!

The reversal between the critics reviews and her fans reviews is also fascinating. Does any of them actually remember the Onyx Hotel, they spend so much time being nostalgic about, was critically panned? And that the FF Tour wasn’t ? It’s a rhetorical question, of course!

Finally, I completely agree about Lana! And guess what many people are trying to convince us she can’t sing either ! Lmao
Let’s just forget “Videogames” was one of the most poignant and alluring vocal performances in YEARS, shall we ?

Great point about the Onyx Hotel era. I remember when photos came out of Britney filming Outrageous and every single media publication and every Britney hater couldn’t stop yelling about how “fat” she’d gotten, how “worn out” she looked and how “over” she was. Fast forward to now and that era/year is completely worshipped and used to show “How amazing she once WAS”. What?!

Same with the 2004 AMA performance – absolutely everyone trashed it and said she looked chunky and tired. Now, it’s always used as a “Before” shot or shown as one of her greater moments. People are unbelievable.

Simon Cowell only added insult to injury back then by saying he attended her tour and found her to be in not good enough shape for his tastes and that she was obviously burning out. While the burning out part may have been somewhat true by the time the tour rolled around, saying she was out of shape is just ridiculous (and seriously, take a look in the mirror sometime Cowell!)

Her most rabid stans don’t know what perspective is and honestly I worry about how they’re going to live their life like that!

I mean some are even starting to miss the “Circus” era and we all know how half of the videos, the tour and the performances were comptely trashed by them, at the time!

PS/BTW I remember a lot of medias and people in general cricizing the fact Brit lip synced way too much in her prime (which is kinda unfair because you can’t dance that much and sing at the same time as proven by Janet, Paula and Madonna). But now it seems, she was this pristine entertainer like Beyoncé (who is perfectly overrated IMO) is now!
But wake up people, it was never like that! She never got the respect she deserved for her vocal acting, perfrormances, charisma, videos, dancing, songs.
Basically, all that a popstar should be…

At least Simon Cowell made up for it subsequently in two ways: one, he said he had no problem with her lip-synching, since it produced the best possible sound for the audience; and two, when asked “Who has the X Factor?” the first name he mentioned was Britney Spears.

It’s absolutely true though – people constantly criticized her appearance back then. And with some justification! When I saw her in 2004, her whole look was different – she looked small and very, very curvy. Her body looks GREAT now. And her complexion was bad back then too – she had a skin irritation on her cheeks and spots too – now she has neither.

So what have her ever-so-loyal fans to say about this? “She looks so old now! Should she retire, or have plastic surgery?!”

I’ve noticed, too, that you could photoshop a picture of Britney to make her look like Quasimodo’s lovechild and everyone would believe it was real. But show a pic of her looking good and everyone’s going “Airbrush! Airbrush! Photoshop! Photoshop!”

Fans on her mean-minded forums always say “She doesn’t visit this place”, and I hope to **** they’re right.

Wonderful article Karen! One of my favorite singers Lauryn Hill recently was talking about Whitney Houston’s death and how she was tired of losing people in the music industry with such incredible talent. Her message was so encouraging and I’m glad there is SOMEONE in the public eye saying it. She said to love your favorite artists even when they are failing and faltering. Hold them accountable when they are irresponsible, but even when they fail to meet your expectations, love them still.

I think she was addressing this exact sort of thing where within the artist’s fanbase, they seem to draw strength from and thrive off of tearing their idols down, and that only in death do they truly receive the love and respect they deserved all along.

I think it’s very sad because someday Britney Spears, like all of us, will pass (though at a ripe, old age please!) and the people who did spend their entire lives tearing her down are going to be filled with such regret that they didn’t appreciate her more while they had her.

At this point in her life though, I can say pretty comfortably that Britney is rock more so now then she ever has been. These kind of occurrences no longer affect how she will live her life and the choices she will make in the future–career or otherwise. The issues these people face within the fanbase are truly their own.

Great article, as usual. It’s quite exhausting to remember just how long this hypocritical criticism has been dogging Britney for. It’s a wonder she doesn’t just stamp her foot and yell “Fine! I won’t come back this time!” Thank god she loves her art, because, understandably, she’s had it with the rest of Hollywood.

Bullying is so accepted within Hollywood. I know it’s the It Thing at the moment to be all “omg it gets better!!” but really, Hollywood could do good to take a look at it’s own representatives and really see the damage commentators do these days. I had to laugh at a gif doing the rounds on Tumblr of Sarah Silverman berating parents for being bad examples and teaching their children how to hurt others by example. I have to wonder if Sarah has confronted herself on the same issues, considering just a few years ago she was perfectly OK with calling a mentally unstable woman’s children “mistakes” before sexually humiliating her in front of a live audience. What a difference a few years makes.

I know there were laws going to be passed for paparazzi (did that end up happening?) but what about blogging? You can’t tell me that a blogger claiming a star’s children look mentally disabled isn’t just as damaging to a person as taking pictures of them while they’re trying to drive. It may not have immediate effect but it all adds up in the end, and people are just so, so foolish if they think celebrities don’t read about themselves.

We’ve seen countless paparazzi pictures of Britney reading tabloids and we all know we’re addicted to checking our own social networks every two seconds. Imagine being famous, where anyone could be posting something about you at any time – and then we wonder why these people need hospital strength drugs just to get to sleep at night.

Unrelated but, with Whitney’s passing, I think I’d possibly be on the right track if I said that, really, the only belter we all truly dislike is Christina. Right? Because, not that I didn’t know this already, honestly, Whitney sounded spectacular when she sung. But she was capable of such strengths. So is Jennifer Hudson, so is Leona Lewis and so is Amber Riley from Glee who did an absolutely incredible cover of I Will Always Love You on a just aired episode. They are all talented and honestly sound good when they belt. Christina doesn’t. She can do it, yes, but that doesn’t mean she’s good at it and I think that’s what so many people miss. They hear the loudness but they fail to realise she has no tone or, I guess, sound to her voice. It’s just a vocal belt, nothing else (think the horrendously egotistical long note she holds in a 2003 performance of At Last, then compare it to Beyonce’s soulful performance at Obama’s Inauguration). Beyonce is an OK belter, too, though I prefer her more subtle performances such as Ava Maria. Mariah, too. Her songs Say Somethin’ and Fly Like A Bird are amazing because she restrains the belting more than usual.

The difference is Mariah *knows* to sometimes belt and to sometimes shut the fuck up and just sing. So do all of them…except Xtina. Why exactly does she belt in Moves Like Jagger? Just to hear her own voice? Probably, knowing her ego. It’s completely out of place on the track and ruins the momentum entirely.

I just wanted to point out that we often mention “belting” in a bad tone but it’s not all bad, it’s just vastly overrated for the most part.

Anyway, back on topic. I don’t feel like Britney’s entirely out of the woods when it comes to the media’s derision of her. I just think her new ability to go unseen for a number of days at a time has led to a disinterest in her, which isn’t really the same as “liking” her. Most blogs still rip her to shreds. Even Go Fug Yourself, which claims to love her to bits, still writes articles about her in the form of “Letters of Truth” in the style of Nicole Parker’s derogatory performances of her (all “HAHAHAHA I’M TIRED LOL JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE Y’ALL). Seriously, it’s been years since she wrote letters online and it’s also been a decent amount of time since she did anything crazy but people refuse to drop it. It’s just too good an opportunity to make themselves feel superior over a celebrity.

I actually like Christina’s tone but the real problem is that she has probably the worst vocal technique you can find in this industry.

Whitney’s technique was flawless from 1985 to 1995, she had a pop quality to her voice and some more soulful elements thanks to her gospel roots.
I still wonder if we’ll ever had other big voices diva like Whit, Mariah or Celine, that can give you that magical feeling “How did she do THAT” but also sing beautifully in a more low-key manner (check Céline’s french recording if you’re interested).

And I agree with you, I think Britney’s aware how many people are still laughing at her that’s one of the reasons she’s distant in her interviews because she knows how that sh*t work, now.

I often wonder just how Christina made it as big as she did and why her irrelevancy didn’t come sooner.

To be in such a professional industry and not learn anything vocally nor progress/grow as an artist at all is astounding enough (even *Rihanna* has shown more artistic talent in regards to having the perfect ear for what is a “hit” and what isn’t, as Karen astutely picked up on in another review)

But some industry exec had to choose Christina from the crowd and a label had to stick with her for as long as they did. What did they honestly see in her? It’s quite insane that label execs, business execs, managers, other recording artists, producers, and then fans and the public were, and in some cases still are, blinded by the loudness. I happened to hear Lady Marmalade in the shopping mall today and I can’t for the life of me believe nobody said to her “Um, is that really necessary?”. I have read quite a few articles where the producers/songwriters she worked with expressed annoyance with her constant vocal runs and tricks (particularly Linda Perry, who simply forced her to tone down as much as possible while recording Beautiful – so basically she was ruining the essence/feeling of someone’s song because she needs to hear the sound of her own voice – and people still think this woman possesses talent?)

I guess it just goes to show the benefits you can reap career wise if you choose your rival wisely! 😉 Maybe that’s Christina’s secret genius – being smart enough to leech onto Britney’s legacy (even if it means coming in 2nd place each time, at least she’s never forgotten so long as Britney’s name is still on everyone’s lips).

I remember the UK’s then-top MOR radio DJ playing (or having played unto him) an Xtina track one day, and at the end he sighed and said “Missus… could you not keep it down to a dull roar?!” I laughed long and hearty.

If there’s three things that REALLY piss me off about Xtina (I keep adding to them!) they would be (1) Her arrogance, constantly talking about herself as an “artist” while everyone else is just a “performer”; (2) Her lack of a volume control – it’s really just an on-off switch; (3) Her seven-note arpeggios, which are always the same, and which she uses in almost every song.

I despair at the people who absolutely adore her singing – they must suffer from partial hearing loss! But, even if I stuff tissues in my ears, she still sounds awful to me. Her recent rending of the Star Spangled Banner almost made me ill!

Oh all this.

as I said many times before. I cannot play her music for more then maybe 5 songs…

Florence, Sharon Del, Emilie Autumn, Whitney, Ashlee Simpson and Selena Gomez are the vocalists I relate to to Britney as special as she is…

oh and as far as Christina vocal failures go I always thought Hurt was way way way over done, somebody DIED, you are in mourning, feel regret and pain, you don’t AAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH, nobody does that when their in grief…well I’d believe so…

Ha, I also heard a popular radio host once imitate her WOAHHHHH before playing her song. He also said something along the lines of “the very loud Christina now, can’t keep the volume down, can she?”

I think when Britney said she’d like a voice like Xtina’s, she meant in terms of strength not extra noise.

Yesterday, I watched the french version of “The Voice”…
There was a contestant who had a beautiful singing style, very soft and sensitive but the judges only turned around to keep her on the show when she started belting like a banshee.
It was so depressing. Like a vocal dictatorship.

It’s also really hard to want to be a singer under those sorts of assumptions, I’ve been singing for about 12 years now and that BS psyches me out, like, insanely.
I mean, think of all the artists that could have good fanbases, connect with people well et cetera but get turned away just because they don’t belt/scream/yell/malisma every other line in a song..

I mean music which could save lives and someone getting turned away just because their voice is delicate and true to the music…Britney was damn lucky someone saw sense in her and she turned that sense into a career of over decade now…

Three labels turned Brit down immediately, pretty scary thought considering how generic her voice was back then. I think she was about to head back home before Jive showed interest D:

It was smart of Jive to realize that, beneath the Faith Hill and Toni Braxton stylings, she had a unique pop voice!

Belters are two a penny, but unique pop voices only come along once in a generation.

Yes, it further proved what we’ve been saying all along about the impact of reality shows on the way we judge vocal talents!
The louder = the better. So sad…

I’ve never been a fan of belting the hell out of a song. I was once advised to go and hear K.D. Lang as an example of someone who had the most amazing dynamic range, and when I did, I found that she could sing so softly and sweetly yet blow the roof off if she wanted to – and all without yelling, screeching, screaming, or losing the sweetness of tone she had at lower volumes. Now THAT is what I admire in a singer.

I find Xtina unnecessarily metallic, harsh and screechy and a pain to listen to, but I never liked Whitney’s voice either. She seemed to force her voice to the point that it took on a kind of guttural, blaring, thick quality that caused listener fatigue – to this listener anyway. Her rending of “I will always love you” makes me want to protect my ears, then turn to Dolly’s thoughtful, sensitive original version as an antidote.

It’s not like Dolly isn’t loud enough – she definitely is. She’s as loud as anyone needs to be. All this “belting”, aka yelling would be fine on Broadway, but it’s not NEEDED in your home. I have a freaking 300 watt amplifier and 150 watt subwoofer ffs! If I want to rattle the windows, I have a volume control (which is something Xtina lacks). Old-time doyenne of Broadway Ethel Merman (a woman beloved by all for her humility and honesty) once said “I don’t really know what I’m doing – I just get up there and holler!” And unfortunately she sounds like she wrote the book for Whitney, Celine, Xtina and many others!

I don’t put Mariah or Leona in the “outright belter” category. Mariah has a dozen different approaches to a song, but she also has a silvery, sweet upper register that kind of flies to Heaven like she could tackle a vocal version of Vaughan Williams’ “A Lark Ascending”. And Leona incorporates so much emotion in her voice that I can’t listen to her without crying.

Beyonce…… Uh……. I used to ADORE her voice when she was more of an R&B singer, but then she started to go all Vegas on me and now she really sounds like a showgirl. In a couple of years she’ll be EXACTLY like Ethel Merman.

Who do I like now, apart from dear Brit, Mariah and Leona? Well, Lana del Rey, definitely. Corinne Bailey Rae, who sounds so tragic and lost one minute and so warm and comforting the next. Rumer – one of my all-time favorites. Such a strong singer when she wants to be, but ONLY when she wants to be, and even then you don’t hear a difference in tone. Charlene Soraya, so versatile and interesting. And now – especially – the new UK sensation Emelie Sande, who is strong, soulful, expressive but also sweet-toned and a complete joy to listen to.

Can you give me an example of what you mean in regards to Beyonce? I can’t quite “hear” in my mind what you’re meaning. Maybe a youtube video? When I heard her singing Ava Maria in an ancient pyramid, it sent chills down my spine. I think she posesses a wonderfully layered voice that she waters down for radio and does sometimes over “belt” during live performances.

I do agree she’s always had a “grandma” kind of quality to her sometimes. She doesn’t always do “cool” very well, if that makes sense. I think she’s a good Southern girl and the gangsta posing just doesn’t ring true at all. She’s at her best doing songs like Halo, Irreplaceable or throwbacks like Countdown.

There’s a great, very minimal track on her album 4 everyone here might appreciate called I Miss You. No belting and, really, barely any music, either. One of the more interesting tracks she’s ever done.

I tend to agree with your impression of her. While the album 4 got slammed by the general public, of all her albums, which I tend to like only one or two songs, I actually like a lot of the songs off the album. I think she’s definitely still capable of delivering a nuanced vocal performance that resonates, and still does in some of her songs. But I think songs like Single Ladies and Love on Top are so ingrained in the public’s ear that they think that’s all she’s singing these days.

I also think your impressions of Christina are spot on, I think the only reason she has remained relevant this long is because she was constantly portrayed as the biggest threat to Britney’s pop dominance in the industry for the greater part of the last decade. I’ve listened to her last couple of albums, and while she does have moments where she shines vocally, and there are some songs that are memorable, her music is generally stale. I don’t think she has the ear for an innovative, unique song the way that Britney does and I think that is a huge part of Britney’s success.

I knew I’d probably end up liking 4 when the public decided to collectively hate it for no reason. I Miss You, I Care and I Was Here are in my top 5 Beyonce songs ever now. End of Time and Countdown never fail to get me up and dancing. Start Over and Best Thing are awesome vocal performances (the first line of Start Over “I feel weak…” makes ME feel weak!) and 1+1 is the kind of music I wish Prince was still making. I would die if he covered that song!

I was thinking of a Beyonce concert I saw on TV about a year ago. It may even have been from Vegas… if it wasn’t, it should have been! She just blared it out as loud and “in yer face” as possible. Narrow range (never straying from her comfortable octave), no subtlety.

It disillusioned me. But I should add that I have had all her solo albums played to me, and have always politely declined to burn copies for myself.

Hmm, sounds like the I Am Yours show, and admittedly one of her worst shows. I think she was dosed up on something that night, she seemed very jittery and slightly out of it – maybe one too many red bulls? Anyway, I find her best vocal performances come when she’s not out to impress anyone and falls into a “zone” of sorts. That’s when she really examines her own voice and makes it do all sorts of interesting things without going overboard.

Britney has always been the underdog. Early on, a lot of people didn’t like her, because she came out of the teen pop craze of the late 90s. Then, she was criticized for lip-synching. Hello!! She’s a dancer, if she danced while singing, all we’d hear is breathy sounds. Then, people hated her for what happened in 2004-2007, now some hate her for her “lack of interest” in her career. They don’t feel like she’s doing enough, which is ridiculous.

Despite coming from a humbling background, working hard to establish herself as a performer, being ever dedicated to her fans and work, and still staying lovable after all these years, Brit still faces harsh criticism. However, now the criticism comes from “fans”. I don’t get it. Brit can never catch a break.

What I don’t want is for people to catch a clue AFTER she’s died (which hopefully will be a long time from now). Unfortunately, the only time most fans really come to appreciate their idol and the impact he/she had on the industry, is after that person is dead a la Whitney.

Awesome post
Great points…

I really want to make a big poster of all her pre-pop start achievements and blow it up and like, send it to the haters and the Britards (“Fans” of Britney who hate everything she has and ever will do)

Britney is just the start of the sweetheart paradox; the sweeter, more innocent/naive-acting, less back-talking, less gossipy, more endearing, present and NICE a person is, the less likely they are to be respected and instead tend to be undermined or underestimated. Selena Gomez gets so much hate for being basically the cleanest, most hard working, normal girl to come out of Disney in a long time if not ever…

The lip-syncing has always been her biggest flaw. Back in her prime it was kinda acceptable because she danced so much, but nowadays most people wonder why she still does not sing live even though she has been this long in the industry and is not dancing that much anymore. I mean the last time she sang an entire song live on TV was 8 years ago. Even when she had her comeback with the circus era she refused to sing live, which was a huge a mistake. After all the touble that has happened with her people just wanted to know if she could still sing but she gave most of them the impression that she couldn’t.
I spent hours and hours searching youtube videos with real vocal performances from her, icluding the ones from the MMClub and I’ve read a lot of the comments from people who worked with her in the recording studio. That is why I know that she is really not a bad singer, but most people who are not that interested in her don’t know that and they don’t really have the time to do a lot of reasearch on her. They don’t know about the vocal training that she had. They only know about her last performances and since she has lipsynced 90% of her career it really does look like she has no singing talent.
Don’t forget that she was the only one at the Billboard awards last year who didn’t sing live even though she didn’t even dance. It is also the reason why a lot of fans are unsatisfied with her. They are not even asking her to sing live and dance at the same time, but they want at least one of those two things. Britney has always been marketed as a dancing performer and not as a raw vocal recording artist who is famous for unplugged concerts. So you cannot expect people to be satisfied with her going onstage lipsyncing and doing arm choreography.
Then add the fact that she had no writing credits on her last album and very few on the previous 2 , how would people know how much creative input she really has in her work?

And no I also don’t like it when people criticize her private life but the problem here is that Britney has been too vocal about it when she was younger. The more you tell about your personal life and the bigger you are as a star, the more material you give other people to attack you. Also don’t forget that right now she is still in the c-ship, it gives a lot of people the impression that she is still crazy (I don’t think she is crazy).

Even though I like Britney and still listen to her music I have pretty much stopped defending her when other people say negative things about her because
1) it is their opinion
2) I should not care about what other people say
3) I have better things to do then defending a woman I have never met
4) she is just a popstar and not a goddess

I hope you apply principles 1-4 to every musician/film star/artist/celebrity equally as happily as you apply them to Britney.

But they do suggest a misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of fandom. The people of whom we are fans take the role of champions, avatars, heroes, icons, legends in the oldest sense. The need for them is an essential part of human evolutionary psychology.

“Even when she had her comeback with the circus era she refused to sing live, which was a huge a mistake.”

While I mostly agree with the rest of your post, this is incorrect. She sung You Oughta Know live numerous times throughout the tour and added her live vocals to many of the performances. Her mic was usually always on. I have video of her ad libbing some beautiful notes before singing Everytime almost completely live at the show I attended in November 2009.

Even if she sang every note live, everyone would still maintain that she was lip-synching. At the FF show I attended, I assumed she was lipping because I had been TOLD that she was, but her synching was 100% perfect throughout – I was actually watching her lips for mistakes! If I hadn’t been told she was lipping, I’d never have guessed.

Some people use as evidence “I watched her sing it on YouTube and it was exactly the same every time”. Here again, they MAY be right, but is the memory of one performance 100% perfect as you compare it with another?

Another issue I’d like to raise is that the people who criticize Britney’s lip-synching most vehemently seem perfectly happy with Rihanna’s approach (as seen at the Grammys) where she simply takes the mic away from her mouth, and doesn’t even PRETEND to be singing while her vocals continue. “She isn’t miming!!!” they announce triumphantly. Yet they don’t question whether she was singing live when she WAS holding the mic to her mouth. When she takes it away, there’s no discernible change in the vocals!

Would Britney get away with this kind of effrontery? Somehow I think she’d get a kicking.

While Rihanna does get away with that, she gets a lot of unfair criticism for the images she projects in her music videos. The general public/media certainly didn’t approve of her projecting images of strength and perseverance in the Rated R era and many have expressed distaste with her hyper sexuality, which reminds me of the criticism Brit got for the Britney era in general. The general majority still can’t quite accept that sometimes young women get just as horny as young men! I won’t even go into the victim blaming she’s received and now that she’s gone and collaborated with Brown again the whole thing is a mess. But as far as singing live goes, I checked out a few of her performances after reading your other article where you mentioned this and, wow, it really took me out of the performances when she did that. Sometimes she was spinning around which was understandable but there were GIANT gaps in the songs where not even playback was on. A little unprofessional, if nothing else.

Well I know that she sang You Oughta Know live and that she finally started to sing Everytime live (or at least audible over the backup track), but I was actually talking about her TV performances. Like I said, she has not sung an entire song live on TV for the past 8 years. I know some of you guys think that she has nothing to prove, but since the live singing has always been her weakest point and one of the main reasons for people to criticize her it would have been a very smart move on her side to show the haters that after all she could still sing. Her tours don’t count that much since only her diehard fans attend them but there are a lot more people who also watch TV and since she always mimes they think that this is the best she can do.

Just try to understand what I want to say, she attempted a comeback as singer without singing live on her most important performances. And because she is not dancing that much anymore, people are growing tired of her, even her own fans (very obvious in the ff era).

Realistically, if she sung live on television, it wouldn’t matter how good she sounded, it would get endlessly canned and I would bet the majority of her critics would say something cruel like “She should just stick to lip syncing”. We all accepted a long time ago that she can *never* win, as this very article actually proves! Even when she was just new and starting out, everyone and their dog had some issue with her – first it was the ridiculous boob job rumours, then the sexuality, then the lipping and then the “trailer trash” image followed by the craziness. There will always be something she’s doing wrong, she’s just one of those artists people love to shit on (and Bieber is a good example of a more recent one. He has proved time and time again with various acapella performances that he has a wonderful voice and can easily sing a song straight up but everywhere I turn if I’m not seeing “HE’S GAY/A FEMALE!” I see “HE CAN’T SING!” – it’s ridiculous).

Yes, she probably should sing live in front of a widespread audience but don’t be fooled into thinking it’ll fix everything because it most certainly won’t. There’s people who still doubt she’s an icon of any kind, that she had any influence over the industry in 13 years and bleat that “SHE’S DONE” with every album release. One live performance isn’t going to change a 13 year old mindset, unfortunately.

Yes. Even in the run-up to the release of ITZ, more than 8 years ago, people on forums were saying she was “over”. In the year before “Blackout” came out, people on forums were telling me I was insane for expecting her ever to release another record, or ever to look good again.

I wouldn’t be too disparaging, as Don would be, of an artist whose tours are only attended by diehard fans, if those tours were among the highest grossing of the year – and Britney’s FF tour was. The general celebrity media here in the UK were in consensus agreement that it was a huge success.

I don’t dispute that her “phenomenon” days are over and she’s no longer among the names on everyone’s lips. The question is… beyond that initial rush, will she have staying power? The fact that the FF album made No.1 and was among the most anticipated albums of the year (and probably the biggest victim of illegal downloads, to the point that hardly anybody actually NEEDED to buy it) suggests that she’s on a plateau, rather than sinking into oblivion.

Yeah, I found it quite appalling how, when I looked online as to why people thought her VMA 07 performance was a disaster, most responded with “She looked fat”. Really? Fat equals a disappearance of all talents? You weren’t concerned with the dazed look in her eyes, only whether she was of adequate weight? I often wonder if her body had been tight and her hair fixed – if anyone would’ve noticed what was *really* wrong that night.

Go on Exhale on any given day and someone will have made a thread about “Flop Fatale” or “Ways the tour could’ve been more successful!” or “Britney could never do what this singer is doing!” – it’s all rather disheartening.

Some of the artists out here today are only popular bc they are the anti-Britney. First, Christina now Gaga… I wish for once Britney can have a music year that was only about her and not her in comparison to another artist out there… I thought last year was completely disrespectful to Brit. I couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about Brit, but only as a companion piece to GaGa. Heck, she couldn’t even be honored at MTV, without it turning into the GaGa show…. some fans consider this a compliment bc all of these artists are being compared Brit, but I don’t see it that way. I want one year, that Brit is the center of attention….alone….

Yes, it would be great if people could learn to appreciate what she brings and has brought to music for its own sake, instead of making comparisons that undervalue her achievements.

It’s funny that Gaga stans seem to shit on Britney so much considering Ms Gaga learnt everything she knew from Brit!

Comments are closed.

  • Karenannanina: I agree with you about the residency. It's the road to irrelevance for an artist. But a new album would be a golden blessing for her fans. Her albums
  • George: Spot on thoughts on the issue. Honestly, I don't... really care whether she does the residency or not? As long as there is new music, I'm fine. P.S: G
  • Sarah G: You should write an In-Depth of Glory or even Mood Ring (that's a groovy tune)