Wednesday, October 14, 2015

400th Blog Post!

Well ladies and gents. I've reached 400. My god what have I done with my life? I started his blog in 2010, and have finally gotten to 400. I consider that a feat, I don't care. I'm very proud of my blog and can't believe it's been 5 years and 400 posts. I've written probably about 7 pieces on Marilyn Monroe, about as many on Edie Sedgwick, Orson Welles, Spring Breakers, Downton Abbey...and then it came to me. Ask yourself...who whether you like it or not is a living icon that our generation grew up on? Who is perhaps the most photographed person right now? And who is instantly recognizable in their work, look, or sound? Let's spare anymore suspense....It's Britney, bitch. 

For my 400th I thought the best thing to do was to give you the ultimate countdown of her best music videos. She's had quite a lot of them, and not all made the cut. But every single one is special in its own way and molded the persona, career, and immortality of perhaps our generation's most recognizable figure. Recently she received one of those 'Lifetime achievement awards' at the VMA's (not sure what they call it) Video Vanguard, that's it. It was given to her by Lady Gaga and a tribute of her greatest moments was performed. Love her, hate her, or simply don't care, you can't not acknowledge that she is now synonymous with pop culture. We've watched her grow from a teeny-bopper school girl, into a villainous sex-pot, watched her self-destruct, and rise from the ashes like the Phoenix that she is. If you're my age, it's hard to remember a time when Britney wasn't part of our lives, and I think all of us are surprised that she's lasted this long. Homegirl might not have the voice of Whitney Houston, the versatility of Madonna, or the creative bravado or Lady Gaga, but there's no question that she's earned her place not only in the music industry, but in iconography. This is mainly due to her music videos so let's start the countdown shall we? 

10. Piece of Me (2007)

At #10, we have Piece of Me. This is perhaps her most blatant fuck-you to the media that’s haunted her for most of her life. Every single lyric says it all. ‘I’m Mrs. She’s to thick now she’s too thin’, ‘I’m Mrs. Oh my god that Britney’s shameless’ …’you want a piece of me?’. The video is simple enough. It’s her barely dancing against bright colorful flashing lights, and every once in a while cuts to her doing something that she became notorious for doing; partying and having it show up on a newspaper. It’s a very unapologetic message. Someone once compared her to the female Elvis. No, she’s not as talented as him, it’s meant in the way that no one was ever that famous and thrust into the blinding glare of the media spotlight basically all the livelong day. I can see why she had a meltdown eventually. And with this song she’s not saying ‘poor me, leave me alone’. She’s saying, ‘come and get it, bitch’.

9. Everytime (2004)

This is perhaps the video that I still struggle with but I had to include it if for no better reason than that the song is sung by a cornrowed James Franco in one of my favorite films ever; Spring Breakers. I swear every time the song ends I hear Franco’s voice in my head whisper ‘Spring Breaaaaak’. It literally doesn’t make any sense, but the song is very pretty. It’s one of the few ballads that Britney’s ever done, and it’s the best one. In the video she’s in a hospital, then she’s arguing with a boyfriend (played comically enough by Stephen Dorff), then she’s dead, then she’s in a bathtub. I don’t get it. I really don’t. It kind of looks like a really bad student film, but Britney makes it come together. The imagery matches the tone and the lilting lyrics of the song. She get’s my approval…as does James Franco. Sometimes I think I prefer his version more. 

8. Criminal (2011)

Criminal is one of her most recent efforts off of her Femme Fatal record. It’s perhaps her most unlikely video. It’s very Madonna. She’s for once not in charge of her fate. In it, she falls in love with…a criminal, but he’s sexy and drives a motorcycle and we know that’s catnip for Britney. The man just happens to be her then-fiancé Jason Trawick with whom she gets caught up in a Bonnie & Clyde kind of scenario in England for some reason. The video ends with them making out amidst a hail of police bullets in slow motion. Sound hoaky, I know, but it’s really cool. And she’s naked in the shower. And she plays with guns. Bingo, I have bingo.

7. Stronger (2000)

This is the first collaboration with director Joseph Kahn. It’s somewhat non-linear and weird, but the choreography makes up for it. She’s in some kind of spinning room like the restaurant at the Marriott in Times Square…then she’s driving a car over a collapsed highway in the rain, but the best part of course is her dance with a moving chair. That was very Gene Kelly/Fred Astaire of her, and totally blew my mind. Also, if you listen to the lyrics, it’s about a lot of fluff obviously, but it’s very deliberately contradicting her former attitude towards men. When in Baby…One More Time there’s the line ‘my loneliness is killing me’ in Stronger the lyric goes ‘my loneliness ain’t killing me no more’. Heavy right? She’s a poet. 

6. Womanizer (2008)

I love Womanizer. It was the first single from Circus, and had announced to the world; Hey everyone, I’m not batshit anymore…and I have hair again. It’s basically a Toxic Part II, but steamier. Instead of writhing around on the floor in a nude glitter suit, she’s again, in a sauna, completely naked narrating the story of a woman who stalks her cheating boyfriend by (again) having three incarnations. The song is actually brilliant when you think about it. The chorus is unique in how repetitive and fast it is, and this video displays Britney’s confidence better than any other. She’s playing by her own rules now people, don’t be the unlucky one that gets in her way. 

5. ...Baby One More Time (1999)

Ah the video that started it all. I know considering its significance it should probably be number 1, but as a video it’s not as strong as some of the others; and that is exactly the essence of Britney. When this single and the video hit, people were asking themselves; how does a pop star possibly top that? She did. Many a time. But let’s go back. Turns out the concept was all Britney’s idea. The director wanted some kind of cartoonish thing, but Britney suggested that they set it in a school and donned the now iconic schoolgirl uniform to dance to some of the most 90’s choreography ever. Ironically, the whole wardrobe for everyone in the video was bought at K-Mart. It appealed to that very evil thing in men where you dress like a slut but tell people you’re a virgin. She had the little girl bangs, the falsetto out-of-breath voice, and the goddamn pigtails and announced her arrival in a very ballsy way. 

4. Circus (2008)

Circus is just a very well directed video. Off of her album…Circus, it’s set in a…circus. It’s funny how Christina Aguilera always seems to be on the music video heels of Britney because after this video dropped, Christina’s Hurt premiered, and it was also set in a circus. Not to mention that Christina’s infamous fuckfest orgy video for Dirrty hit about 2 months after I’m a Slave 4 U and even though it was blatantly more sexual, I remember thinking; ‘Britney did it better’. Anyway, Britney was fresh from her very public meltdown and wanted to prove that she was still at the top of her game. She looked amazing, playing a ringmaster, and the choreography was a break from what we’d usually seen her do. It was much more complex and advanced, proving to everyone that this bitch can dance. 

3. I'm a Slave 4 U (2001)

Perhaps Britney’s sexiest video and maybe one of the sexiest videos of all time. Britney was no longer the school girl with a midriff that won’t quit. Donning leather low-riders and a few pieces of bright pink fabric to cover her boobs, the video puts her in a giant sauna of some kind. Everyone is sweaty as fuck, and just has to dance damn it. Some costume genius decided to spray Britney with olive oil in between takes so she always looks like she’s dripping in sweat, and what’s sexier than that? The heavy panting probably. I remember watching it for the first time and being ‘Woah, what happened to innocent school girl Britney?’ This was her loudest transition into her sex-pot persona. She played this up by performing the song at that year’s VMA’s with a live giant python wrapped around her. It’s considered to be one of the best and most significant performances of that show’s history.  

2. Oops!...I Did It Again (2000)

I’m sorry but I love this song and the video, albeit totally weird, it is hilarious and infectiously catchy just like the song. After ...Baby One More Time, everyone thought; well she’s cool and of the times, but who knows if she has staying power? When Oops!…I Did it Again dropped, coupled with a solid video, people realized Britney was here to stay. In her red cat suit, and that ridiculous choreography she became an icon before our very eyes. More than anything, it’s just fun, and even if you hated it, you really loved it and rock out to it when the windows are rolled up. And admit it, you can do the dance too. 

1. Toxic (2003)

Did you really not see this coming? Toxic is not only her best video but her best song. It was the first conscious break from the bubble-gum pop era of Britney and the first single off her 4th album ‘In the Zone’. She teamed up with avant-garde video director Joseph Kahn again, who previously worked with the likes of Eminem, Moby, Christina Aguilera, and TLC. It’s the first of her videos to tell a cohesive (albeit highly surreal and hyper-visualized) story that involves an angry beauty seeking revenge on a man that wronged her and eventually killing him. Britney has three significant incarnations that not only make her look unbelievable, but helped disguise her in her quest. Tyson makes a cameo as her motorcycle driver, and of course there’s that nude suit with glitter on it barely concealing well anything in the video. The song style borrows heavily from the music of the 70’s, particularly ABBA and was an instant hit. The video is just as iconic, and signified that Britney was growing up. 

Now rock out like there's no one there to judge you. 

Below, that Video Vanguard thing I was talking about. 

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