Like most Americans, I know more about Britney Spears than I’d like to — and, thanks to our tabloid culture, that information has largely come second-hand. Britney goes to rehab, Britney shaves her head, Britney hates the paparazzi, Britney dates the paparazzi…
But that was Old Britney, who let US Weekly do the talking and who many thought would never recover from embarrassing incidents like the 2007 MTV VMAs. It’s nearly 2009 now, and New Britney is in full bloom. (For the purposes of this argument, we’ll pretend that Old Britney didn’t undergo several reinventions before her 2007 meltdown.) And New Britney’s strategy for reclaiming her status as America’s Pop Diva is pretty simple: put the story out herself.
The relaunch of Britney Spears into the online video world began back in October with the music video for the new album’s first single, Womanizer, on YouTube, which Jill Weinberger then praised on NewTeeVee Station as heralding “the triumphant return of a brand. That brand being hot, costume-changing, hook-having, single-producing, Britney.” Womanizer was then followed up by the slow push for the MTV “documentary” Britney Spears: For the Record, trailers for which were leaked online weeks in advance. By starting off with the music video, and then giving Britney a chance to address her breakdown, she not only reminded her fans of why they liked her to begin with, but made them hungry for more.
Since then, the bulk of the action has been taking place on Britney’s official YouTube channel, which has become a mish-mash of rehearsal videos, Britney sightings in restaurants and clubs, and personal messages from the diva herself. The message being filtered out by the Britney Spears YouTube channel is highly controlled, delivering tastes of Britney Spears au natural without ever scratching too deep below the surface. Which is fine. Britney is a pop star. I honestly don’t really need to know more than that. The persona being presented has a quasi-wholesome, quasi-professional, quasi-sexy feel, encapsulating her new image as a professional pop star/single mom. (It’s a shame that they haven’t been able to include a clip from Britney’s appearance on Ellen, as nothing combines all three of those elements like watching her teach Ellen Degeneres how to dance to a song about adultery).
What the YouTube videos symbolize is a return to Britney’s initial branding as the pop tart next door — simultaneously innocent and sexy, kid-safe and horny-teenager approved. It doesn’t make Womanizer any less annoying a song, but as a PR feat, it deserves its own sort of applause.
This review, along with more details about the show, can be found at NewTeeVee Station.