Disclaimer: Let me get this in stone right off the bat. I am not a Britney Spears fan. I have never willfully played a Britney Spears song. But as a member of her generation, her music is relevant to me because she is relevant. She was once the most desirable woman on earth.
“Womanizer,” the latest Britney Spears assault, came on the radio and I groaned internally. It is an undeniably crappy song. It’s one of those pop songs that seems like it was written in 10 minutes on the back of a cocktail napkin.
It is at that moment that I had a totally ridiculous thought: “Man, the Britney Spears music of my day was way better than this crap.” That’s right. I got nostalgic about Britney Spears.
The song that seemed like the most ready comparison to “Womanizer” was “Toxic.”
Both songs explore a similar theme, which is that men are dangerous. In both songs, Britney is keenly aware of the manly danger she faces. The difference is that in “Toxic,” this doesn’t stop her from pursuing the man. She is addicted and, thus, ultimately is under the man’s control. In “Womanizer,” she takes on the dominant role. She recognizes the devious man for what he is and puts her foot down against it.
A metaphor for Britney’s life? I dunno. I guess.
In both videos, Britney is naked or gives us the appearance of being naked. So far as the theme rest of the videos or the songs are concerned, this nakedness seems to be a non sequitur or even a distraction from the music. For example, in “Womanizer,” Britney is completely naked and wet and alone in what appears to be a sauna. She gyrates a lot, mainly striking poses that suggest vulnerability, even though the song has nothing to do with vulnerability.
In “Toxic,” she appears to be wearing something like a full body suit made of sheer panty hose. It aludes to nakedness, but isn’t. In this video, she gyrates alot, mainly striking poses that suggest a cat-like attack may be eminent, even though that song is about total vulnerability.
Obviously, the only point, here, is that we’re supposed to be thinking about having sex with Britney Spears at all times.
In both videos, she plays multiple characters, which is part of Britney’s schtick. She has always done this. In “Toxic,” she is an airline stewardess, who seduces a passenger in the bathroom, then she is a leather-clad dominatrix type who rides on the back of Tyson Beckford’s bike. In “Womanizer,” she is an office woman of some kind, who Xeroxes her butt, then a tatooed, leather-clad cocktail waitress, then a limo driver.
Whatever your sexual fantasy, Britney has played that character at some point in her career, beginning, of course, with the school girl in 1998’s “(Hit Me) Baby One More Time.”
My point is, all Britney Spears songs are the same. So why did I retrospectively remember “Toxic” as being better than it actually was?
I don’t think it has anything to do with Britney Spears, actually. I think that song reminds me of 2004, which, because of the romanticizing effects of nostalgia, my brain remembers as being better than 2009, even though for me it certainly was not. In almost every measurable way, my life is better now than it was five years ago.
But in 2014, Britney is going to release another song about how men are dangerous. She will be naked in the video. She will probably play a french maid. And I’ll hear this song come on and go, “It’s no ‘Womanizer.'”