I’m not saying that we deserve better. I’m saying that Britney does.
Critics often say that we get the popular icons that we deserve and with insidious way we treat our celebrities we deserve much less then Britney.
If one of your friends checked into a drug rehab clinic or had to fight for the custody of their children, I doubt any of you would make a light of it. I doubt that any of you would say that they deserve these struggles and I doubt that any of you would hope that this friend would have to face further tragedies in their life.
Yes, there are times in our lives when we feel hurt, threatened and insecure and we wish bad things on other people. This is often our first response but always our worst. We would not accept this attitude in our children, then why do we accept in the way we view our celebrities?
Britney Spears came on to the scene in 1999, a pop princess for a new generation who could do no wrong. She was touring, releasing albums and entertained people around the world. Then things started going wrong in her life and the media became critical of her marriage, her children and her lifestyle. Instead of showing concern for the problems, people seemed to enjoy watching her life fall apart. There is nothing sadder then watching a friend’s life fall apart, and nothing more rewarding then watching it come back together. Then why is it different with Britney?
Some say it’s because she deserves it. She has money and she lives in a big house. Therefore, it’s ok to be overly critical, it’s ok to make jokes about a serious medical condition and it’s ok to call into questions the character of people from gossip and speculation.
Britney chose this profession; she knew what she was getting into. Paparazzi have been exploiting celebrities long before Britney was even born, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. Corruption in politics is not ok just because its been around a long time and I don’t think its ignorant to expect that the people we elect into office to be able to rise above a corrupt system. We may not have created the machine that feeds our appetite for celebrity drama and yes, celebrities in many ways are as much to blame for this as we are, but I believe that we can do better. It is a human need to observe outside drama to help us deal with our own lives and the greatest and the most meaning drama is in the art, not the artist. Britney proves this in her strongest song “Everytime” from her fourth album In The Zone released in 2003.
“Everytime” is a daring song for Britney Spears because it features her voice. Britney Spears is not a great singer. Her voice lacks the sexual prowess of Shakira, the range of Mariah Carey, the soul of Beyoncé and the pop sensibilities of Madonna. Britney usually belts with a nasal, whiny voice that only through recording techniques comes across with an appealing vocal quality. In “Everytime” Britney does something different. She pulls back her voice, carefully singing through a half whisper which clarifies her tone and pulls her sound higher up into different resonating cavities in her head creating a light and airy tone, which may not work for all songs but is absolutely perfect for this song.
Britney sings the first words “notice me” with such childlike sadness. She barely sings these notes through the tone of someone choked up and fighting back tears. Britney stays at this line between crying and singing allowing her voice to shake. When she gets to the last line of the first verse “Why carry on without me?” she has nothing left. Instead of getting louder into the chorus like we expect she gets soft like a person defeated by her own failed hopes.
The lyrics reveal a level of depth that most Britney Spears songs do not approach. This is the story of a girl who realizes how much she needs a person in her life. She blames herself for her own depression and disturbingly self-aware of her mistakes. Overall this song is an apology that climaxes in the bridge:
I may have made it rain
Please forgive me
My weakness caused you pain
And this song is my sorry
Britney follows this apology in the next verse hoping that his face will “fade away.” In some ways apologizing is Britney’s first step in moving on with her life. Sometimes in life apologizes bring people back together after conflict. However other times apologies allow people to move through difficult times. Britney is not trying to get this guy to come back to her. She is acknowledging her own feelings, her own faults and in some ways, this apology is more for herself then the other person. If the other person forgives her it may make her feel better, but it is only through forgiving herself that she can truly move on.
The greatest part of Britney’s performance is not her singing. It’s two breaths that are heard, one after “I need you baby” and the other at the end of the bridge “and this song is my sorry.” When you are close to someone feeling them breathe is like feeling their living soul. Hearing this small breath in followed by a longer breath out we feel the emptiness that is inside of Britney and feel a closeness to her emotions.
In this song, Britney has givens us a tragic figure, a drama we can relate to. This song expresses feeling of defeat and exhaustion more emotional then physical. It speaks deep emotional truths about the challenging in life and how much the mistakes we make can haunt us throughout our lives.
The drama created here is fictional but emotionally real. Yes, it is true that there are photos of Britney Spears driving with her baby on her lap, but the emotion we get out of reading about that story is a shallow reflection of our insecurities as opposed to a meaningful connection to our own feelings.
I know that they way we view our celebrities is not going to change any time soon. People get great joy out of following celebrity’s lives and it’s not really fair for me to stand judgment of what brings joy to people’s lives. This is probably all harmless but maybe it is not. Maybe every time we look into a celebrity’s life and mock it we are bringing darkness into out hearts. It just feels wrong and I challenge you to think about the way we view the people in our lives, celebrities included.
My hope for Britney Spears is my hope for all people.
I hope that she finds happiness in her life.
I hope she has people in her life who she loves and loves her back.
And I hope that every time she tries to fly she soars into the sky.