“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Monday, December 01, 2008

Britneyology day!

Ah, December 2 – Brit’s birthday! All the britneyologists in the house go hey! Go ho!

My last post on Britney Spears received a vitriolic response from Dejan, who doesn’t, it appears, like Britney. Well, some don’t. However, Dejan, as an aspiring artist, is all too easily captured by his own likes and dislikes, the charmed circle of his taste. Does no intuition whisper in his ear that this is the path invariably chosen by the minor talent? An early death sentence where the artist is thrown into the circle of the mooks and the haters, infinitely chasing each other in a circle, tearing at each other’s tails – otherwise known as the comments section of You Tube. I’d advise him to heed the wise words of this woman.

My brother, Dan, thinks that Britneyology is a goof. He suspects his older brother of hatching schemes in which he claims beliefs and tastes that he doesn’t have. And, in fact, Li has done such a thing once or twice – but Britneyology triumphs easily over sincere and justified beliefs by simply crushing them underfoot.

And finally, in this list of objectors, an ex Britney fan who had followed her from the mouseketeer days went right to the point: in the one song released from Circus, Britney doesn’t sing. Womanizer is so computer blended that what went in, the thin L.A. patois over a charming, atavistic North Louisiana slowness of vowel, comes out bizarrely British, with hints of Michael Jackson. Now, this seems right to me. The Rolling Stones’ reviewer of Circus said that the singing on Blackout seemed phoned in. Thus, cliché blocks insight, as indeed the use of the phone is sampled all over Blackout. It made Britney’s fans – or at least those hooked into the success of the record companies – nervous. Why? Research has not found a lot of difference between the face to face and the phone voice, except that there is a tendency not to allow a lot of dead air in the phone conversation. However, the phone voice is also a persona – it clears away the bric a brac of the face, that old Victorian technology. Of course, the telephone was the first step in doing things to the voice – in fact, telephones still achieve voice recognizability by editing the vibrations of the voice. This brings out the sort of impersonal/personal that dance is all about. Britney samples her phone voice in Gimme More for the same reason that Biggy samples his in Suicidal Thoughts – it cuts through the engineering by way of engineering. It creates something direct. In Britney’s case, direct was crazy.

However, on her birthday, it isn’t Britney’s voice I want to praise, but her somnambulist's talent for walking between fires. This is what makes her much rarer than you and me. I wanted to quote from H.L. Mencken’s obituary of Valentino, here, but unfortunately, I can’t find the thing on the internet, except on Google Books.

The obituary tells a story. Valentino wanted to meet Mencken in New York to discuss an article that had been published about him in Chicago. The article implied that Valentino was effeminate. According to Mencken, Valentino wanted to challenge the writer to a duel, but was laughed at – and was baffled by the laughter. Mencken went to see him and tried to explain honor in the U.S.:

“Unluckily, all this took place in the United States, where the word honor, save when it is applied to the structural integrity of women, has only a comic significance. When one hears of the honor of politicians, of bankers, of lawyers, of the United States itself, everyone naturally laughs.”

Mencken’s obituary is an important, maybe a founding moment in the literature on American celebrity. Because it oscillates between a contempt for Valentino’s fame, as though fame were some vice, and a perception of the all too human somewhere at the center of his dilemma. At the center, there is a helpless sense of being overshadowed and maddened by the public drama at the periphery. The moment Mencken sees this and writes it, a star trope is born. Central to the celeb profile becomes the trauma of celebrity itself. This, of course, only causes more laughter or contempt. Yet for the celeb, even the densest one, this sense of being obscurely victimized leads to an overwhelming riddle that no man can unriddle – for who, exactly, has selected the victim, who has persecuted him or her, and for what purpose, is forever without an answer.

The length of Britney’s career has now, I believed, surpassed Valentino’s. She’s well on her way to that special status accorded to those whom the gods can’t destroy with the poisoned gift of visuality. Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, Madonna. We know them. We don’t know them. Nobody knows them.

And now for a birthday song from another North Louisiana scion, come from that state in the nineties, just like Britney.

Your father made fetuses with flesh licking ladies
While you and your mother were asleep in the trailer park

- Neutral Milk Hotel, oh comely


Anonymous said...

Wha', huh? Oh sorry, I mean, hey, and, um, that other one.

Chuckie K

roger said...

Mr. CK - that's the spirit!
Maybe I should write a sequence of poems about the mythic and real Britney. Hmm. Flowers of Boll Weevil.

Anonymous said...

Les fleurs de mall?

Chuckie K

northanger said...

"it is what it is"

roger said...

North - did you have a good Britday? Was all of California shimmering, golden, sloughing off that petty fiscal emergency called by the Governor, and rollerblading to Womanizer? Or are my dreams all in vain?

northanger said...

it is what it is

northanger said...

hey, did you see smiley face? [+]

roger said...

Well I guess I can't. But the pick, which looks cool on the plus sign link, doesn't look like a smiley face.

northanger said...

Jupiter + Venus + Moon = Smiley Face!

and here

we got :( asia & australia got :)