Features, Friday Night Dinner Discussions

Britney Spears’ My Prerogative: A Discussion

One fateful evening in 2012, kismet pulled Reina and Gauraa into a porch conversation about Bishop Allen. They realized, despite having grown up 8,657 miles apart, they had listened to the same records, subscribed to the same podcasts and shared the same pretensions. Separated by distance again, the two have decided to pull all the stops necessary to preserve their insular culture of staying in and overanalyzing music. You can read their first dinner discussion here. Tonight, Reina and Gauraa cancel their plans to discuss one of the records that brought them together, Britney Spears’s first Greatest Hits compilation, My Prerogative.

britney

Reina: I was supposed to do anything but be out tonight, so you can imagine what I’m up to. The new season of Orange Is The New Black came out over the weekend and I have piles of laundry that I meant to do on Monday, and clothes all over my floor, so I’ve got my hands full I guess. But I’m willing to sacrifice all that and lie down in a pile of my clothes to listen to some Britney and reminisce on the glory days. Maybe I’ll even wear underwear on the outside of my pants? We’ll see. Glamorous living, I know. What fabulous weekend activities are you up to on this glorious night my lady?

Gauraa: Well, believe it or not, I’m on a “relaxing” “getaway” in Goa right now. I really don’t know why I used quotes to indicate otherwise because it really is a relaxing getaway, except I really don’t know how to relax or, like, getaway. I feel like Paris Geller on spring break. And while I haven’t yet had a come hither conversation about modern day Marxism with a nameless stranger, I did pick up a copy of Moby Dick. Because what better a time to catch up on maritime literature than the present? Anyway, I wish you were here with me so we could sip our tax free beers together, shake our heads in collective disagreement and give beach rave culture a nice, long smirk. But since you couldn’t hop on to the next flight from San Francisco to Goa (how unreasonable!), here I am, ameliorating the distance between us through a Google docx once again.

Reina:  I remember when Britney first came out. She was the pop star we needed and the pop star we deserved at the time. …Baby One More Time was the first album that many of my friends bought. (I was more of a boyband kind of gal. More on that here.) And if anyone my age says they don’t know the words to any Britney song, they are lying to your face. From the get go, she was never apologetic about her own sexuality and I think even from a young age, it taught me and my friends that it’s pretty cool to be a girl. And that, I think, is an important thing for a pop star to do for young girls who are looking up to her.

I think the best part of Britney is her evolution over time. We basically got to see her grow up through her truly formative years. We got to see her make mistakes, go through phases, and it kind of all felt like we were a part of her family, didn’t it? As if we were all Britney’s younger brothers and sisters, watching her be praised and reprimanded by the media in her quest to figure out who she really is. I love this album, because it encompasses all of the best of Britney. I mean obviously, it’s a greatest hits album, but even more so, this is a look at all of her highest and lowest moments, like a slideshow on a celebrity gossip site showing you the “Evolution of Britney’s Style” or something like that. It reminds me that it’s ok to change. Britney is always reinventing herself, so why can’t I? She’s not the same girl-next-door from “Lucky”, nor is she the sexy sweaty girl from “Slave 4 U”, or the pole dancer from “Gimme More”. I know that her phases were probably intricately designed and constructed images, but Britney embodied her phases to a point where there was no doubt in my pre-teen mind that she was just as cool and powerful as she seemed. 2016 Britney is an amalgamation of all of her past iterations and that, like this album, is her prerogative. Gauraa, I’m sure you have an equally liberating and eloquent reason for loving this album, so take it away! Why My Prerogative, Gauraa?

Gauraa: You know how I mentioned before that 2007 was truly the year that marked my induction into the “all-encompassing, obsessive world of music”? Well, this album, back in 2005, planted the seed for that. After a brief stint of homeschooling (read: my dad making eight-year-old me watch films like Doctor Zhivago and write a 100 word synopsis on each of them), I’d finally been accepted into an international school. Offset by my suitcase life, I found myself two years younger than most people in my grade. I was clumsy and shy, not “really asian,” with a penchant for wearing Harry Potter scarves to school. This made me perfect bait for the Mean Girls. My parents thought it would be a great idea for me to go on this field trip to Singapore and Malaysia with them to “socialize,” etc. because I hadn’t interacted with anyone my age in years. God, what a nightmare! I spent the whole trip sitting next to the teacher chaperoning the event, listening to Bollywood tapes in my walkman. The girls would exclude me from their merriments and spend all the time in the back of the bus singing along to “So Yesterday” and “Sk8r Boi.” I kept listening to this one song that roughly translates to, “Who are you waiting for?/ Why are you silent? / Tell me all you’ve ever been trying to say/ I’m here for you, I’m listening.” That song was the last thread I was holding onto. And it was quickly snipped by this one Mean Girl who couldn’t just couldn’t bear to tolerate my differences. Egged on by the other backseat girls, she ejected the tape from my walkman and smashed it while the chaperone got off the bus at a pitstop. I was absolutely crushed. When I got back home, I was serendipitously handed a pink iPod mini, pre-loaded with Britney Spears’ My Prerogative. I channeled my angst and my heartache, and ferociously devoured every song on it (I obviously also awoke a pop culture encyclopedia the next morning to show those bitches what they were up against, but that’s another story altogether).

I mean, all of this is just a roundabout way of expressing how important Britney Spears was to a girl growing up in the 2000s. Sure, she was commercial and packaged, but beyond that, her music captured raw outrage and girlishness and sexuality. Rules were broken, authority was questioned. Britney’s sexuality, the slick Swedish production, made you feel cruel in just the right slight smug smudgeness of it, just cruel enough to give you strength and control. It made you feel powerful. And however phony or imagined that sense of power was, that’s what made it all so great. Sometimes it takes perfectly constructed pop to deconstruct you and build you up again.

“My Prerogative”  

Profound Genius annotation: Believe it or not, Britney Spears’ lyrics contain a great deal of much needed feminism and female empowerment for this industry. Here she tackles the issue of slut-shaming head on: if she’s not doing any harm, what’s the issue with being proud of her sexuality and spreading the love?

Best Lyric: “I see nothing wrong in spreading myself around”

Reina: Is it funny that I remember exactly when and where I first saw the music video for this song? The car screeching and the inexplicable tabla beat in the intro, paired with glimpses of Britney’s kohl lined eyes and spoken word poetry was so gripping to me as an 11 year old.

Consequently, this was also the first time I learned the word “prerogative.”

Gauraa: Me, too! I think it’s crazy that someone who was deemed nothing more than a “talking head” taught kids so much. I mean, not just the definition of the word “prerogative” but actually what it stands for. Britney said–well, not really Britney herself, considering this is a Bobby Brown cover, but nonetheless, she sang, “I don’t need permission/ Make my own decisions/ That’s my prerogative” and it kind of validated me, encouraged me. This is, in its own right, a punk song. If Britney left us with one thing, it was to question authority. It’s a perfect song to kick off this Greatest Hits compilation with because this is kind of her mission statement. Do you feel that it’s kind of ironic, also, though, because there were approximately 674839 people behind her telling her what to do? And if so, did it matter?

Reina: OMG I agree wholeheartedly that this is a punk song. It’s a rebel anthem if there ever was one. Joke’s on the punk kids trying to act all hard with their edgy lyrics, Britney achieved the punk aesthetic they desperately sought just by I don’t know, existing? And, yeah, definitely a little ironic, but a little endearing in a way, isn’t it? That’s the Britney we know and love, really.

Gauraa: Undoubtedly. We could also factor in how “Punk” is/was nothing more than an acute branding statement, perfectly curated by the likes of Malcolm McLaren, to appeal to the “fashion kids,” no less. So, I guess that kind of still equates Britney to an accidental punk icon.

Reina: “They say I’m crazy, I really don’t care.”

Gauraa: Truly the “Who said it: Britney vs. GG Allin,” edition of a Buzzfeed quiz.

Reina: It’s almost crazy to me that this song came out pre shaved head Britney. It fits that context so well, it actually would have been such an incredible marketing opportunity.

Gauraa: Arguably, a former Mickey Mouse Club member smashing car windows tops pissing on stage.

Reina: But also, considering this is right around Britney & Kevin: Chaotic makes a lot of sense. They say I’m crazy for loving that show, I really don’t care.

Gauraa: TRUE. Britney always just made sense, as a pop star, as a talking head, as a tabloid caricature, as satire, as the true embodiment of the music industry. She just made sense.

Reina: To quote Britney back on Britney: Why is she so real?

Gauraa: To quote Britney back on Britney: Miss American Dream, since she was seventeen, don’t matter if she stepped up the scene or snuck away to the Philippines.

“Toxic”  

Profound Genius annotation: Appreciating Britney Spears was the final frontier of shedding an old pop-fearing husk, so laced was her music and persona with the red flags of hitting/slaving misogyny, leering pedophilia, and mannequin sexuality. But the throttled strings of “Toxic” finally scuttled all that knee jerk sociology, being just too damn irresistible a pop song for it to matter what media super-entity it was attributed to.

Best Lyric: “With a taste of a poison paradise / I’m addicted to you/ Don’t you know that you’re toxic?”

Gauraa: It frazzles me that, after watching her VMA performance that year, my mom let me buy this album. Well, ok, she didn’t buy me this album, it was a fortunate accident, but still. How did my mom let me listen and sing along to this song when I was 9?

Reina: I can’t believe that my parents left me alone with a TV in my room at age 11. I watched MTV Hits 24 hours a day and saw this video a couple of times a day. That whole bathroom makeout scene was actually so racy in hindsight. But I always thought she looked crazy gorgeous in that diamond body suit. The lighting in that scene made her look like some kind of pop angel come down from musical heaven to bless us all with catchy pop tunes.

Gauraa: Wait, can we talk about how this video very well might have been the inspiration behind Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” video? I mean, OBVIOUSLY, this is better, but like.

Reina: TRULY. The red wig on motorbike, the laser chamber that Brit dances her way across, the black hair barely dressed vigilante vibes. It’s all there, and all reappropriated for Taylor’s frenemy anthem. But in this case, Britney knows what’s up and depicts the true enemy, aka men. Just saying.

Gauraa: Ugh, yes. She seduces this rando by spilling a drink on his crotch, then proceeds to make out with another rando in the plane lavatory, using her explicit sex appeal to get what she wants. Ah, a feminist icon indeed.

Reina: I love that she knows just how to trick boys into doing exactly what she wants them to. Ah Britney, you’re the feminist hero we never knew we had at age 9 and 11. She was way ahead of her time. Well, our time.

Gauraa: Truer words have yet to be spoken.

“I’m a Slave 4 U”  

Profound Genius annotation: Britney Spears clearly doesn’t want to be judged on the way her image was during her Slave for you era. She wanted to be judged on how she feels on the inside.

Best Lyric: “All you people look at me like I’m a little girl/ Well did you ever think it’d be okay for me to step into this world”

Gauraa: You know, we probably didn’t understand this back then, or maybe we did and that’s why we kept on listening, but “I’m A Slave 4 U” isn’t just a song simply alluding to BDSM. It’s about questioning the rules and understanding why things are off limits to us, as girls: “Always saying, little girl, don’t step into the club/ Well I’m just trying to find out why/ ‘Cause chance is what I love.” Why shouldn’t we step into the club? Why shouldn’t we do this and that? Why have all these restrictions been set for us, never once accompanied by a logical explanation?

Reina: This might sound crazy, but you could also interpret it like she’s almost reclaiming submission by saying yeah, I’m a slave for you and I won’t deny it and I’m not trying to hide it. I don’t now how exactly to articulate what is going on in my head right now, but it’s like submitting is the way that she’s actually claiming her independence, or something. She’s like “what the hell, who cares?” I’m going to do what I want, and this is what I want.

Gauraa: I don’t think that sounds crazy at all. I agree. It’s her decision to be a “slave,” no one is asking her to be submissive, and she owns it: “I know I maybe young/ But I’ve got feelings too/ And I need to do what I feel like doing/ So let me go, and just listen.” That’s a fucking order. I think that’s empowering.

Reina: It is! In the video she’s also wearing underwear on top of her pants instead of under to really prove that she’s above all these rules that govern everyone else.

Gauraa: Totally. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed this before, but in almost all the early era Britney music videos, the tone’s rather dystopian. If you see notice the landscape around her in the music video for “Toxic” or this song, you’ll see that it’s kind of a burnt brown. I wonder what’s the significance of this.

Reina: “…Baby One More Time” took place in the most stereotypical and recognizable of places, so maybe it’s like a sense of breaking out of the routine and the predictable. As though placing her in a dystopian reality, one where you’re not really sure what’s going on or what to make of it, will draw your focus to Britney and make you really listen to what she’s saying. Since what she’s saying may be the only way to start understanding what’s going on.

Gauraa: I think you’re right, but I don’t think it was all meant to be more than just a clickbait philosophy: “bring all the outlandish elements ye think of, squeeze ‘em all in! We want more eyeballs! More eyeballs!!” The more I think about the cultural significance of Britney–the music videos, the music, the lyrics, her persona and comprehensive image et al–the more I feel like the whole thing fell into place like a fortunate accident itself.

Reina: Maybe that’s the beauty of it and a signifier of true art or something, that we can look back on it after all these years and find something there that maybe wasn’t meant to be there in the first place.

“Oops!… I Did It Again”  

Profound Genius annotation: She’s a playa 😉

Best Lyric: “Oops! You think I’m in love/ That I’m sent from above/ I’m not that innocent”

Gauraa: Women might hail from Venus, but Britney’s from Mars! Everything about this song is absolutely bizarre. The Lynchian music video and the fact that Max Martin intended for this to be a new millennial version of Barbra Streisand’s “Woman In Love” are just two factors.

Reina: This song is also some kind of an inadvertent feminist anthem, isn’t it? She toys with a boy’s emotions and feelings and instead of saying sorry, she says “oops!” “That is just so typically me.”

Gauraa: I hope the feminist anthem is bigger than a Max Martin track about toying with men, but, like, I get it. I think the“I’m not that innocent” line was intended to break Britney out of her teeny bopper mould. The red pleather bodysuit and the fire roaring behind her in the music video was supposed to explicitly signify her new boytoy persona, as if to say there’s a bad girl inside every sweet little good girl, which, to me, is a very real dichotomy. That’s, indeed, feminist.

Reina: She’s like a phoenix, rising from the flames and ashes of her girl-next-door persona. I love that. She also is in a way showing us that, so many people think they’ve got her figured out and make all these assumptions, but really no one knows her at all. She’s not that innocent. Her line “To lose all my senses, that is just so typically me” could almost read as sarcasm, like “oh, silly me!”

Gauraa: She’s not that innocent, but she’s not not that innocent, either. She was younger than we are now when this song came out. Think about the naivety behind a bold, teenage profession of uninnocence. We’ve seen Britney grow up, I mean, she’s grown up with us, and we’ve seen her come down from Mars and evolve into a very real, human, figure. She’s proved herself, and she can’t be pigeonholed into a singular prototype. With “Piece of Me,” specifically, she arises a smart woman, cognizant of what’s going around her, and the way she’s perceived. I think “Oops!,” whether consciously or subconsciously, was the first demarcation of that self-awareness.

Reina: That was really well put. This is her song to truly prove to us that, like you said, she’s a little unpredictable and isn’t quite what you think she is.

“Me Against the Music” (featuring Madonna)

Profound Genius annotation: Now Britney is dancing close to the speakers, where the music is loud and the bass is cranked high, making her more in tune with the music and rhythm.

Best Lyric: “My soul is bare/ My hips are movin’ at a rapid pace”

Gauraa: I love Madonna, I do, but this always struck me as a weird collaboration. I mean, yes, they both dance, we get it. But Madonna seems a little cruel, almost, put up against a fresh faced 22 year old Britney.

Reina: It is a strange combination. And the video just emphasizes the strangeness of it, I think. They have Madonna in a Big Brother, Hunger Games President Snow kind of position, with her displayed on all the screens and the voyeuristic implication that there are cameras and eyes all over, watching them. The song kind of plays on a similar theme as “Slave 4 U”, but this time it’s the music that she wants to give in to. But at the same time that she wants to let the beat take over her body, she says it’s like a competition, like her against the music.

Gauraa: If there’s a particular moment of this song that I really like, it’s the phrasing of the hook, where Britney goes, “Tryin’ to hit it chic-a-tah,” like she’s all so caught up in the music that she can’t quite express what she’s trying to say except through onomatopoeia, through the beat itself. I love that.

Reina: Yes! It’s like in this competition of her against the music, she ultimately ends up becoming part of the music. Well, at least part of the beat.

“Stronger”

Profound Genius annotation: This signifies both getting over a relationship and her newfound maturity that she explores in other tracks such as Overprotected and “I’m A Slave 4 U”

Best Lyric:  “Now I’m stronger than yesterday/ Now it’s nothing but my way/ My loneliness isn’t killing me no more”

Reina: I like to think that this is the stage of life that I’m currently evolving into.

Gauraa: Omg, Reina. Me, too. This is probably one of my favorite Britney songs, ever. There’s this endearing girlishness to this song, and in so many ways, it’s like seeing your best friend come out from under after a breakup, a little hurt, but determined to be better, to be stronger. I suppose that’s what I was trying to say earlier, despite her outfits and her provocative music and stage presence, there’s something very shy and feeble at the core of Britney, which appeals to the female consciousness earnestly, endlessly.

Reina: I can almost imagine Britney being kind of a pushover and just going with the flow and rolling with the punches in a relationship. But thank god she and I both realized that that ain’t no good! I feel as though I’m emerging from the flames with Britney, a little burnt, but knowing that I’m stronger for it, you know? As cheesy as it might sound, this might be the most motivational song I’ve heard post break-up.

Gauraa: Of course. Every day, we’re stronger than yesterday, for just having made it through the day.

“Everytime”

Profound Genius annotation: This is metaphorical as rain is linked to negativity therefore showing that Britney has caused something bad to happen. This could also be linked to ex boyfriend Justin Timberlake’s hit Cry Me A River.

Best Lyric: “Why are we/ Strangers when/ Our love is strong”

Gauraa: I love that this song is a Spears co-write, and that it’s about Justin Timberlake. But I hate that it’s the reason I still spell every time as one word.

Reina: Oh god. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The Justin/Britney conversation. Still my favorite celebrity pairing. I’m crying just thinking about Britney being sad about Justin while writing this song. Also, I too still default to spelling every time as one word.

Gauraa: :( “Notice me/ Take my hand/ Why are we strangers when/ Our love is strong” is such a perfectly sad line. There’s nothing crueler than being strangers, in love but untouched. Why do we have to remove ourselves from love, when it’s strong? I think this song alludes to how the paparazzi and media tore our favorite celebrity pairing apart.

Reina: As cliché as it is, I love the chorus. “Every time that I try to fly/ I fall without my wings/ I feel so small/ I guess I need you baby.” It’s such a simple homage, almost, as if to say you are my wings, you made me feel on top of the world and without you, maybe I am nothing? I guess I need you :(.

Gauraa: Also, was the music video for this song a psychic foreboding of her Las Vegas residency?

Reina: Gosh, this music video was always a little unsettling.

Gauraa: I just got goosebumps watching it now.

Reina: She looks so goddamn gorgeous though. If I were Justin, I’d be kicking myself. Sorry Jessica, but Britney’s better. (Not sorry.)

Gauraa: 10/10. Agreed.

“…Baby One More Time”

Profound Genius annotation: The line, “Hit me baby one more time” caused a little bit of controversy, particularly in the United States, due to its “sadomasochistic” connotations.

Best lyric: “Give me a sign/ Hit me baby one more time”

Gauraa: Can you believe this song is a TLC reject? But, alas, here we are. Only last year was it finally revealed that Max Martin thought “hit me” was an American slang for “call me.” So I suppose this refutes all the second hand commentaries there are about “sadomasochistic” connotations. I think this story is hilarious, and almost absurd. First of all, did he confuse “hit me” for “hit me up”? Secondly, this story in itself is such a good example of how the media will find something or the other in a song and turn it into a forced controversy, complete with a parental advisory angle.

Reina: Like, “Hit me on the cellular!” or some old school phrase like that? Ah the Swedish. As adept as they may be at creating American pop favorites, I guess translating youth culture into a hit song can be a confusing line of work as well.

Gauraa: Didn’t stop them from creating a hit, nonetheless. I think this speaks volumes for their talent and know-all. And actually, more than anything else, I think this speaks volumes for their instincts.

Reina: I love that the American public, as confused as they were about what this song was supposed to mean, still embraced it and allowed it to become a hit. I feel like that speaks volumes for Americans’ penchant for embracing even the things they don’t quite understand. (Which is a funny thing to say, I realize, given America’s long legacy of definitely NOT embracing things they don’t understand, but just let it slide this time because it sounds really nice in this context. [Insert praying hands emoji here.] )

Gauraa: I guess pop music is easier to embrace than politics and, um, tolerance. But also, I love how this song was titled “…Baby One More Time” as opposed to “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” Somebody knew what was going on, obviously, and knew that it would strike up a controversy but maintained it nonetheless. So clever. So very clever. Nobody was going to buy their kids tickets to the “Hit Me Baby” tour but “…Baby One More Time” was fine.

Reina: “…Baby One More Time” gives it a little mystique too. Like what could she be asking for just one more time?

Gauraa: Obviously a hit.

Reina: Both figurative and literal. That is, in the old school slang Max Martin understanding of the word “hit”.

Gauraa: Beautiful. God bless.

“(You Drive Me) Crazy”

Profound Genius annotation: N/A

Best Lyric: “You drive me crazy/ But It feels alright”

Gauraa: Crazy!

Reina: Another incredible music video. That green crop top is a revelation. When I was younger, I had no idea what she was saying in this song so I sang along in gibberish. Life was good back then.

Gauraa: I don’t think it mattered what she was singing in this song. The only takeaway from this was: “Crazy!” Also, it drove me crazy that Britney was a brunette on the single art for this song but blonde in the music video. Wait, the guy from The Devil Wears Prada/Entourage is in this music video!

Reina: Sabrina the Teenage Witch is also in this video!!

Gauraa: A dance floor breakdown, a DJ spinning a Britney picture disc. It’s the ‘90s condensed into 3 minutes and 17 seconds, essentially.

Reina: This is really random and has essentially nothing to do with the music at hand, but there’s this moment towards the end of the video that I love. I would always have to watch until the end of the video to see it on TV, but Britney kind of makes eye contact with the camera then scrunches up her nose and smiles and it’s so cute. I don’t know why I love that moment so much, but it kind of made me feel like, she’s normal, like an everyday person who scrunches her nose and closes her eyes when she’s really happy about something.

Gauraa: I love when Britney scrunches up her nose. It’s kind of like a funny little reminder that she’s still a girl somehow.

Reina: Exactly! Britney, you drive me crazy!

“Boys (The Co-Ed Remix)” (featuring Pharrell Williams)

Profound Genius annotation: This is the official remix of “Boys”, which was released as the sixth and final single of the album. It got a lot of attention after being released as the second single from the soundtrack of Austin Powers in Goldmember.

Best Lyric: “You’re a sexy guy, I’m a nice girl/ Let’s turn this dance floor into our own little nasty world”

Gauraa: Enter Pharrell.

Reina: I was just thinking about how much I love Pharrell today. Did you know he has synesthesia?

Gauraa: I didn’t know that but that makes all the sense in the world. This music video/collaboration is probably my favorite era of Pharrell (I mean, right after his N.E.R.D. collaboration with Joel Madden, obviously.) Going back and listening to these songs, I find that it’s actually impossible to separate Britney from her music videos. I mean, I feel like it wasn’t ever just the music with Britney, it sort of came in a package.

Reina: Omg!! Exactly what I was thinking! All of her songs are inseparable from the video, because, well at least in my mind, the videos gave her songs more meaning? Or helped me (as a youngster) decipher what she was trying to say in her songs.

Gauraa: I think pop music is so much about “aesthetic” and music videos kind of pick up on that kinesthetic energy and help visualize that “aesthetic.” And I mean, Britney hanging out in some 18th century mansion party with a harem isn’t exactly related to this song, the way making out with some guy in a plane lavatory isn’t exactly related to “Toxic,” but somehow it brings out the “raw,” “sexual appeal” of the song.

Reina: Yes! Exactly. You get me. I love that in this video though, she doesn’t take herself too seriously. I mean Mike Myers as Austin Powers is in this and they dance together and “bend at the knee” together. (Re: Bend at the knees, please see this video)

Gauraa: Did Britney ever take herself seriously, you think?

Reina: Mmmm… Debatable.

Gauraa: Because I don’t think that she did. I think she was, at first, too young to care about anything besides doing her job. And then, she was suddenly way over her head into it, almost too jaded to take the media/industry seriously. I don’t think there’s a single moment I can pinpoint to you right now, and say, “Well, she was serious.”

Reina: I want to say she took herself quite seriously in her “Circus” era though. And also following that when she put out her clothing line and perfume and everything. But who really knows.

Gauraa: I guess that’s the ultimate Thing that keeps us coming back to Britney, or figures like Paris Hilton, in general. They’re so committed to their act that it’s not possible for us to give a definitive answer.

“Sometimes”

Profound Genius annotation: Britney likes this guy and probably really wants to be with him but it seems she’s the type who just wants to be sure that everything’ll be alright. She says she“wants to believe” and not that she “believes.”

Best Lyric: “If you love me, trust in me/ The way that I trust in you”

Reina: God, no one can rock a crop top like Britney can. But also, you have to wonder if white is the best color to be wearing at the beach. Let’s just hope they filmed this before Labor Day.

Gauraa: I love this dance routine. I guess I have newfound ambitions for my day on the beach tomorrow.

Reina:  I’m now dying to see you in the middle of that human heart on the pier, wearing all white.

Gauraa: All white maybe getting a little carried away. Maybe I’ll do an all black goth rendition of the human heart. Do you feel like Dawson Leery needed to be in this music video? I definitely do.

Reina: Dawson definitely should have been in this video.

“Overprotected – The Darkchild Remix” (Radio Edit)

Profound Genius annotation: She prefers to make mistakes and figure things out on her own than to feel restricted by authorities her whole life.

Best Lyric: “Say hello to the girl that I am!/ You’re going to have to see through my perspective/ I need to make mistakes just to learn who I am/ And I don’t want to be so damn protected”

Gauraa: Ok, definitely my favorite Britney song. I love the conviction with which she says, “Say hello to the girl that I am! You’re going to have to see through my perspective!” Wow. Much empowerment.

Reina: How does one manage to look so good in low-rise boot-cut pants? I love the beginning when all her voice is all echoey and layered until she says “I need me.” How old was she when this song came out? 20? 21? I actually love this song too, because I feel like it closely relates to exactly where we are in our lives right now. “What am I to do with my life?” I guess we will find it out, so I’m not that worried. I believe you Britney.

Gauraa: She was 19! And we will find it out, don’t worry. Britney carries the torch for us.

“Lucky”  

Profound Genius annotation: Looks can be deceiving. Even though people think she is the happiest person on earth the truth is far from that. Her lonely heart represents the fact that even though she’s never lonely literally, she feels alone inside. Her actual life, that of a globally known singer and celebrity, does not bring her happiness.

Best Lyric: “Lost in an image, in a dream/ But there’s no one there to wake her up/ And the world is spinning, and she keeps on winning/ But tell me what happens when it stops?”

Gauraa: As I mentioned before, I’ve been reading Moby Dick. What could this sea-faring novel possibly have to do with our pop princess? Well, consider this: “Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you’re overcomfortable, and have been so for a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable anymore. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, then, indeed in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this reason, a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich.” Being human, to a great degree, means knowing no comfort. If you’re comfortable for too long, you’re no longer comfortable anymore. Our young Hollywood starlet Lucky, over here, has fallen victim to the aforementioned luxurious discomforts of the rich. She’s famous, she’s got everything, but the tears still come at night. “Lucky” takes that hefty concept from Moby Dick and waters it down for a teenage audience.

Reina: You really worked hard to fit in a Moby Dick quote here. But I love that book, so I appreciate this. Love that Queequeg is making an appearance in our Friday Night Dinner Discussion this week.

Gauraa: I did. But also, I Iove Queequeg. He’s so nappish and outrageous, but still lovable. Kind of like Britney. Also reading this book is, like, an accomplishment in itself so what’s the point if I don’t get to squeeze in a quote somewhere?

Reina: In this song though, Britney is more Ishmael than Queequeg. Because as she says, “This is a story about a girl named Lucky.”

Gauraa: You kill me. But you’re right. She’s Ishmael. At least in this song.

Reina: Do you think maybe Britney at one point became a lot like Lucky? Circa shaved head and car smashing? It’s like the pressure of being “Lucky” made her snap, right? Maybe she cry cry cried in her lonely heart, and then decided to shave her head to, I don’t know, feel fulfilled or something. We will never quite know what’s going on in dear Britney’s head.

Gauraa: I think she was going through those sentiments even before car smashing and head shaving. I think the “Everytime” music video kind of ventures there. Things looked pretty ugly in that video.

Reina: Yes exactly! She’s so lucky, yet so sad. It’s a little scary to think that even as she was singing about this as a third person observer, she would soon go through the same kind of pattern as Lucky. I guess no one comes out of the Hollywood world unscathed.

Gauraa: I don’t think anybody comes out of the world, unscathed.

Reina: Touché.

“Outrageous”

Profound Genius annotation: Britney likes to sneak to the club in cars with tinted windows so the paparazzi do not harass her while she’s having fun.

Best lyric: “Take trips around the globe/ Tints on my Jeeps so nobody knows”

Gauraa: Things that are outrageous: Britney’s body, Britney’s parties, Britney’s sexy jeans, Britney’s scenes, her sex drive, shopping sprees and world tours. Did I miss anything?

Reina: The fact that they canceled the music video for this song is outrageous. I can’t believe Britney danced so hard that she had to get knee surgery. Well, ok I don’t know if she hurt her knee dancing too hard, but that’s what I like to imagine. The outrageous back story to go with the outrageous cancellation of the video for “Outrageous”.

“Born To Make You Happy”

Profound Genius annotation: Britney and her boyfriend were very much in love but something wrong happened and they’re not together anymore. She doesn’t know what really happened and wants to understand it so she can fix their relationship

Best lyric: “I’m sitting here alone up in my room/ I’m thinking about the times that we’ve been through”

Reina: “‘Cause living in a dream of you and me/ Is not the way my life should be/ I don’t want to cry a tear for you.” I concur, Britney. But god, this line kills me. I feel like this song sums up how I felt for a while, but now I’m stuck in the reality that a dream is not a way of life. And I’m done crying tears, you know?

Gauraa: I feel like Britney’s most vulnerable when she’s not being bad, or toxic, or outrageous. The fact that she’s most subservient in a relationship, as opposed to when she’s breaking rules in a sex club, just breaks me.

Reina: I know. It’s like, when she’s not causing trouble, she’s in trouble. Because it seems like in all her songs about breaking up, she feels like she’s nothing without her significant other. And I hate that. I mean we all feel that way from time to time, but it hurts when someone says what we’re all feeling, you know. Especially when Britney says it.

Gauraa: Absolutely! I think, this is one of the major reasons Britney is so relatable, because she explores the dichotomy of the female consciousness so well: we can be bad, we can break all the rules, to make us feel better about ourselves, but then there’s that almost inherent side to us where we feel like our sole purpose in life is to take care of someone else and make them happy. And we constantly feel the need to counter that, even if only by being toxic and outrageous and bad.

Reina: We’re acting crazy to keep from going crazy, almost.

Gauraa: Oh god, exactly. Being caught up in self-created trouble is better than being in trouble somebody’s inflicted upon you. At least, when you create trouble yourself, you are, or have the illusory feeling of being, in control.

Reina: The feminist/psychological analysis of Britney’s songs are giving me life. I hope one day someone steals this idea for a final paper.

Gauraa: And that’ll be our final validation in life.

“I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”  

Profound Genius annotation: Remember how you felt after the synagogue but before the reception for your Bat Mitzvah? That’s how Britney feels…

Best Lyric: “All I need is time/ A moment that is mine/ While I’m in between”

Gauraa: UGH this song. And #tbt to the first piece you wrote for The Sympathizer citing this song.

Reina: #tbt indeed.

Gauraa: I used to think that I had the answers to everything. But now I know, life doesn’t always go my way. I’m waiting for the day I finally wake up, without feeling things that relate me to this song. The day I finally come out from the in-betweens and emerge a woman.

Reina: “I’ve seen so much more than you know now/ So don’t tell me to shut my eyes.”

Gauraa: That lyric is a hidden gem, Reina. How profound, how real. Too real. I know that Britney didn’t write this song herself, but like an actor playing a character and slowly melding into the part they’re playing, I can’t help but wonder if Britney felt every moment of this song weighing on her, personally.

Reina: I know. This line is arguably the most relatable in the song. I feel like, at least with the both of us, we’ve been through so much and seen so much that we can’t possibly be treated like girls anymore. But I don’t feel ready to take on the responsibility of being a “woman” yet, so for now I’m ok being stuck between. I’m just waiting for everyone else to come to terms with that and stop telling me to shut my eyes, like I can’t be sheltered anymore.

Gauraa: I think we stopped being girls the moment we stepped out on that porch in 2012 and realized how terrible the party was, and how it was infinitely better in our own little corner, outside. And yes, I agree. “Woman” is such a whole word. Being a “woman” carries so much weight, it bears a maternal weight almost, as if you have to be complete in yourself, complete enough to bring more life into the world. I’m definitely not there yet and some nights I wonder if I will ever be, you know, that whole.

Reina: To quote Britney: “You will find it out, don’t worry.” We’ll just figure it out our own way.

Gauraa: Britney was just girlishly articulate enough to surmise womanhood. She knew just what to say.

Reina: God bless Britney Spears. She’s truly sent from above.

“Do Somethin'”  

Profound Genius annotation: Britney is in a rockstar mood right now: Essentially meaning that she’s going wild and doing whatever she wants ignoring other people’s judgments of her for her free spirit attitude.

Best Lyric: “Somebody give me my truck/ So I can ride on the clouds”

Gauraa: This song has arguably some of the worst lyrics ever written. Who the hell was behind “Somebody give me my truck/ So I can ride on the clouds”? More Swedes, of course.

Reina: Worth mentioning her pink Hummer in the music video. And the follow up line, “Somebody pass my guitar/ So I can look like a star / And spend this cash like…” Didn’t she have to convince her label to let her make a video for this song and release it as a single? To date, I’m not sure if that was the wisest decision, but we’re now blessed with this gem of a video and this perfect specimen of a so-bad-it’s-good song.

Gauraa: Which girl in her right mind wouldn’t convince her label to let her make a video wherein she can drive a pink Hummer in the sky? This video was as if Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was hijacked by Dolly Parton. Still my favorite part of the song.

Reina: She’s such a national treasure. We love you Britney.

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Reina and Gauraa did not expect for it to be such an emotional Friday night. They insist they need to be alone now. You can find them here next Friday, getting emotional over Motion City Soundtrack’s Even If It Kills Me.

June 24, 2016

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