Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Behind the hoopla: How to make Britney relevant again

If I remember sales figures correctly from some time back (and can extrapolate reasonably since then), the top three female singers in the US according to cumulative album sales are probably Mariah Carey, Madonna and Britney Spears - in that order.

Mariah, for some reason, I've never warmed up to although I hugely enjoyed her loopy turn in Glitter and the subsequent burn down that preceded it because of the comical way in which it became a circus. Madonna these days vacillates so much between nutty and creepy that I can't be bothered to engage. That leaves Britney Spears, who has been such a train wreck lately that its hard not to root for her.

Plus she tends to produce something special every now and then. I confess I now find the song that started it all Hit Me Baby One More Time a bit annoying. But I loved the high-school rave vibe of Crazy and I still believe that Toxic was the best new millennium James Bond song that never made it into an installment of the franchise.

Take her new single - Womanizer - off the upcoming Circus album. Its got a smart Brit-pop hook that deftly exploits highly processed vocals and a strident industrial-techno-pop vibe. And the soft core girl gone wild imagery in the vid! Mind Rush could do a Ph.D. analyzing it. But more importantly, Britney seems to be trying really hard.

Through a series of new media initiatives, she's reaching out to her audience by reaching past the media. She's now got a blog-style web site - BritneySpears.com, a social network for her album called Circus VIP (built on the Ning platform), a YouTube channel called BritneyTV and a presence on Twitter by the name of therealbritney. (For those of you who are not familiar with twitter, this video is a great introduction to the service)

In other words, she's trying and you know the effort is genuine - if only just tied to her new release - because non-trivial sums of money are involved. It takes a substantial team of new media savvy people to track, develop, generate and tweak the updates on all sites simultaneously. They all need to get paid, it comes from Britney's royalties for the music, she makes $1.60 off a typical $15.99 CD - do the math and you'll get my point. And its paying off - Womanizer is Britney's second number one Hot 100 single.

Can Britney stay relevant on this promising new career course? Only time will tell. But apart from the usual "Pick your men wisely" advice (which really is nonsense because your choices are too ingrained to just intellectualize around), I would like to suggest this hatke course.

Reach out to India. Its easy and will pay big. How so? Let me explain.

All Britney has to do is visit India on a media junket. Visit a few temples even (this but basically in the desh). Bonus points for wearing a tilak. Easy, yes?

We all know how desi people love firangs fussing over India. In return, Britney will instantly be elevated to goddess status. People will start loving her music. Her new album will be greeted with puja and tika when it drops on December 2. Sawan Kumar Tak and Subhash Ghai will get into a cat fight over who should cast her first in a film. Bappi Lahiri will announce an album with her. Asif Zardari will plan his first official trip to India. Britney will now have access to a market of billions.

And let me also tell you that celebrities die slowly back home. If you don't believe me just get a hold of ten random desis at a party and ask them who their favorite rock star is. And if you don't hear "Michael Jackson" eight times out of ten, I'll be a monkey's uncle. The point is: embrace India and it will continue to embrace you long after your creative well has dried up.

Now, just how serious is Britney about this celebrity rehabilitation?

Britney's new web site
Womanizer Lyrics
Britney on Facebook
Britney on myspace
Britney's CircusVIP site
therealbritney on Twitter
Britney's YouTube Channel
Hey, Remember when Britney shaved her head?

11 comments:

j said...

lol, that Michael Jackson bit is so true.

I wonder who Bappi would then call the Britney Spears of India ;)

I like Britney. For some reason I have a soft spot for people who media dumps on. Perhaps MindRush can explain why I do it.

Pitu said...

Hehehe... Sawan Kumar Tak shd make a movie called Britney Ki Souten (co-starring Brit with Jamie Lynn) and Bappida shd give the music. Songs like 'You are my American chicken wings'...

She is such a trashy dumbass female though, I can't be bothered to root for poor lil rich girls like her. Ugh. Those eejit Spears and Lohan families are screwed up :-X

Deep said...

all this web stuff makes my head spin. but i gave that song a listen and i loved it. its very punchy.

Aspi said...

I think I started feeling really sorry for Brit around the time her last bad boy toy spilled the beans about her to the tabloids.

Note: In Womanizer, she looks strikingly like her sister. Shudder!

Lin said...

Hey, you know the Taal se Taal remix, where they go "like that"

Who came out with it first? Britney or the people behind Taal (could be AR Rehman, but he's not a lyricist, so)

(Yes, I know. It would obviously be used in Taal because of it's significance in American pop culture)

But...

I know the movie came out in 1999, and I'm pretty sure Britney's "Hit me baby one more time" came out in late 98.

But was "her like" that in that album, or in her second or third album.

My mind tells me it was in one of her later songs, where she looks into the camera and smirks "like that."

Or was "like that" used in some earlier song way before Britney and Taal.

Basically, if I could remember which song she says "like that," this mystery would be solved.

Aspi said...

Let me peruse the Britney catalog to see if I can help :)

Mind Rush said...

Driftji, tempting me, eh? OK, I bite the bait....

Loved the Womanizer single because of the fodder it provides for analysis.

Britney is the Madonna of Gen Y. Madonna exploited her body in front of the camera and Britney has put her psyche in full public view. We feel we know her intimately, head shaving and all. (BTW She could shave head in India again!)

Her pornographic images in the video are juxtaposed against the power suited. The message being that women should be both--in the service of men. And men can reduce them to sex objects if women seem too dominating.

Aspi said...

Mind Rush, terrific. But I thought what was neat about Womanizer was that Brit doesn't come across as the requisite pissed off chick (compare this with Carrie Underwood's treatment of a womanizer in this video).

Its a playful vid - although I could have done without the nudeness-as-ultimately-vulnerable metaphor.

Pitu said...

wot is worse is nudeness-as-i'm-so-cool-and-powerful-goddess-like
a la Alanis Morisette in that horrid 'Thank You' vid. Ugh. So pretentious :-p

Chris Higgins said...

Yeah... Indian nightclubs still regularly play Bryan Adams songs in the middle of an otherwise bollywood set.

Aspi said...

Not to mention how Foreigner is still the greatest ballad rock band ever!