Hotter than the Remix

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‘Bout time I did Britney.

Look at Britney. Older, wiser. But still totally bangin’. She didn’t write this song. But that’s, actually, just another part of the construction. They practically trumpet from the rooftops the team that wrote it, including Kesha, the consummate party animal. The idea being that Britney might otherwise have never come up with something like this.

Pop music’s always been a construction, though it’s rarely this blatant, billing the name of the director of the music video right in the beginning. There is just no other way that music appealing to such a broad of a group of people could be created. It has to cut through racial, class, language, age, cultural barriers, even within its own country, its own direct audience.

One person, even a band, can’t keep track of all that. Not even Britney. Especially not Britney. Britney’s the icon. Religion hasn’t evolved much since the Greeks, our gods are people. The Greek pantheon was the creation of scores of poets who all contributed a bit to the myth and legend. And when somebody in ancient Greece displayed exceptional talents, he was elevated by these poets to the status of demi-gods. They were the original pop stars.

Britney’s immensely talented, sure. And she’s more than capable of writing her own music. It’s just that her real job is to act as the mirror for society. A mirror that shows us a cleaner, more attractive version of ourselves. Constructing that mirror takes an army.

She didn’t accept this role, this burden, because of all the money that’s involved, or all the fame. She could have done what scads of pop stars did before her after they fell out of the sky. Faded into the background, do things smarter, smooth it all out. Produce other artists, get huge behind the scenes. Become mortal again.

She had that choice. She didn’t do it because this is who she is. She must have had that moment, with all of her advisers around her telling her she should sit back, take a breather, let other girls take the torch, where she said, “no, I want to keep doing this.” And realize what a difficult task it will be, rebuilding her image after her very public fall from grace.

How did she do it? She evolved. Look at all her earlier music, whoring herself out. “Hit me baby”? “You’re toxic”? Britney always gave it away. Not anymore. With Femme Fatale, Britney finally knows what she’s worth. She’s “hotter than the remix.”

Pop stars trade in sex. Even when it’s not about sex, it’s still about sex. They can’t avoid it. We humans can’t stop thinking about it, so our idols, our mirrors, have to reflect it. The best the stars and myth-makers can do is channel it. She ain’t no spring chicken anymore, and she knows it. So she projects a different kind of sexy.

I’ve talked about the aspirational themes to pop. This song is no different. There’s two main lessons to this video. The first has to do with calamity. The world is ending, but everybody’s dancing and being sexy. “Keep on dancing til the world ends.” It’s a metaphor that applies not just to the masses, but also to her own life.

It’s a scary time. The media loves doom and gloom, and our politicians and capital holders are doing their damndest best to help it along. Pop needs to keep the masses placated and purchasing, its job is to make even the worst look good. It might be the end of the world, but look at all these sexy people.

That’s the main lesson. Relax, take it day by day. The second lesson, of course, has to do with sex. Britney’s telling you how to get with her. And since she’s a mirror, to all the women who aspire to be her. It’s a well-worn trope that those at the top are lonely. It’s the truth, even for pop stars. It’s also typically true for those women who are star-like.

Stars evoke powerful reactions from people. Their very persona has been crafted around attracting attention, and these things get in the way of the ordinary courtship rituals. They’re glittery, glamorous, and everything they do is scrutinized. It’s the same for women who are star-like, but aren’t on screen. Ask the most beautiful woman you know how many times guys have fallen hard in love with them with just so much as a look.

So they have to make do with endless one night stands, or they get in codependent relationships where they’re often mistreated.

Britney offers clues on how to go about getting the attention of a star, and to get them to focus that bright light on you. First off, “spit it out.” A star knows intimately what the effects of just a slightest bit of their attention will cause, because they’ve spent a long time honing that skill. If you think she might be interested, she probably is. She knows exactly what she’s doing, she planted that idea in your head. “I notice that you got it, you notice that I want it.”

If you want it, you have to speak up. Britney is no Lady Gaga, she’s no Kesha. You’re not going to get her drunk, and she’s not going to approach you. (an interviewer for Lady Gaga saw her ask a guy with serious intention if he was straight. He wasn’t, and boy did she look bummed.)

You have to be at the top of your game. Create some magic. It’s not really that hard, you just have to be different. Remember, it’s lonely at the top. Get her believing in you and she’ll take it from there. You know she can “take it to the next level.” Stars live in a different world. You don’t need to be rich, she’s already rich, and the girls she’s mirroring are also similarly rich, though not necessarily in cash money.

So just get her looking at you. By enticing her to focus her intense
light on you, you get briefly elevated to god-hood. Like going out
with the hottest girl in school. Now you get invited to all the hip
parties, you can play on that larger stage. That’s what girls like
that offer.

And who wouldn’t want a night of passion with a modern demigod? 

Related posts:

  1. Born Which Way?
  2. Consequences? Bring ‘em on!
  3. Promiscuous Boy, Get to the Point
  4. WSJ to Women: Only Have Sex With Winners
  5. Heart in a Headlock

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21 Responses to Hotter than the Remix

  1. Windhoff says:

    I’m not sure I agree with you on this one:
    She must have had that moment, with all of her advisers around her telling her she should sit back, take a breather, let other girls take the torch, where she said, “no, I want to keep doing this.”

    I think it might be the other way around, with people around her telling her to make another album, go on tour, do videos, make more money. Looking at the few interviews she’s done since her very public head-shaving break down, I get the feeling Britney would be more than happy to never sing, dance, or go on tour again and stay home with her sons.

    Ever since this video was released last week there has been quite some speculation about whether or not she used a body-double for the dancing parts of the video. Because apparently she cannot dance the way she used to before her break down (I read somewhere it might be due to the medication she’s been on).

    She looks like a dear in the headlights. Not like a superstar who herself is very determined to make it back to the top. The new album is just an excuse for her management to send her on another tour so she can make some people a lot of money.

    • Napsterbater says:

      After you get huge, the need to have people around you that you can trust is that much greater. I don’t think that the people she listens to have anything other than her best interests in mind.

      The typical thing to do in this case is to fade away. Go behind the scenes. That she didn’t is remarkable. There are so many icons who just disappear afterwards.

      You can try to convince Britney to get out there and get back in the game, but ultimately it’s her decision. They can’t make her do another album, another tour.

      • Windhoff says:

        Sure, ultimately it is her decision, but who knows whether she feels like she has a choice? Especially someone like Britney who has been in the public eye from a very young age. She participated in talent shows when she was very young and was on a television show by the age of eleven. She didn’t choose this career, her parents did it for her. Just saying, read her Wikipedia page and tell me whether her biography reads like the story of a person who has ever had a real choice.

        You look at Britney and see a strong women who’s telling the world she wants this, that she is not going anywhere and will show the world she’s still got it. I want to see that, too.

        But I look at Britney and I feel sorry for her.

        Anyway, I do not know Britney personally (and I’m presuming you don’t either) so who knows who’s right. Probably we’re both wrong.

        • Napsterbater says:

          Stars in particular act as blank screens for us to project ourselves on to. It’s hard to appreciate how effective it is until you see this happening. The magic of the star is that he/she can create such intimate connections with people by doing little more than keeping a blank look on her face as they’re doing things up on screen.

          Watch the video again, and look closely at Britney’s face. Notice how blank it is. Once you’re looking at it, then the times where her face lights up and she smiles stick out like a sore thumb. Look hard at those closeups and try to figure out what emotion her face is conveying. Watch the beginning of the video, when she says “This kitten got…” She creates the effect of enticement with her hands holding her jacket closed, the walk, and the tilt of her head. The face itself is blank. No effort, no tensioning of facial muscles or anything. You can imagine anything in that face.

          That’s why you’re feeling sorry for her. Not because you’re seeing anything Britney’s doing, but because you imagined yourself in her position.

          The reason I’m saying what I’m saying is because I’ve studied fame and power and I live in Atlanta, around a lot of music industry types. I’ve taken dance classes like the ones pop stars take. I’ve had theater classes. It’s an industry you really have to experience before you can even begin to understand.

          • Windhoff says:

            I see what you are saying, but it’s just that I see something different. I see the blank face and I see the lack of emotions and I see a vessel. I think you’re massively overestimating Britney because I do not think she actually comes up with the concept of the video or conciously tries to put all of what you describe into a music video. I think her face is blank because she is dancing the way her choreographer showed her to, standing where the director told her to stand and sings the song her producer told her to sing.

            I’m sure you know much more about the music industry than I do as I live in Amsterdam and am only saying what I’m saying because I’ve been reading gossip websites for years.

        • AnonymousAtLarge says:

          This.

    • AnonymousAtLarge says:

      IK,R?

      Britney is so sad. She just wants to retire. She’s tired. She needs to take a bevy of psychotropics to avoid becoming manic and psychotic. She doesn’t like doing any of this, they make her do it because of contractual obligations combined with pressure.

      Let the poor girl be.

      The fact that the OP describes her as “old” when she’s only 29 says all that needs to be said about how much fun britney is having. As a rule of thumb, celebrities always look younger than their age. When celebrities look older, it indicates some kind of problem.

        • AnonymousAtLarge says:

          You were describing her as old by objective standards. “She’s not a spring chicken anymore”, what you might say about a woman into her 30s. Believe it or not, she is still a young woman. She only looks dead and wasted because of mania and weight problems and depakote.

          She is definitely old by pop standards, but she’s not making bubblegum pop anymore as that genre is pretty much dead right now. Only in bubblegum pop do you need to be <23 yrs old.
          electro pop ala lady gaga is what they're doing.

          Again, you described nelly as "young" when nelly is about 28 in that video and here you describe brit as "old" when she's the same age. I think this does more than prove that britney has a lot of problems and is so not having fun or wanting to do this. People having fun don't look much older than their real age.

          • Napsterbater says:

            I didn’t describe Nelly as young. I described the characters they were playing as young.

          • AnonymousAtLarge says:

            You are clearly backpeddaling.

            The point is that nelly looks young and britney looks old and tired. Even though britney looks old and tired you wrote a long blog entry about how much fun she is having and how sexy she is. Anyone with eyes can see britney just totally wants to quit show biz but contractual obligations combined with a long history of being conditioned to obey people make it impossible for her to quit. Its really sad.

          • Napsterbater says:

            You might look at this as an argument to be won or lost, but I don’t. I have no reason to hold on to my perspectives. I had a certain thing in mind when I wrote the Promiscuous article. I had another when I wrote this one. That’s all. I’m correcting you, not arguing with you.

            I don’t think Britney looks tired. I think she looks good. Sure, she partied maybe a bit too much and it shows a tiny bit. But so what? I like the way she looks. I like that she doesn’t look 16 any more. Really, she does look 29 to me. If I saw that face at a bar, I would think she’s 26-28. On the screen, she looks maybe 30. The reason there’s a difference between those two numbers is entirely due to the media messing with our heads. I think another reason she maybe seems older is because of the role she’s playing on stage. She’s directing the action. conducting. I don’t think it’s a role we’re used to seeing her in. She’s been the teen sweetheart too long. She started to grow up with In the Zone but now she’s a full on adult, playing grown-up games.

  2. AnonymousAtLarge says:

    Poor brit brit. Having children was the worst mistake. It took her body and it took her sanity. Brits grandmother had severe post partum mental issues – she killed herself.

    This video is just depressing. You can’t dance on depakote! She looks dead in the face and her body is so sub par by popstar standards. It’s hard to be emotionally excited and trim when you’re on psych meds I guess.
    Pre breakdown britney had energy, genuine emotion in her face, and she was not overweight. Post breakdown she looks medicated and sad and she can’t control her weight anymore. Damn dopamine blockade!

    I don’t agree with your assessment at all. She doesn’t love this at all, Britney seems pretty tragic, like she doesn’t even want to make music or be a performer anymore. It seems forced, like a really bad stripper. I have heard gossip that her record company has her forced to do a few more albums, and that is the *only* reason this monstrosity even exists.

    The reason britney does not amplify her sexiness as much as she did pre-depakote, it’s because she is not nearly as sexy as she was pre-depakote. Back in the slave 4 u video she had a hot little body and she could dance. She was having fun. She was young and mostly sane. Then came the manic/psychotic break, depakote, post partum depression… now her face is tired and her body is large and frumpy. She can barely move. She can barely smile. She’s a mentally ill mommy. How can a mentally ill mommy sing about being “toxic” and “a slave 4 u”?
    PS britney spears is only 29. She’s not older or a “MILF” like you seem to be suggesting. She is about the same age as nelly furtado was in that video (who you described as “young”). The fact that she looks about 10 years older than nelly furtado says all that needs to be said about britney spears.
    The fact that she seems so old when she is still relatively young only goes to show just how far she has fallen and how wasted by psych meds she is. Think about it. She looks and moves like a 30 something. She is only in her late 20s. She’s got a body like a 36 year old woman.
    If she could get her sanity back, and get off the psych meds, she could lose the weight and regain her energy and she would be pretty young and sexy again. But there is no sexiness in depakote bloat and a frozen parkinsonian haldol face. That is just not sexy. It’s sad.

    It’s pathetic how her record company makes her do this over and over again. You know she hates it. Just let her out of the contract already, jeez.

    You are 100% off the mark. Sorry.

    One piece of criticism. I tend to think you overemphasize sex in all of your analysis. Sex is absolutely a part of pop music but you almost equate pop music to pornography (as if sex was the POINT). You need to realize your world view is not universal. When I watch pop music I do not at all view it as being exclusively sexual, I see and get a lot more out of it than that. The sex is like the alcohol and the drugs – it is part of the scene, but not the point. The point of sex, as with drugs and alcohol, is to be young and have fun. I suppose for you it’s all about sex, but this is a view held almost exclusively by men, and only some men. Yet you write as if this were a universal thought process and it’s a little annoying.

    The diatribe about how to get a hot chick to have sex with you was oddly out of place, too, BTW.
    It’s like you became aroused watching the video, which lead to you thinking about hot girls and how to get them, and you wrote it all down and published it. It’s like you’re fantasizing and forcing us to read it like we are supposed to care, or like its insightful.

    • cat says:

      The fact that she seems so old when she is still relatively young only goes to show just how far she has fallen and how wasted by psych meds she is. Think about it. She looks and moves like a 30 something. She is only in her late 20s. She’s got a body like a 36 year old woman.

      Actually, this video is careful not to show Britney’s body very much. We see her head, and her torso is covered. Compare it with the video for Slave 4 U. In that video, Britney looks like she’s awake, alert, a part of what’s going on. In this one, not so much.

      This video is all about carrying on, about trying to party while everything crumbles and falls apart uncontrollably all around you. So maybe it’s about Britney.

    • Napsterbater says:

      A few points:
      1) Nobody’s making Britney do anything. You can’t force somebody to make music.
      2) You’re basing your entire assessment off of how the video makes you feel. When the entire point of pop music and culture in general is to get you to feel something.
      3) Pop music sells sex. There’s no denying that. I’m trying to explain how they do it, what the elements are. I’m sorry if that makes you feel uncomfortable, but sex isn’t going to disappear from the videos just because you want it to be about something else.

    • Napsterbater says:

      And even if you have a record contract, that doesn’t mean you have to make records. You can get a deal, make one album, and never make another one. They can’t make you. They’re just entitled to what you do make. All letting her out of her contract would accomplish is giving Britney the ability to go to another label.

  3. Comus says:

    I can’t help but feel utterly sad and empty, when viewing this video. It reminds me rather of Sisyphos, and the inherent absurdity of the myth. The other “artists” (using the word rather loosely here) of the britney-era have evolved, like Pink, from punk-poppers or whatnot-bass-spastics to a calmer, more conscious musicians. They have grown with their audience, while Britney appears to be lost in NeverNeverLand. Now this is rather interesting in it’s own right.

    Britney’s fans have not grown younger. Their idols have moved on, become mature, sensible even. Britney is there to live theisr fantasy of being 21 again. The same repetitive music with not much more merit (subjectic view), the same moves, hell, the prop acting as guys might even be the same. Britney is 2003 revisited. This is what you want from her. Not sex (it’s only a relic from previous fame), not even an ideal-self anymore, you just want things to be like they were. If Britney, after everything can regress back to the early naughties, so can you. Except you can’t, and neither can she. And that’s why the whole charade is so god-awful.

    She is you, clinging on to the past, living through the memories. I feel sorry for her. The shoe just doesn’t fit anymore, so she cuts off the toes and the heel and smiles in an antipsychotic-induced emptiness.

    Uncanny.

  4. michaelhockenhull says:

    Thank you for another interesting analysis of pop culture. They are very interesting looks at deconstructing the music videos. I am a bit sorry that you don’t use the term subtext again here (although it’s what you’re describing) – the concept seemed spot on and made your point more precise, in my opinion.

    Your analysis seems to boil down to two main points, hitting upon the a) cataclysmic events of the video and the b) aspirational/insider-guide role played by Britney.

    While I agree with those points, might I suggest some obvious themes that I think are worth recounting?

    1) The party is itself set in the sewer. This can be taken as an obvious reference to the id vs. the ego and the superego. Too reinforce this, look at the contrast between Britney, the dancers surrounding her and the mass of human bodies on the ground. This pile of humans is such an obvious sex-reference that it is too blatant not to notice. Contrast this with the dancing in the Nelly video analysed earlier. There the dancers were mimicking sex. In Britney’s video we get one step closer to just depicting sex.

    2) Following along this line, we can understand the heavens as the super-ego and the above-ground or skyscrapers as the ego. The ego flees into the id (removing the manholes and climbing down) as the super-ego covers up the sky and fllings fiery condemnation upon it. Specfically, the ego here is the skyscrapers. The super-ego lambasts the ego for some reason (the video doesn’t supply an explanation, which in itself is telling, i.e. “I/we don’t understand what we have done wrong/why I feel guilty”) and the ego flees into the id, hedonism, etc. Note also that Britney begins the video in the sewer, i.e. she is established as having a relationship to the (your) id.

    3) Finally, there is a rebirth at 2:35 with first the sunlight and then the water fountains (orgasm, which the coreography up till then has been moving towards). Finally, following the cleasing of the ego by the super-ego, Britney emerges into the new clean world.

    Note, by the way, that in the intermission between the sun and the water, we see the dj operating on a very high-tech instrument. Obviously: technology is in the hands of the id even as it has fled the ego. This suggests, like I proposed with regards to Britney, that technology is placed in a close relation to the id.

    • Napsterbater says:

      I like your thoughts, thanks!

      1) I don’t think this video gets closer to sex than Promiscuous. I think they found a cool effect, let’s call it heartbeat dancing, thought it looked good in the video, and used it as much as possible. The whole video is chock full of bodies and sex. You can’t just look at the spectacle, you also have to read into the underlying structure and message. Promiscuous had a build up, the sex wasn’t displayed graphically, but within the context of the song, and with the subtle effects of the singers’ voices getting huskier, the dancers slightly less flashy. On the other hand, in Britney’s video, the only structure to the song is; first they’re dancing in the dark, then they’re in the light.

      I think this ties into the calamitous aspect. The media dooms and glooms, we’re going to go through dark nights where there’s nothing you can do but dance, which will turn out not to be the end of the world. So just be happy you’re alive. They’re want the audience to accept less and less of the world and instead just dance.

      2) Sure, that could work. I’m not a trained psychologist, so I’m not able to read these patterns terribly well. I put the functional aspect into the Imogen video because the subject matter dealt directly with them.

      I don’t think “obviousness” has much meaning when it comes to pop music though. I didn’t use the word “subtext” but that doesn’t mean the subtext isn’t there. Like the previous commenter said, Britney fans aren’t getting any younger. I think the subtextual message is simply, “Girls, I’m still here, I’m doing just fine now and I’m not going away.” Subtext is interesting when you’re trying to hide it, but Britney doesn’t have to, and so it changes to a simple filter that changes the message based on how much you love her. People who aren’t Britney fans are going to read into the video fairly predictably, I was surprised that the first two commenters insisted that Britney was being forced into doing music videos again.

      Remember the building blocks of subtext. You have a message you want to deliver to your audience, that you can’t outright say. So you obscure it, delivering it in a way that makes it look like one thing for one group of people, and another to the rest.

      • michaelhockenhull says:

        I don’t doubt that they just decided that it the ‘heartbeat’ dancing looked good and ran with it. But it seems distinct enough to me from the other dancing in the video to mark it out. The sex is more blatant here than in the Promiscuous video and it makes sense: Nelly’s video was a depiction of a club scene, so the sex needed to be at least a little veiled. In Hotter than the Remix however, if the psychoanalytical angle has any merit (and I am most definitely not professional in that field either) then it vibes well that the dancing is very sexualized. And as too looking at the underlying structure, that was exactly what I thought I was doing. :-D

        I disagree that there is no structure beyond dark/light. First of all the above/below is another structure, secondly there is an intro piece, different kinds of dancing scenes (on the floor, Britney with the guys, Britney with other dancers). Either way, it’s a bit beside the point, your main point about Britney’s role stands and the cataclysm. I just wanted to add those extra psychoanalytical elements to them.

        With regards to the subtext, I merely meant to say that it provided a good concept and a thread one could follow throughout the essay. It just seems like a good tool to me.

        I do not think there is any one subtext here: There is one about Britney herself, but also one about the calamity, about sex and girls (shaping both male and female), etc. And saying that I guess we part company somewhat on what subtext means. Perhaps I misunderstood when you originally used it. Because I believe that sure, sometimes the artists will have subtexts that they want to broadcast, but a lot of the time it is subconscious, as is the case with the id-ego-super-ego analysis here.

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