Her lips moved, but no sound came out.
And I’m not talking about the lip-synching.
The real let down of Britney Spears’ MTV VMA award performance wasn’t the lacklustre performance, fumbling dance moves or dodgy underwear, it was that the star didn’t have anything to say to us about where she had been or where she was going:
Ever since Britney turned barm pot and razored off her trademark blond locks, the world has been salivating at the prospect of her comeback.
What would Brit, the subject of miles of column inches during her marriage, pregnancy, divorce, freak-out, break-down and rehab stint, have to say to the world upon her triumphant return?
Choosing the VMAs to launch her new single ‘Gimme More’ was a smart move. The 2001 VMAs were the scene of her iconic python clad performance of ‘Slave 4 U’ , as well as her Sapphic kiss with Madonna in 2003. Playing on these kind of historical associations is what pop-culture savvy stars do best.
I wanted to see her either reclaiming her teen-pop crown, with fierce dancing, fireworks and acrobatics, or, even better, I wanted to see her break with her past by tearing off a Barbie-blonde wig to reveal a cutting edge cropped hair style.
You can’t return from the public drama she has been embroiled in as if nothing has happened. She needed to reference it in some way, either in anger or wry amusement. To try and slip back into the popworld tent and carry on as normal is to treat her audience like fools.
But then, given her general ineptitude at handling her media profile over the past year we shouldn’t be surprised.
Fellow genital-flasher Paris Hilton may not be a genius, but she knows the power of a strategically placed self-help book and copious amounts of tweed when one has just been sentenced to a stay in the Big House. Britney, by contrast has used maxi-packs of Cheetos and Marlboro Lights as her main accessories in recent months.
Britney clearly fails to understand what veterans like Madonna know by instinct: that when everything you do, say and wear is under constant scrutiny, that these things can become loaded with power and significance. You can harness this power to send out your chosen message to the world.
When Madonna bellowed ‘motherfucker’ live on British TV at the 2001 Turner Prize award she was declaring that she was a radical, taboo-busting artist, just like the young prize nominees. Whether it was true or not didn’t matter, the message was sent out loud and clear.
If Britney is going to save her career she needs to learn this lesson fast, or at the very least employ a manager who already knows their stuff.
Any other suggestions on how she should move on from here? Or any examples of other stars using their media smarts to escape career oblivion?