Saturday, October 11, 2008

Britney's "Womanizer" Draws On Past To Build A Future

On October 10th, fallen pop-star Britney Spears premiered her brand new music video for “Womanizer,” the lead single from her upcoming “comeback” album, “Circus.” In recent years, the focus on Britney in the mainstream media has completely changed from her music to her embarrassing personal life. Her most recent album did not sell a fraction as well as her previous records, and her career was cited by many to be officially over. Rather than giving up though, Britney is back and on a mission to regain her queen of pop title and position on top of the charts. Her way of doing that is by taking all the things that made her famous throughout the years and combining them all into one stellar music video.


One of the first things a viewer might think after seeing the “Womanizer” music video for the first time is how similar it is to the video for “Toxic,” one of Britney’s biggest songs to date. In both videos, Britney puts on multiple personas and disguises to fool men into getting what she wants, which in both cases is revenge. The nearly identical plotlines collide when dissected. In “Toxic,” she dresses up in an array of costumes and wigs to make her way through and find the toxic poison to punish the man who has been cheating on her. In “Womanizer,” she plays the same character dressing up in various disguises to catch her lover in the act of cheating. She follows him around and tempts him to see how he reacts to other women, and in the end makes him pay for his wrong doing.


Besides the fact that both videos were directed by the same person, yet another similarity between them are the costumes and the various characters Britney plays. In both videos, she shows changes in character by different outfits and hair colors. She goes from the sexy blonde to the vengeful redhead to the mischievous brunette. In “Toxic,” she is completely naked, covered up by strategically placed diamonds, whereas in “Womanizer” she sheds all of her clothes where it is the deliberate placement of her fingers that prevents the revealing of too much. Also alike is her role as a transportation officer, where in one video she is dressed as a flight attendant and the other she is dressed as a limousine driver. By emulating her massive hit, Britney is hoping to recreate the success she once had. It is a stabilizing function to remind her fans and a new generation of pop music listeners that she is a professional performer. It brings clarity to her image as an artist and sex icon, as opposed to her recent tabloid princess status.


The main factor in Britney’s initial claim to fame was not her talent, but rather her sex symbol image. For years, Britney would send shocks through the airwaves with her controversial performances and suggestive attire. Whether it was in a music video that featured her in nothing more than underwear dripping in sweat or a completely topless photo shoot (with her hands carefully placed so nothing was actually showing), Britney’s usage of her own body always kept her in the headlines and at the top of her game. When she lost her sex appeal, however, she lost her high status and her career went downhill from there.


Seeing this downward spiral as a result of letting her body go, Britney knew that the only way to be successful again was to regain her sexy image. The “Womanizer” video intelligently plays on this concept by showcasing her newly toned body and solidifies her as a sex symbol all over again. As sad, corrupt, and anti-feminist as it may seem, nobody wants to see a fat, bald Britney – instead they want slim, sexy, seductive Britney, and the only way for her to be successful is to be that image of every man’s fantasy again. Via sensual body maneuvers and revealing outfits, she uses this video as an outlet to take the already “known to make headlines” tactics from her past, and apply them into making a future.


Britney achieves this goal through her provocative choreography and scantily clad to little costuming. The video opens with shots of her in a sauna, completely naked lying down on a bench. She is glazed in sweat and suggestively rubs her hands all over her body as she begins to sing. Her knees are perched up in the air as she begins to move them closer to her and then stretch them out. The lighting perfectly hits them so that they look like they belong to the flawlessly sculptured body of a Greek goddess. Britney then slowly sways her hips back and forth in a seductive manner that immediately captivates and sucks in her audience. She then thrusts upwards while the camera zooms in on her face, which is being lightly traced by her fingers as her arms are crossed over her breasts. Britney is later seen again in the sauna but this time sitting up, with one arm covering her breasts as the other one rests on her leg, with her hand falling in between her legs in a very sexually evocative manner. Her long hair drapes her back as she flips it over her shoulder and turns around to stare enticingly into the camera.


The “in your face” sexuality of the video continues in an office scene, in which Britney is dressed in sexy work attire. The first shot of her in this outfit is seen as she bends over to drink from a water fountain, with the camera focusing in as her mouth slowly opens to let in the drink and her vibrant red lipstick gets wet. Her low cut top and skin tight leather mini skirt accentuate the idea of the working man’s sexy secretary fantasy. A group of men cat calls her in a degrading manner and crowds around her as she pushes them all aside to get to her lover. When she gets to him, she pushes him down into his seat and proceeds to push all of his supplies off his desk, arch her back on top of it before ultimately kicking him away to leave room for a dance break. Britney bends her knees as she straddles the man in the chair and gets inches away from him. Her teasing choreography is seen a few frames later when the man outstretches his arms from his chair to grab her buttocks (which is bent in front of him), but she grabs his hands before they touch her and throw them away. Similarly, Britney teases her audience by making them think she’s going to go all the way with the sexuality of the video, but instead leaves them hungry and wanting to come back for more. This is both an intelligent marketing strategy as well as a behavior she used in previous videos (such as “I’m A Slave 4 U”) to get people to keep tuning in.


In another scene, Britney is shown as a blazing sexual vixen with red hair in a cut off leather cat suit with her breasts practically pouring out of her top. Her outfit looks like the grown up version of her infamous “Oops! I Did It Again” video red rubber costume. She pulls her lover from the table with his tie, suggesting some sort of aggressive sexual activity, but then proceeds to dance in front of him singing about his degrading womanizing ways. The next shot finds her in a kitchen as she throws her man on top of the counter and mounts him before thrusting back forth and gyrating to the beat of the song. She flips her hair as she lightly picks up a maraschino cherry and plops into her open mouth. Britney pulls out just the stem, which she tied in a knot using her tongue. She places it into the man’s mouth suggesting he too does something to it with his tongue, making them indirectly sexually connected before the actual deed of intercourse occurs. Again, the theme of teasing is seen as the camera then goes to the next shot and the audience can only assume what happened on that table.


After a quick few shots of Britney the limo driver playing seductress in the backseat as her stiletto controls the wheel of the car, we see her back in her apartment in her lingerie. With an open robe that ends only inches past her waist revealing her sexy black bra, Britney for the first time is seen in a sexual light in her own element. She’s no longer playing a character, which is made clear when all the other video personas she portrayed stand behind her before they vanish and only plain Britney is left. It momentarily takes you back to the “Born To Make You Happy” video, where she was in her pajamas in her own room waiting for her boyfriend to call. Enter “Womanizer” ten years later, and she’s waiting for her lover to come home, only to throw him on the bed as if to fornicate, but instead begins to kick him and holds him back as he tries to run away.


The final shot of the video shows Britney symbolically making her bed even though her lover is in it. When she tucks in the sheets, however, he is no longer there. It answers the questions of what exactly Britney is going to do about her cheating lover and provides both her and the audience closure. This message of female empowerment (that staying with someone who cheats is not a healthy decision) solidifies Britney’s original image as someone girls looked up to. Back at the peek of her fame, legions of young girls idolized her and worshiped her every move. Britney memorabilia was scattered across every other bedroom in the country. When she lost her high status, she lost the reasons people had of looking up to her. Now, she gets to take the sexy factor and reapply it to her career, as well as be able to send her fans a message through the art she performs.


When you get used to something it is hard to say goodbye to it. There once was a time where Britney Spears ruled the pop music world. Then out of the blue she went from superstar to super-joke. In an attempt to regain the title she once had, she used essences of old performances to recreate the image of her past. There is nothing that she performed in her new music video that she has not already done in some way or another, but by resorting back to what she knows will culturally put her back at the forefront of her game, she intelligently mapped out a successful comeback strategy. Given the amazing response and #1 chart status of both her new single and video, Britney Spears is living proof that the further you fall, the higher you rise.


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by.Alex.Nagorski.

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