Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Britney's Videography: '...Baby One More Time'

As a child of the TRL Generation, Britney Spears has become a very important figure in my life. Her meteoric rise to fame happened concurrently with my initial immersion in pop culture and the two have become inexplicably intertwined ever since. When, during a particularly strange time in my life, I swore off pop music, Britney also took a break from recording to get married and start a family. After I started college and began openly loving pop music again, she came back in a big way, although not necessarily in a positive way. Ever since the week where her vagina was photographed on three separate occasions, I knew there was no leaving her again. Thankfully, she followed through on my commitment with Blackout and Circus, two of her strongest albums. A couple of months ago, I decided to re-listen to her old albums, some for the first time in many, many years. And, unsurprisingly, I have become obsessed once again with Ms. Spears So now the time has come to pay tribute to our original Pop Princess, but how do I go about this? I tossed a couple of ideas around in my head, but I ultimately decided to go through her music videos one by one and discuss her evolution as a pop star. I figured this was an appropriate way to honor her since she is as much of a visual artist as she is a musical one. She's given us many timeless music video moments that will live on in infamy for many years to come. Britney is a true one-of-a-kind artist, and I'm honored to do my part in honoring her importance in pop culture.

Britney Spears '...Baby One More Time' # # # # #
The video that started it all. From the moment that infamous three-note riff blasts over the soundtrack and Britney appears in that Catholic schoolgirl uniform, in all of her Lolita glory, this woman had us under her spell indefinitely. In terms of concept, the '...Baby One More Time' is not exactly groundbreaking in any discernible way: she does some (admittedly fantastic) dancing on three different set pieces inside a high school. Where the genius lies is in the way the video immediately cues us into the complicated persona Britney is trying to establish. The Catholic schoolgirl fantasy has been widely known as a popular sex fantasy, particularly for older men. So when 17 year old Britney Spears comes sauntering down the hallway with her shirt rolled up and tied in front to reveal her stomach while sporting infantile pigtails with fuzzy pink hair ties, she is blatantly selling this schoolgirl as a sexual image. She almost seems to taunt us with her sexuality, presenting this untouchable young woman who knows she drives the (older) boys crazy but also realizes they can't do anything about it. But it's not as if Britney is exactly blatant about her sexuality either. This is not the same Britney who would later on where nothing but a suit of well-placed diamonds in the 'Toxic' video. There is nothing outright inappropriate about her clothing in the video. Besides her Catholic schoolgirl uniform, she wears what amounts to a sports bra and workout pants; not exactly school appropriate but nothing exactly "slutty" either. Where her sexuality lies is in the juxtaposition between her doe-eyed innocence and her jailbaitiness, and that's what most people had a problem with. '...Baby One More Time' simultaneously introduced a brand new pop star, flaunted her unique brand of sexuality upon the world and started a controversy over Britney's identity that lasts to this day. How many music videos can admit to doing all that in a short 3.5 minute span?