Britney Spears "Toxic" # # # # #
The first half of the music video for "Toxic", far and away the most widely beloved Britney single of the past decade, suggests that we are in for Britney's finest music video since "Oops!". The nude diamond bodysuit was, rightly so, as instantly iconic as the Red Leather Jumpsuit from "Oops!", but I find all these years later to be more fascinated by the opening blue flight attendant outfit. Maybe it's because the sequence is so thrilling and so Britney, spilling a drink a man's lap and then sexily mopping the mess up with a napkin, seducing a passenger in the bathroom. She's clearly having fun, while remaining cognizant of the mysterious, almost dark nature of the video. I love the quick reactions, particularly the one after she puts the blanket over the child and kisses him on the top of the head, which show that Britney both understood what the video was going for and how to convey that within her persona. Even beyond Britney's persona, there's a clear directorial eye guiding this video along. When Britney sings, "I'm dangerous," seventy-five percent of her face is covered by shadows, suggesting the darkness that lurks underneath her sexy demeanor. The airplane sequence is so good you can almost forgive how erratic and misguided the second half is, which sees Britney donning a red wig, riding a motorcycle with Tyson Beckford and acting like a super spy of sorts. My main problem with these scenes is the awful, vomit-inducing special effects. I understand that they were going for a certain look, probably that of an over-the-top Japanese anime, but it simply doesn't work in this video. I don't mean to say that everything in the final half doesn't work--if anything, most of the footage here is fine in and of itself. But its lack of focus is really glaring after so much of the first half works well.