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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Guilty pleasure

Even though I am an old man with eight - yes, I counted - gray hairs, from time to time I still like my MTV.

Usually it's for that 10 minutes or so in a day that the channel plays music videos. But tonight I got my fix through the annual Video Music Awards show, broadcast live from the Palms Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas.

What can I tell you? A good vid reminds me of the good old days - the late '80s and early '90s when I wore a flat-top box hair cut and thought my Nissan Hardbody pick-up truck w/the deep dish chrome rims and bass tube behind the seats was the coolest vehicle on the road. That was when videos celebrated success a little more than excess. Those were the days when Red Hot Chili Peppers was the name of a band and not a tabloid headline the day after some singer got caught with his pants down. Those were the days when rockers had big hair and tried to look androgynous because it was cool, not to make a political statement. You knew in those days that rockers partied hard but performed just as hard to earn their keep. And rappers either rhymed about parties and cute girls or scary stuff. And you knew if a rapper rhymed about scary stuff he had either lived it or was offering a cautionary tale. Rockers weren't afraid to sing ballads. An you could play a rock record backwards and you might actually hear something wonky. You could tell country tunes from rock tunes. And if you played a country record backwards, all you got was your wife and your job back, your car started running again, and your favorite hunting dog came back to life. And even if you liked a cup of substance in your pop tunes, when no one was looking you could even bob your head and snap your fingers to a bubble gum beat or a silly lyric and justify doing so by telling yourself "Hey, it's catchy!"

But the funny thing about pop music is it grows up fast. It's like children. One day your kid is wearing Underoos (Do they still make those?). The next he's going commando or she's trying to sneak a thong by you.

And this leads me to Britney Spears. I can't lie. Like a lot of other folks, I'm sure, the main reason I tuned in tonight was to see how she performed.

When it was over, I wanted to laugh, especially after comedienne Sarah Silverman's snarky monologue. But I couldn't.

The performance was slow, the dance moves unsure, the lip-syncing a half second off pace. I'm no music critic. But I can tell you about popular culture. And from what I saw, the biggest problem with Britney's performance wasn't that she lip-synced or danced badly. It was that bubble gum pop, while no more substantive than its ever been, has grown up a little more since the last time Britney released new music. Didn't think it was possible, but in the four years since Britney smooched Madonna on stage at the 2003 VMAs, her genre of music really has passed her by. She's stuck on naughty schoolgirl. The music is somewhere around naughty college girl now.

I feel for Britney a little. Sure she's reportedly still worth more than $75 million, even after divorce settlements. And sure she's mother to two boys who haven't been dropped on their heads in public.

But to paraphrase and "enhance" Sarah Silverman, Britney's only 25 year's old. And, unless she goes to college, starts some religious or charitable ministry, becomes president of the P.T.A., or becomes a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, she has already done every notable thing that she will ever do. Still, I suppose counting/spending tens of millions the rest of your life isn't the worst way to fade from the public eye.

In the meantime, tonight, I'm gonna log into my Web tunes account, watch some old videos, and reminisce about why in the world I ever thought "fresh" was a good way to describe anything "cool."

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6 Comments:

  • That post was fresh and fly, James.

    Word!

    By Blogger Kevin, at 3:08 AM  

  • I'm not a Britney fan but something in me wants her to be OK, to come back, to be a success again in some way; and yet I just watched her VMA performance on Youtube and...um...I just hope she watches it and can at least appreciate how awful her performance truly was.

    I could be wrong, but it looked to me that she was lacking self-confidence, which could be for any number of reasons at this point--it just reminded me of a rookie performer not really sure what to do up there in front of all those people. And that's certainly not the Britney who smooched Madonna.

    I do hope she can pull herself together on a personal level for her kids--all the fame/music/pop star stuff would hopefully follow, but if not, well maybe she'll head to college or start going on missions to underdeveloped nations after all.

    By Blogger sognatrice, at 5:44 AM  

  • "she has already done every notable thing that she will ever do."

    Yeah, that's what some said about Madonna when she was 25.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 9:24 PM  

  • I'm not a Britney fan, but I do feel sorry for her.

    She either a) has Bad advisers b)has a pushy manager and record contract or c)is really stupid. She needs to grow up.

    By Anonymous Karmyn R, at 1:38 PM  

  • I can't stand Britney, or any of the other tartlets in her genre. Really, they could all be dropped off on LOST island never to be heard from again and I probably wouldn't notice.

    With that said, you know you're old when you don't even realize that the VMAs are on because you're too wrapped up in a documentary on Discovery Channel {sigh}.

    By Blogger Balou, at 4:38 PM  

  • Maaan, this post was dope!
    L

    By Blogger Lola Gets, at 12:24 PM  

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