Britney Spears released her new album, “Femme Fatal,” this week and announced plans for a tour. The Canadian stops are July 1 in Vancouver, July 4 in Winnipeg, August 11 in Montreal and August 13 in Toronto.
Celebrity that is unaccompanied by talent -and that covers much of the present-day pop culture catalogue, from Snooki to Angelina Jolie -is generally reliant on several factors, among them timing, cleavage, outrageousness and the ability to reinvent oneself.
The first three, for instance, are the stuff of reality television, Kim Kardashian and Charlie Sheen, while the latter is the salvation of entertainers like Madonna, who without a clever wardrobe department, a graphic book called Sex and the forgiving nature of Auto-Tune might not now be enjoying the fame and fortune she does.
And so it is for Britney Spears, the Madonna of her generation and the most famous of the 1990s stable of Disney acolytes to have been launched into the unforgiving galaxy of superstardom only to watch their light fade into the black hole of obscurity.
The rise and fall of Britney Spears is a classic showbiz tale, that of a sweet 11-year-old Mouseketeer who transitioned to sexy schoolgirl, strutting and grinding in 1999's Baby One More Time and Oops, I Did It Again, and amassing millions of fans and dollars before collapsing into a Hollywood hot mess who is today given to making videos while pole-dancing in torn fishnets.
As celebrity meltdowns go, hers was spectacularly public: the doomed Justin Timberlake romance, the 55-hour Vegas union to a Louisiana pal, the second marriage to a backup dancer, the ugly divorce, the dating of a sleazy paparazzo, the shaved head, the car bashing by umbrella, the prime-time ambulance ride to the mental ward, the losing custody battle, the exile in the mansion.
There have been other celebrities sucked into the crippling vortex of too much fame and too little ability to handle it, stars like Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, John Belushi and Anna Nicole Smith and so many more, but there was something different about watching Spears's fall from grace, something both vulnerable and innocent, something sadly inevitable from the start.
And so, at the court's insistence, she has stayed mostly hidden behind the walls of her estate, with her young sons and former manager and current boyfriend Jason Trawick, all under the personal and financial conservatorship of her father Jamie.
And she has watched, from the sidelines, her 30th birthday on the horizon, as the new kids on the block moved in.
While Britney Spears sought permission to step out for her daily frappuccino, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and even Justin Bieber were burning up the charts, filling the void left by the pop princess, co-opting her fan base and her celebrity equity.
So when she launched comeback No. 3, as she did a week ago today with the release of her seventh album, Femme Fatale, there were questions.
Will this record put Spears back on top and keep her there? Will the curse lift and the superstar re-emerge? Does anyone care any more?
Femme Fatale follows the aptly named Blackout in 2007 and 2008's Circus, records which caused a stir for Spears but failed to restore her star status. And critics have been mostly unimpressed with the new record, review after review reminding fans that if Spears's talent wasn't in the singing but in the making us think she can, Femme Fatale is no longer about keeping up pretences.
Spears is lost on most of the tracks, her thin vocals overpowered by production and outside forces, an ironic parallel for an entertainer who displays a faux strength on stage but in reality seems a powerless little girl lost, by choice or fate.
As Spears preps for a summer tour (she's in Vancouver July 1), she is doing "interviews" by email and pre-taping "live" performances for Good Morning America, clearly so stage-managed that she has been stripped of the personality that once endeared her to fans.
The first single from the new Spears album is Hold It Against Me, and while her diehard fans don't -the album is charting toward No. 1-the wider pop culture universe will doubtless prove to be less forgiving.
This is, after all, the time of insatiable flashpoint diversion, and those who can't keep pace as the spectacle du jour are doomed to ignominy, their fame found at the bottom of the remainder bin as younger, flashier, cheekier upstarts move in on their territory.
Britney Spears has simply run out of time, her best-before date long past its palatability.
She could retire with her two young sons and her considerable achievements into wealthy obscurity and fond memory -she has sold 100 millions records around the world, banking a massive fortune that is bolstered by fragrance lines and other lucrative Britneybranded products.
But, as history attests, superstars whose light is dimming seldom fade with dignity into the good night. And that's a sad performance to watch.
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2000-2004 britney would so embarrassed of this current britney