Sometimes I run, sometimes I hide…
I just want to get this straight: I am not a fan of Britney Spears. Her cheerful, airheaded, teeny-bopper music is about as far as you can get from the Rancid, Rage Against The Machine, and Nine Inch Nails that are usually spinning in my CD player. Yet, somehow when given the choice of discs to review, I actually volunteered to take it on. Call it the first suicidal instinct in my life.
It's not the sort of thing I lay awake pondering, but I've often wondered how people like Britney Spears become stars. Most of the time my answer involves under-the-table dealings with Satan or sleeping with record label execs (pretty much the same thing in my book). In her case, I think it can be best summed up in the words of the Violent Femmes: "It ain't her hair, her clothes, her feet / Somethin' much more discreet." If you know the song title, or at least get my drift, that will make a lot more sense…
Time Out With Britney Spears was in no way produced for guys looking to ogle her most obvious assets. This disc is strictly for the 14-and-under female crowd, obvious from the moment you open the packaging. The packaging (a slim cardboard-and-plastic folder the same size as a keepcase) is bright pink and adorned with flowers. The main menu greets you with similar flowers and hip pastels, and full-motion clips from her videos. From the menus, it is easy to access the information you want to view. For those unfamiliar with DVDs, there's even a help menu that will guide the uninitiated through using their remote control and navigating the menus.
The disc contains interviews with the MTV darling herself, behind-the-scenes footage from studio recordings and video shoots, three videos, an excerpt from a Disney Channel concert broadcast, a trivia game, a twenty-picture photo gallery, and a text-based biography (that's the same as the one on her website…what can I say? I do my research). Most of the content can be accessed separately, or through the "Play All" selection from the main menu.
The Play All section is broken into four chapters. The first is mostly Britney discussing her hard, Dickensian life and her interest in show business. The next section is entitled "Recording My First Album." Here, Britney talks about her musical influences: Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Alice Cooper. Her Swedish producer, Max Martin, also speaks briefly, but he either sounds unsure of his English skills or stoned out of his gourd. This is the deepest and most philosophical of her comments: "Making my first record is great, yeah, it's a lot of fun, and umm…and people really don't realize what, you know, works goes into it." Like I said, it's like, you know, Dickensian and stuff.
After the abounding insights, we move on to the meatiest section: making the music videos. Three music videos are shown in their entirety: "Baby One More Time," "Sometimes," and "Crazy." Interspersed between the videos is some footage of their production. For "Crazy," excerpts are shown from the MTV "Making The Video" episode that covered the making of that particular video. I've actually seen that documentary (if you can call anything on MTV a documentary), and it would have been nice if they had included the entire half-hour episode on the disc. Of all the episodes in that series, it best detailed all the work that goes into making a large-scale music video. And finally, Miss Spears provides elucidating comments on touring: "Being on the road, um…I get up around twelve, and then, um, sometimes we drive, like, three hours to the um, you know, where the show is, or like, sometimes it's ten minutes away." This segment includes the Disney Channel concert footage. Her minions pull some poor little six-year-old kid on stage, and Britney croons to him as he looks confused, trapped, and afraid.
If that hour-worth of Britney-licious fun wasn't enough, you also get a free set of steak knives! Just kidding. After the main four chapters, we are treated to another fifteen-minute behind-the-scenes look. Funny, it must have been made for the attention-deficit teenyboppers, because at least 75 percent of the footage is identical to the stuff in the main "documentary." Then, the videos repeat, and then the Disney Channel concert. Of course, you can also select all of those things from the main menu as well.
The video transfer is pretty clean. Only occasional NTSC shimmering is visible. Everything certainly looked better than if it was on MTV on my analog cable. Most segments feature dual audio: stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1. The videos are the only segments that there's much of a difference between the tracks. As you would expect, the music certainly sounds better on the 5.1 track, though the best word I can find to describe the mix is gimmicky. Sound effects and vocals sweep around the room in a manner than I found weird and disorienting, but I'm sure it would sound great at a party. The subwoofer is worked almost constantly with the thumping, canned beats. While not the kind of music I enjoy (I made sure the volume was low enough that those in neighboring apartments didn't know I was listening to Britney Spears), it sounds first-rate.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Ten years ago, Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson were at the top of the charts. Today, they're fodder for VH1 "Where Are They Now?" segments. Pop music needs new acts like a vampire needs fresh blood. When the corpse is dry, it's thrown away. In the music biz, when you're fifteen minutes of fame are up, the execs tell you to leave and please don't let the door hit you in the butt on your way out. Will anyone remember Britney Spears in ten years? Straight up now tell me, do you really want to love me forever?
If you're fourteen or under, or have a relative who is, this might make a good purchase. For around $18 online, it won't take away much money from your lip gloss fund either.
For corrupting the minds of America's youth…oh heck, let the kids have their bubblegum music. Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Jive Records
• Three Music Videos
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