Have you noticed how Britney Spears keeps sinking lower into the barrel of sexual shock tactics? Is this evidence of "maturation"... or just record-label cold sweats?
After all, Britney's first two albums sold 22 million copies, but her third album in 2001 sold only four million. That's still a massive number, but also a massive decline. All three singles from that CD failed to crack the Top 20. What to do about the drop? Ramp up the smut factor for the next one.
On Nov. 18, the fourth Britney Spears album, "In The Zone," hit stores, but not before a massive marketing blitz, including an ABC News celebrity interview with Diane Sawyer and a one-hour Monday night ABC special promising "the sensual seductress, the enchanting mystery." Truth is, there's nothing mysterious with this person, or her plan. She's just another singer selling sex.
There she was in her ABC special (at 8 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. Central), selling a song called "Breathe On Me," taking her own shirt off to reveal a red-spangled bra, then taking a male dancer's shirt off. They writhed in unison around a chaise. Then she danced suggestively with two black female dancers taking their shirts off, and then they laid on top of her on the chaise.
Welcome to ABC's family hour.
Britney is also trying to sell units with the song "Touch of My Hand," an ode to masturbation. She imparted her wisdom to Diane Sawyer: "I can relate to that song. And like, we all can -- you'd be lying if you said you couldn't." (But not if you're 10 and idolize Britney Spears.) Then she lamely continued: "I mean, it's not something you openly talk about with a lot of people, it's something sacred; and it's something I wanted to write about, so." Even Diane winced: "Sacred?" Britney started to struggle: "No, the song, 'Touch of My Hand,' talking about indulging in yourself." Diane again: "And that's sacred?" Britney's brain, like, collapsed: "It is sacred to me, but in a way, explaining, um, OK, I'm confusing myself right now."
Stupid Spears is so confused that she told a BBC interviewer that parents have nothing to worry about in her sexual writhing on television, her topless cover for Rolling Stone, her bottomless cover for Esquire. She's still a role model!
She told the BBC, "I've just recently done some covers that are a little bit explicit and sexy. And a lot of people do think this is very over-explicit, but that's their opinion. … And in the end they (parents) shouldn't be concerned because they should trust their kids and believe in their kids." In case you still don't think she's confused, she also said Madonna "is my godmother in a way."
But wait, the pop world can get nastier. One week before Britney's disc hit the Wal-Marts and the Targets, the pop star Pink declared a little war with her third album, "Try This." On her last go-round, Pink (formerly known as Alecia Moore) scored several hits by singing sensitive songs about family dysfunction and self-loathing, including "Don't Let Me Get Me," which had her singing about how tired she was of being compared to Britney: "She's so pretty. That just ain't me."
But rock critic Sean Daly saw the new Pink effort as ear-blistering competition for Spears. Pink is "much more intriguing," he wrote, since she had been "smoking, drinking, engaging in same-sex liplocks for the tabloids -- long before Brit snogged Madonna on MTV." In her competition with Britney, Daly reported Pink "comes on like a fighter jet in thigh-highs, dropping jarring F-bombs all over the 13 tracks and machine-gun-delivering a between-the-sheets play-by-play that would make (thoroughly filthy) Lil' Kim blush." In case the lyrics weren't shocking enough, Pink recently appeared on an MTV Europe awards show in a full devil jumpsuit, complete with red horns and a pointy tail.
Buying the Pink CD, which does have a Parental Advisory label, provides a load of shock value, both in the packaging (sleazy pictures in the liner notes) and the music. Daly professed the track "Oh My God," a "decidedly unreligious" duet with the raunchy female rapper Peaches, "gets top honors as the nastiest, filthiest, wash-your-mouth-out-with-soapiest track ... for further lyrics, read Hustler magazine."
These women are not sympathetic figures or role models. They're parental nightmares, goads to little girls to dress up like street-walkers and dance like strippers, and to behave like rich white trash. Parents need to find their music-starved young daughters some better singing role models.