Minor Thoughts from me to you

The anatomy of Britney Spears' P.R. problem

I know this entry's headline doesn't look promising, but stick with me. This is interesting.

In a column for FOX News' occasionally shameless entertainment section, Roger Friedman underscores the true challenge Britney Spears is currently facing in trying to save her career.

Summarily, Britney Spears has a new album out now, called "Gimme More", and she needs to promote it - 'cause those albums, y'know, they don't sell themselves. Since Britney long ago styled herself as a sex bomb, of course, promoting her new CD means doing her thing - making totally obscene music videos, holding totally obscene personal appearances, singing at totally obscene concerts, etc.

The problem with such promotional gimmicks, however, is that Britney Spears, who has just lost custody of her two small children due to her "glamorous" lifestyle, would look even less fit to be a mother if she engaged in them. And it doesn't matter whether Spears cares if she ever sees the children again. The public does. Almost nobody minds watching her play the part of America's Favorite Whore at her own expense, but even her die-hard fans will think her callous if she gives up the role of mother to her boys to do it.

Some fans, indeed, have already abandoned her; the administrator of her biggest fan site, the monolithic WorldofBritney.com,put in his resignation almost a year ago.

So has her latest manager.

But it gets worse. Suppose that she does become a role model of a mother. She would still be stuck between a rock and a hard place. That's because Motherhood is simply not, at least in the world of entertainment, considered sexy. Stories about how Spears can writhe well on a concert stage but always makes sure she's home to read at bedtime - those are stories swallowed up by the audience of Reader's Digest, not Rolling Stone.

What's a pop star to do?

It's not like her new album isn't going to sell, and at numbers many musicians will only ever dream about; it's already iTunes' most downloaded song and #3 on Billboard's Hot 100. But if the album fails to achieve the sort of marketplace dominance expected of a pro like Spears, the result could be her banishment to the mid-level range of musician, from which it is historically nearly impossible to immediately return.

Perhaps that shouldn't be looked upon as a badge of shame; I can't think of any musicians offhand who have kept the spotlight on themselves for too long, anyway. Invariably, they all fade into the background, remaining big names with tons of fans that don't buy tons of records. I know I'm not searching for Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell V: Straddling the Border of Hell" or whatever he's doing now.

Still: one could reasonably object that Britney has been here before. Her third album didn't do very well, but her fourth brought her back to the charts. A good album (that is, what her fans would consider a good album) and buzz covers a multitude of sins. This album won't do well - but it may not end the Spears Saga, either.

Back to important political questions with Joe.

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