What Britney means

What?! The manufactured queen of manufactured pop has kicked off a residency in the manufactured fantasia of Las Vegas? Whoa, it's getting all kinds of meta up in here. But before Britney Spears' new gig, "Piece of Me," has even had its proper launch (Jan. 29 at Planet Hollywood), popcult commentators are already huffing brainily about What Britney Means. In one corner, we've got Daniel D'Addario at Salon. He wonders whether the Coming of Britney is less that stereotypical story about Vegas being the go-to site for the slow euthanization of an entertainment career, and more about -- da dum! -- contemporary capitalist child mind-slavery!

One doesn’t want to be a concern-troll when it comes to Spears. But the signals she has consistently sent, from her infamously uncomfortable meet-and-greets on her last tour to her recent interviews, up to and including the wistful “I Am Britney Jean,” indicate a person who’s being kept in the spotlight against her will.

But over at The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky rises to Britney's defense -- as both a woman in possession of her own mind and prospects, and as a committed entertainer, a serious professional dedicated to craft and career, in the storied vein of just-keep-going rockers like ... The Rolling Stones? Okay! Why, to think otherwise implies a sexist double standard!

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There's nothing odd, in other words, about what Spears is doing—but there is something odd about the fact that D'Addario thinks it’s odd, or believes she needs help because her show isn't that urgently popular. No one wants to save Keith Richards from making a fool of himself by running through the same hollow motions over and over again four decades on. But folks believe in Richards's authenticity or genius; he's keeping the faith, not just grubbing for money or being somehow forced by his audience and celebrity to keep going.

Whether she's a pop robotrix stuck on perma-play or just a hard-working, unpretentious entertainer grunting in the trenches against the dying of the light, it's making rich fodder for pop commentators. But perhaps one of the most interesting pieces of commentary shows up in the comments section (!) of The Atlantic piece. A commenter identified as "dtechba" writes:

Vegas shows are great for performers who are parents. I am sure there is still a lot of work to putting on a Vegas show but the performer will still get mega more time home with their kids than they would on the road. Last I heard Brittany has young kids so it is great for her and them to try to get some semblence of a normal life. Also, as long as it isn't immoral or illegal what do I care how someone earns their living?

Britney as unwitting champion of Las Vegas as a city where stable and rewarding work contribute to familial harmony? We'll take it!

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