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Britney Spears (#110 of 21)

Britney Spears and Tinashe Channel Eyes Wide Shut in “Slumber Party” Music Video

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Britney Spears and Tinashe Channel Eyes Wide Shut in “Slumber Party” Music Video
Britney Spears and Tinashe Channel Eyes Wide Shut in “Slumber Party” Music Video

The music video for Britney Spears’s “Slumber Party,” a standout track from the singer’s recent Glory, starts off promisingly enough. A vintage car rolls up to a mansion, and Britney, looking fresh, strides up to the front door. Inside she discovers a sleepover-themed masquerade party, with guests dressed in their slinkiest nighttime attire, and locks eyes with a stud in a tuxedo and what appears to be a David Bowie bolt tattoo.

The 15 Best Britney Spears Singles

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The 15 Best Britney Spears Singles

RCA

The 15 Best Britney Spears Singles

Britney Spears rode the late-’90s teen-pop wave to superstardom, setting records and defying the odds by making the transition from child celebrity to bona-fide pop star to gay icon—all in the first 10 years of her career. She kicked off her second decade, which came on the heels of a very public personal and professional near-implosion, with a string of smash singles that rivaled her initial run of iconic hits. The singer’s 2013 album, Britney Jean, was met with a lukewarm reception from critics and audiences, but even if her ninth album, Glory, out this Friday, fails to reignite the charts, she’s already cemented her status as America’s premier pop princess. To prove it, we’ve compiled a list of Britney’s 15 best singles.

Through the Years: Madonna’s "Like a Virgin" at 30

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Through the Years: Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” at 30
Through the Years: Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” at 30

Confession: I’ve never cared much for “Like a Virgin.” Madonna’s 1984 single may be the first, if not the, signature song of her career, but it’s a trifle—a novelty, really—with its plucky, noncommittal guitar licks, sub-“Billie Jean” bassline, and the singer’s helium squeak of a voice. That last, integral element in particular has always irked me, as, from “Express Yourself” to “Don’t Tell Me,” Madonna has proven she’s capable of some deep, soulful performances. Of course, the vocals on “Like a Virgin” were allegedly employed by design, sped up to render Madonna’s voice more childlike and “virginal.” (It’s a trick she’s lamentably reprised on some of her more recent recordings.) I’m in fairly good company, however, since both producer Nile Rodgers and Madonna herself aren’t particularly fond of “Like a Virgin” either, and she’s chosen to completely reinvent the song in masterful ways nearly every time she’s performed it. Madonna infamously unveiled “Like a Virgin” to the world 30 years ago this Sunday, at the inaugural MTV Video Music Awards. To commemorate this milestone, we’re taking a look back at three decades of a song Madonna has mercifully, perpetually made shiny and new by sheer force of will and ingenuity.

Jennifer Lawrence: On Female Spontaneous Combustion

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Jennifer Lawrence: On Female Spontaneous Combustion
Jennifer Lawrence: On Female Spontaneous Combustion

The image of women spontaneously combusting while doing housework was one of the most popular tropes of filmmaking more than a century ago. In a widely viewed early film from 1903, Mary Jane’s Mishap, a British housemaid accidentally immolates herself while attempting to light a hearth fire with paraffin and subsequently explodes out of the chimney. It was, of course, not uncommon for 19th-century women to catch fire in their own homes when their bulky hoop skirts would graze against an errant spark from the fireplace. Women spontaneously combusting in their own homes was a frequent hazard of the time that journalists then tastefully referred to as “crinoline conflagrations.”

Comical media images of women exploding provided outlets for spectators to laugh off the hazardous politics of everyday domesticity. While many aspects of the relationship between gender politics and media culture have changed since the early 1900s, we still harbor an unconscious tendency to laugh at otherwise horrific images of violence inflicted on women’s bodies. Fortunately, 21st-century domesticity isn’t quite so fraught with the perils of instantaneous conflagration. Yet, the image of women catching fire—quite simply as a metaphor for women’s ambitions to be visible at all—continues to spark our cultural imagination.

And perhaps no other movie star walks this fine line between media visibility and human calamity as deftly as Jennifer Lawrence. There’s something oddly literalistic about the actress’s star appeal. From her “electricity” with Bradley Cooper, to her near-fatal calamity with a 1970s microwave in American Hustle, to her iconic portrayal of “The Girl on Fire” in The Hunger Games trilogy, Lawrence draws on a long tradition of female combustion in cinema.

Music Video: Britney Spears, “Perfume”

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Music Video: Britney Spears, “Perfume”
Music Video: Britney Spears, “Perfume”

I still maintain that the lyrics to Britney Spears’s new single seem to liken the singer to an animal marking her territory with liquid waste, but there’s no doubting that “Perfume” certainly achieves its objective, lingering long after its gone. Brit’s vocals leave much to be desired (she sounds like a cat mewing when she drawls the word “threeeee”), but the hook, in all likelihood attributable to co-writer Sia, is an unqualified earworm. And the understated music video, directed by Joseph Kahn and featuring prominent product placement of Britney’s “Fantasy” fragrance (natch), successfully shows a more mature side of the pop star. One nagging question remains though: What did she slip her two-timing, rippling-abbed beau so he wouldn’t wake up while she lies in bed beside him belting out the song’s chorus? Watch the video below:

Single Review: Britney Spears, “Perfume”

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Single Review: Britney Spears, “Perfume”
Single Review: Britney Spears, “Perfume”

A bona fide brand, Britney Jean Spears has released 13 different fragrances in the last nine years, reportedly raking in $1.5 billion internationally, so an attempt at some cross-promotional synchronicity was, perhaps, inevitable. “Perfume” is the second single from Spears’s eighth studio album, Britney Jean, following the disappointing “Work Bitch.” Co-written by Spears and the usually reliable Sia and co-produced by will.i.am, the song is a midtempo ballad that likens perfume to urine: “I put on my perfume/Yeah, I want it all over you/I’m gonna mark my territory,” Spear sings, her occasionally pitchy vocals veering close to parody. It’s a ballsy choice for a single, given that the pop star hasn’t scored a hit with a non-dance track since her first fragrance, “Curious,” hit the market back in 2004 (and, it should be noted, the success of that song, “Everytime,” was largely due to its club mixes), to say nothing of the fact that “Perfume” equates lingering fragrances to territorial pissings and effectively reveals Brit to be a water sports enthusiast.

Review: Mr. Burns at Playwrights Horizons

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Review: <em>Mr. Burns</em> at Playwrights Horizons
Review: <em>Mr. Burns</em> at Playwrights Horizons

D’oh! Mr. Burns is an audacious ode to all things Homeric. What initially seems an obsessive-compulsive mash note to The Simpsons becomes a brain-teasing deconstruction of pop culture, theater, and ultimately nothing less than the storytelling instinct itself. A mashup of the trivial and the epic, the satirical and the tragic, Anne Washburn’s “post-electric play” makes for a bravura exercise in post-apocalyptic post-postmodernism.

The play’s three scenes take us from the near future to the next century, where a sung-thru adaptation of the animated sitcom, performed here in masks, harkens all the way back to Greek tragedy. This loop-de-looping cavalcade of narrative tropes couldn’t feel more up-to-the-cultural-minute.

Just before curtain time, my friend and I sat quibbling over Breaking Bad. He listed plot holes in the final episodes. I thought about never talking to him again. Then the play started, with a small group of people around 30 years old trying to recall every beat of a Simpsons episode—the punchlines, the exact notes of the score—while sitting around a campfire, the proverbial first performance venue.