Me and Britney Spears

I am always glad to receive intelligent and thoughtful criticism and comment from people who have visited the TC Site. However, I also get stuff like the following, which I reproduce exactly as received, though I feel I should really be cutting letters out of newspapers in order to put over the full effect:

Subject: tom jones

i? see you playing 
 shaking tat pooh 
dont touch me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!poof city
what courage what game your fans have
the IDEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
you can,t play jus WW2 YOU LOSTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!....

Answers on a postcard please, to the usual address. Put “What the hell is he talking about Competition” in the corner. I think he may be trying to be insulting, but the level of coherence there left too much to be desired. Mind you, even communications from my (slightly) less certifiable friends are not immune to containing the odd subtle innuendo:

Hi, Jim

So there I was in Hamley’s on Friday, and there she was in all her glory: the Britney Spears doll, in the schoolgirl fetish outfit, and the slogan “born to make you happy” proudly plastered on the cardboard case.

And I thought, exactly who is this aimed at?

Does he mean me? Even if my reputation exceeds me, I fear he does — and he’s not the only one, since I know someone else seriously toyed with the idea of buying me said doll for my birthday. There’s clearly something in the air — not that I’d have minded, since I quite like the idea of subverting the doll, by dressing it in PVC and piercing its most intimate regions (not the first time cheerful pop icons have suffered at my hands, but that’s a whole other editorial). Nor do I have any aversion to Ms. Spears, since she knocks the (short, white) socks off most of the rest of the current wave of barely legal pop-tarts. There’s probably not a heterosexual male around who will not be brought to a standstill by that video – which also happens to be one of the catchiest toons of the past few years. Plus you also have to admire anyone who can piss off The Guardian newspaper. The same source sent a follow-up message shortly after, which he found therein:

“Britney Spears is successful simply because she’s an attractive piece of ass. It’s as simple as that. She’s got the youth, the schoolgirl knickers, she’s a living fantasy – but, let’s face it, she’s got the personality of a log.”

It looks as if some journo has been so busy snorting coke with his pals down the Groucho, that he (or she — for this reeks of the sort of dreck Julie Burchill used to write) has lost track of the basic concept. Since when has being a music star required any kind of personality at all? It’s an irrelevance at best, and can be a dangerous distraction — this is perhaps why Ringo Starr is alive today, and John Lennon isn’t. Unless you confuse “personality” with taking copious volumes of drugs, and lobbing TVs out of hotel windows, you might as well criticise Britney because she’s no good at playing cricket.

The problem with pop stars who try to show depth, is that it often backfires horribly. Too often, all they do is latch onto some shallow social concern — I’m thinking Sting & Chumbawumba here — and look like prats or hypocrites, by dressing up as Amazonian Indians, or signing to the same multinational they railed against before they had any hits. It may provide a cheap laugh, but give me the cheerful (if paedophilic) blandness of Britney any day. The best pop music glories in shallowness, because to be popular, it has to pander to the lowest common denominator. Condemning its creators and practitioners for doing so, is really missing the entire point.