Dear Diary

Hey, I've changed my mind again. If Britney wants to be David Lee Roth and wear butt-less pants, that's OK too.

May 13, 2000: Britney successfully hosts Saturday Night Live and participates in four sketches, all of 'em pretty good and totaling a whopping 18 minutes of camera time. Given her MMC training, it's no surprise she has plenty of TV presence—if she ever blows her voice out in Timbuktu, Sista B could pay the rent on a cheezy family sitcom (I actually watch, uh, King of Queens, so I know whereof I talk).

May 14, 2000: MTV Britney Live. I'm as suspicious as the next man when celebrities use their charm or personality to hawk the next day's product, but SNL combined with these two hours of live MTV has to be the most effective marketing blitz I've EVER seen for a pop/rock album. These two shows within 24 hours did more to get across a saleable personality than everything from the previous 18 months combined—that physical, goofy, loose-cannon Sagittarius personality (think a sober Jim Morrison) comes across clearly during the unscripted MTV show.

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Britney Spears
Oops! . . . I Did It Again
Jive
Buy    Listen

And, hey, I dig the trend of superstar acts performing live on the TRL/MTV studio bare stage. It's like seeing an arena act in your neighbor's garage. Brit and her band do really good all-live versions of "Drive Me Crazy" and "Oops"; they also torture us with the heinous Lange/Twain ballad "Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know," just like on SNL. But that's what volume controls and shotguns are for.

May 16, 2000: Finally! Today is Consumer Day! I fork over my $14.98 for the Oops! . . . I Did It Again CD, and since expectations aren't unrealistic (two or three or four good cuts are all that's expected/hoped for), I feel more like a "pop music" fan than anything else.

May 17, 2000: Britney album listening sequence: #1,2,3,4,10,7; OK: #6,8; AVOID AT ALL COSTS: #5,9,11,12 (hideous ballads). Cheiron Studios/Sweden tracks: #1,2,3,6,7,9,10; Max Martin songs: #1,2,7 (and the dire #9). Look-like-projected-singles sequence: #1,5,2,7 (three great songs + Lange/Twain ballad).

May 20, 2000: Happy news, the album's a whole notch better than anticipated—I'm getting genuine pleasure from six cuts (last year it took a non-album B side and the "Drive Me Crazy" MMartin single-remix to get Britney's passing grade to five). The cause-and-effect for improvement? Simple. Cheiron Studios' input has increased 40% this year, now up to seven tracks. Sweden's world teenpop domination continues, unchallenged by mere Americans or Brits.

"Stronger" jump-starts the set (following the title track opener) with a pounding stomp-beat similar to Backstreet's "Larger Than Life." The melody has some really unusual twists and turns, and the lyric is simple and effective inspirational bombast for all world citizens in breakup mode. But the album's mega-gonzo pop track definitely is "Lucky." Melody and string sounds right out of Ben E. King's "Stand by Me," over-the-top lyrics out of a '50s Hollywood B-movie treatment—wow, Shelley Fabares could've totally run with this one in 1962. It doesn't quite get there, but the song is almost cheezy-but-touching in the manner of Boston's two greatest Top 40 tunes, "A Man I'll Never Be" and "More Than a Feeling." I love it, I love it, I love it.

Did I mention, no surprise, that king-of-pop Max Martin is named as the writer, producer, and mixer of both of these tunes, plus "Oops"? (Actually, "Max Martin/Rami," to be correct.) Detective work reveals that Max is also the nerd voice on the spoken dialogue of "Oops." Backing vocals on my top three track picks ("Stronger," "Lucky," "Oops," not to mention a year ago" . . . Baby One More Time") are credited to Britney, Max Martin, and Nana Hedin. Could Nana be the Darlene Love—nameless voice heard and loved by millions—of the modern pop scene?

If "Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know" is a forthcoming single, though, remind me to kill myself. And Diane Warren's "When Your Eyes Say It" and Britney's "Dear Diary" are quarantined at the very end for good reason: They're worse than sleeping pills. But the album's r&b quota (read: musical credibility with the over-12 set) succeeds beyond expectations. "Don't Go Knockin' on My Door" is Cheiron/Sweden's version of a Destiny's Child or TLC smash, herky-jerky verse and harpsichord sounds and all.

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" is also pretty darn neat, as deconstruction jobs go. Britney claims credit for suggesting it, pushing for it, and recording it without any A&R approval or enthusiasm. (Has everybody forgotten that the venerable Otis Redding totally butchered the song? [#31 pop, 1966.] I mean, completely botched it. Unlistenable.)

June 4, 2000: May I make a suggestion so obvious that Dave Marsh, Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau, and a barrel of monkeys would never think of it? Britney is quite probably THE NEW CHER. A diva of marginal vocal talent, with a future movie or definitely TV career if/when she wants it.

Less than Madonna, but way more than Annette, our girl is certainly an icon of our time, deservedly omnipresent though hardly larger-than-life. I am so glad this is all settled—Backstreet are the Beatles, Britney is the Stones. Whether the eternally dopey 'N Sync can be shot to the moon is a matter for U.S. postal authorities to determine.

Still, let's keep everything in perspective: The new Hoku song is great!

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