Love Actually is often hailed as the preeminent rom-com of our era. So why hasn't there been a sequel? It might look a little disjointed, but it could work, no? Real fans won't mind that Alan Rickman became a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher and Andrew Lincoln became a postapocalyptic anti-zombie sheriff. True love lasts forever.
Imagine you are gathered around the table with your whole family at Thanksgiving. In front of you is a beautiful turkey, perfectly dressed, golden brown with crispy skin. It smells delicious, and everyone is excited as you cut into it with a large knife. Yet as you slice in, instead of perfectly moist turkey meat there is a snap as sawdust explodes out of the bird. That's when you collectively realize it was never a real bird to begin with. It was a prop all along, glazed with paint and scented with perfume. Britney Spears fans were expecting a feast for Thanksgiving, and what we got is well, a turkey, hollow and full of pulverized wood stuffing. Bathed in the watery gravy of contractual obligation, Britney's eighth album, allegedly the last required by her original contract with Jive Records (now RCA), sets up her Las Vegas residency but does little else. Save a couple tracks, Britney Jean (officially releasing Tuesday, but now streaming on iTunes) doesn't push pop music forward the way we've become accustomed to Britney albums doing. Nor does it fulfill the campaign promise of being "Britney's most personal album to date." It feels more like a potluck where nobody remembered to bring an entrée. So instead there are dibs and dabs, odds and ends, interesting ideas that go nowhere and bad ideas that are so crappy they're almost amazing.
After a big rollout by her publicity team, Britney Spears's most recent single, "Work Bitch," stalled on the charts and never even made it into the pop heroes' circle currently monopolized by the likes of Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. It was a big disappointment for fans anticipating her upcoming album, Britney Jean, as well as a reminder that no artist is indestructible, particularly in the fickle youth-centric landscape of pop music. "Work Bitch" sounded a little tired, even through Britney seemed more focused than she has in years. The music video was hyped up and hoped to help sales, but even Britney using her famously damaged knees in the choreography didn't help the song make much headway toward becoming no. 1. Then Britney let it slip during a radio interview that she hadn't so much chosen the video's sexy dominatrix theme as she had been pushed into it, and that she had asked for several edits to tone down the raunchiness.
Britney's "I'm a mom" rhetoric didn't sit well with everyone, but she's our Britney, and it's her choice. And unlike other pop stars (cough cough, Katy), Britney wasn't so much commenting on the sex-saturated state of the industry as just making a plea for herself. She doesn't want to wear the latex leotards anymore, so why make her? Just because fans want Spears to emulate the look she established as a teenager doesn't mean she has to. Maybe she's tired of being compared to her sexually precocious underage self and being accused of coming up short. With her Vegas residency starting soon and 31 years under her belt, Brit Brit should be able to coast on nostalgia and her catalogue of platinum hits without also needing to strip every night to make the audience sure that her abs are still high-def.
Love "Thriller" but get too spooked by the Vincent Price intro that haunted your childhood nightmares? Try this new one, with Britney Spears doing a different accent and affectation — including some embarrassing duds — for each line. She also tells us "It's Britney, witch" and does some prop work that rivals the chair dancing from "Stronger." It's deeply weird, but also fun to see Britney just being goofy.
You remember our friend Nicole Polizzi, right? It's been awhile, I know. A lot has changed, for better and for worse. Her son, Lorenzo, turned 1 this summer. She has lost weight. She still has a show on MTV, but nobody really cares. The boardwalk where we used to watch her and her roommates cavort in the salty summer night air of Seaside Heights, New Jersey, is no more. Snooki literally can't go home again.
And yet, out of the ashes of poufs past, a new Snooki has arisen. The young mother has herself been reborn — and like all the most important physical and spiritual awakenings, it is thanks to the power of dance. I assure you that even if you have been watching this season of Dancing With the Stars, you are not prepared for this. You may not even recognize her — a lot has changed. Not just Snooki, either — we've all changed. But that's our girl up there, working it out with uncanny flair and ease, as if she's recalling a muscle memory from a past life (or maybe just Club Karma three years ago), eyes on the future, ready for whatever it may bring. Go call the po-lice. Snooki just murdered the dance floor.
Drake was going to bring auto-tuned messiah Future on the "Would You Like a Tour?" tour, everything was looking great, and then Drake found out that Future — like lots of us — wasn't crazy about Nothing Was the Same, Drizzy's third straight LP of rap-singing about social media. (The moneyquotes, from Billboard writer Erika Ramirez, who spent time with Future: "Drake made an album that is full of hits but it doesn't grab you. They're not possessive; they don't make you feel the way I do ... I've been on the songs of all these rappers that put out an album, and my music is still better.") Now Future is suing Drake for $1.5 million in lost wages. This is regrettably distracting Drake from recording the next verse for the Great Kendrick Beef of 2013.
Any video that opens with "time to fuck with some customers" is good in my book. While this one's built in the mold of candid-camera shows designed explicitly to freak people out, something about it going down in a New York coffee shop, skewering even the most jaded espresso-swilling souls in the process, elates me. I like how the one woman takes out her smartphone after the dude gets slammed against the wall, but once tables start flying, she's outta there. And then the thing ends with #flexlikecarrie. I mean, just, no critique. A-frigging-plus. Viral marketing that sends people screaming into the streets and spending the rest of their lives telling friends about the haunted girl in the haunted coffee shop in the West Village is everything I'm about.
When I was a kid, we'd spend large chunks of summer vacation at my grandparents' house, where we'd do exactly what we would have done if we were home: watch insane amounts of MTV. As long as we rocked some Gone With the Wind or Sound of Music every once in a while, they were cool with it. Sometimes, my grandpa would even sit in, and that would always end up the same way: him throwing up his hands, unable to make heads nor tails of this manic image stream. It's not that the music videos, for the most part, looked odd or schizophrenic or indecipherable; it's that they didn't look like anything. And every once in a while, I try to remember that: that I didn't, as a child, just naturally accept that billions of jump-cuts a minute was a normal way of doing things; that it's actually taken decades of conditioning to make anything short of Battling Seizure Robots look downright plodding.
Which brings us to Britney's new video, for her new ode-to-the-Protestant-work-ethic jam. As Molly Lambert explained, this new promo campaign is coming along with a "press push that Britney will be dancing again at full capacity." So how's she look in motion here? Um, fine?
It's officially October, the United States government is currently shut down, and Miley Cyrus just put out an above-average pop album — three realities no one wants to hear, but that we all have to accept as fact.
I can't explain where September went. As for the government shutdown, I could explain it, but it would just be a string of expletives followed by the calling out of congressmen à la Kendrick's "Control" verse.
Miley, however, is something we can, and should, talk about. At semi-length. And now that the stream for her new album, Bangerz, is available on iTunes, the discussion can take place without all the nonsense. Nothing about her VMA performance. Or her interviews. Or her outfits. Or her friends. Or her haircuts. Or the fact that she's the first woman to bend over and wiggle while looking back at it. None of it.
That #hannahmontanaisdead flow from Mike WiLL Made It's "23” rampages all over "SMS (Bangerz)" — the closest thing to a title track from Miley Cyrus's imminent album, Bangerz — and it's aided and abetted by one Britney J. Spears. With the leak swamp-monster audio quality (linked here if the video goes dead), it's tough discerning when we're hearing Britney, bitch versus Miley, bitch, but whatevs: It's as catchy and partyable as everything we've heard from Miley WiLL Twerkedit this year.
You might have read about the iHeartRadio Music Festival about a billion times over the weekend, prompting you to ask, "What the hell is the iHeartRadio Music Festival, or for that matter iHeartRadio, and why should I care?" The answers are: (a) an annual gigantic multi-day concert that takes place in Las Vegas and features headlining pop acts; (b) a Clear Channel Internet radio station/app that aggregates streaming radio from thousands of stations worldwide; and (c) there is really no reason that you should, but in its three years of existence it has become basically unavoidable because Clear Channel Inc. is a huge monster that owns everything in the universe.
The name iHeartRadio (a spin-off of iHeartMusic) is actually pretty horrible, because Clear Channel is the exemplary evil behemoth that ruined radio as a free-form art medium and turned it into the crappy payola-based system it is today. Since Clear Channel destroyed radio's character, individualism, and quality, we instead get giant corporate music festivals like this one, hosted by the giant corporation named Ryan Seacrest. Last year's festival became notorious after Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong broke down onstage in a drunken rant after mistakenly believing his time had been cut short. Armstrong peppered his stage banter with bons mots like "I'm not fucking Justin Bieber, you motherfuckers!," his bandmates smashed their instruments, and Armstrong checked into rehab immediately. That was by far the most interesting and spontaneous thing to happen all night, raising hopes that this year's festival might be more than the usual parade of super-well-paid headlining acts paying homage to the gods of Clear Channel.
No such luck. Anyway, this year at the iHeartMoney iMeanMusic Festival, the headliners were Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, and Miley Cyrus. Henceforth, the relative highlights.
Billie Joe Armstrong has been very busy since he completed treatment for substance abuse early last year: Green Day resumed its touring schedule, there are two Green Day documentaries in the works, and oh yeah, Armstrong just signed on to play Leighton Meester's boyfriend in the "indie drama" (with an indie drama title) Like Sunday, Like Rain. Adam Sandler has an upcoming indie drama too, The Cobbler, but in the battle of sixth-grade school dance chart hits, "Hanukkah Song" stands no chance against anything from the Armstrong catalog. So, moving right along: Armstrong is 41 and Meester is 27, but no one curr in the comments on Deadline's exclusive, because "OMIGOD BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG. OMIGOD. *BREATHE* DIES."
Fox's Comedy Tuesdays are back this week with some new, bro-ier blood, but we decide to take stock of its rhymes-with-Asmorkable flagship show, New Girl, as it enters its third season. This leads us to a discussion of the Friends sitcom model, the appeal of Zooey Deschanel, and whether or not babies are the death of comedy. We then turn to Britney Spears, her new Euro-clubby single "Werk Bitch," and her disastrous Good Morning America appearance. Nobody puts Britney on a helicopter! We take a moment to roll our eyes at Cher body-slamming Miley Cyrus, then finally turn our attention to Heroes of Cosplay, Syfy's reality show about people who dress up as fictional characters for fame and glory. We'll admit, this was mostly an excuse to talk about how awesome we think cosplay is, but we've never passed out at an anime convention because of a overzealously adjusted steampunk corset, so maybe we have it easy.
Perhaps taking a cue from Miley Cyrus channeling the Prodigy's Keith Flint at the VMAs, the new Britney Spears single, "Work Bitch," has Britney chanting motivational commands at you like a demented spin class instructor in a faux-British accent. It has given me the urge to hear Britney cover "Firestarter" so we can hear her yell "I'm the bitch you hated, filth infatuated" in her Limey stage voice. While "Work Bitch" pays lyrical homage to the "big beat" genre, it's more of a standard modern EDM track than any kind of purposeful throwback. We'll just have to keep waiting for Britney the junglist. "Work Bitch" sounds similar to current club music tracks, specifically Swedish House Mafia's "Greyhound." The arpeggiated acid house melody circles around Britney's vocally frayed assurance that "You better work, bitch" if you're trying to "party in France."