Voyou Désœuvré

Britney’s new song has been widely condemned as pure ideology; this piece in the Guardian is typical, arguing that the song reflects a contemporary, “religious” commitment to the value of work. That’s not what the song sounds like to me; it’s not so much capitalist ideology as capitalist id. While the official capitalist ethic proposes the necessity of hard work as the ground of equality, the capitalist id glories in the reality that you have to work while (indeed, because), capital doesn’t. Hence Britney’s imperious “work, bitch!” with the subtext that, work as hard as we like, we’ll never be as good as her; and doubtless we’ve all come to terms in our own way with the fact that we’re not Britney and never will be. But, if we follow the insight of the Neue Marx Lektüre that capital is the historical subject of capitalism, we might find in the id of this historical subject some useful indications of the mutations happening to the role of work in contemporary capitalism, and thereby come up with a more dialectical anti-work politics. Read more↴

 I’m not sure anyone would have predicted that pop’s it couple of the turn of the century would still be defining pop music ten years later, but it’s basically true: the template for the rave/R&B crossover sound of most pop today, in its dissociative or obliterative forms, was largely set by Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds and Britney’s Blackout respectively (though of course they’d been gestating in various regional hip-hops previously). I guess the contemporary equivalent of Britney and Justin would be Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber, although their relative fame is reversed: I like Selena Gomez, but she obviously doesn’t have the cultural significance of Britney, while Bieber is unchallenged in his teen heartthrob supremacy in a way JT never was (possible just due to lack of competition; what other pop teenage boys are there now, except for One Direction?). Neither of them has produced anything that is likely to define pop for the next decade, either, but on the strength of Bieber’s new album, it’s not impossible that one day he might. Read more↴

In which I round up unrelated thoughts about this year’s music

When “The Edge of Glory” came out, I described it as like Jason Nevins remixing Kelly Clarkson; should probably have clarified that this was intended as praise, an attempt to convey the splendid excessiveness of the song. Indeed, the song has become my favorite track of the year, and the more I listen to it the more it seems to be even more overstuffed than a Jason Nevins remix. Much the same could be said of Born This Way, and while the continuing parade of terrible lyrics, ridiculous outfits, and 13-minute videos got a bit wearing, I think it’s important to maintain fidelity to the Gaga event. Read more↴

These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market. (The Communist Manifesto)

Britney’s Femme Fatale is excellent, and unexpectedly so. It’s produced by Dr Luke, surely one of the most overexposed producers today, but, while it certainly uses plenty of Dr Luke’s current favorite tropes, it’s different in interesting ways from, as well as being much better than, the rest of his current product. Evidence of Dr Luke’s versatility? Or of Britney’s godlike genius, her mysterious ability to bring out the best in her collaborators, even when she doesn’t appear to have any obvious input through the rockist-approved methods of songwriting or production? Read more↴

Watch: Britney Spears - Circus

I like to imagine that Britney’s new video came about when Britney, in a room high up in Spears Towers, complained to her team: “Christina had an elephant in her video! I want an elephant. No, I want two elephants!” And so, they wheeled out the rather tired celebrity/circus analogy, in an attempt to justify the elephants (which, really, ought to be their own justification). The tired conceptual architecture is an example of the general blahness of the album identified by Steven Shaviro; Read more↴

The new Britney song’s not that great, but the video is really quite extraordinary. It appears to be some kind of schizo-masochistic delusion:

Watch: Britney Spears - Womanizer

I’m impressed that Britney’s recovery from tabloid madness simply involves the universalization of madness to her entire career. I guess it’s not actually surprising, but it’s nice to see it done so well.