QMI writers Liz Braun and Jim Slotek debate pop culture issues. This week: Is Britney Spears' move to Las Vegas good for her career?
LIZ BRAUN SAYS:
Reports of Britney Spears' career demise are a bit premature.
The pop goddess was bound to take some ribbing about playing Vegas, but naysayers have been mighty quick to report lip-synching rumours and slow ticket sales for her residency in the gambling mecca.
Both rumours are false.
An executive from Caesars Entertainment has said that interest remains high in Spears' upcoming Piece of Me shows, that ticket sales are brisk and that she will most certainly sing live in her shows.
According to entertainmentwise.com, a Caesar's honcho says of Spears, "She's in the physical shape and vocal shape to sing the entire show," and explains that the singer has been working out and rehearsing since negotiations began.
Despite Mr. Slotek's cruel assessment of what Spears can and cannot do (and his ageist and sexist appraisal of her appeal), Spears has not passed her sell-by date -- not by a long shot. She currently has a hit in Work B---h (although you may hear it as Work Work on pop radio), the first single from the new studio set due in early December. All indications are that her fans are ecstatic.
Spears has always had as big a female following as she has had male fans.
The schoolgirl outfits men found provocative were nonetheless empowering, something not lost on Spears' teenage female supporters. The 2009 BBC documentary, Britney Spears Saved My Life, investigated some of Spear's rabid fans and showed their absolute devotion to the pop princess.
Above all, her fans can identify with her and her very public problems. Starting with the Mickey Mouse club, Spears grew up in the public eye.
As The Daily Beast has pointed out, Spears was THE female pop icon when she came of age in the 1990s, and many of her fans have grown up with her. And they can relate to her well-publicized emotional and psychological struggles.
As far as the general public is concerned, Britney Spears has spent time in baby jail the past few years, raising her two sons. She was simultaneously sidelined with mental health issues, and it's a long road back.
But she's not going into Vegas as a retread nostalgia act. Between X Factor and her 2011 Femme Fatale tour, Spears has been present and accounted for.
Her current interviews (to promote Piece of Me) show a cooler, calmer, more focused Britney, and Vegas seems like a very good choice for her right now.
As she said herself, it allows her to dig in and make a second home of the city, rather than touring and sleeping in a different bed every night. Spears will play 48 shows a year at Planet Hollywood; the producers, according to TMZ, are looking for a hip, club-like show, as opposed to the usual Vegas spectacular created for an artist such as Celine Dion.
At any rate, the pop princess is a grown up now, and so are a lot of her fans. If there's a middle-of-the-roadness to the big names in Vegas -- Cher, Elton John, Shania Twain -- well, so be it.
Britney Spears is going to be just fine in Nevada.
As for the gig being some kind of career death -- if Elvis can play Vegas, so can Brit Brit.
JIM SLOTEK SAYS:
This has not been a good week for Britney Spears. Maybe she thought casino high-rollers would be ecstatic to hear she was holding her nose and following Celine, Elton, Shania and Cher into Las Vegas.
But ticket-sales for Britney: Piece of Me, the series of concerts at the 4,500-seat Planet Hollywood Resorts and Casinos starting this December, have been described as "disastrous." As they say, "good seats are still available" for 13 of her first 16 dates. If tickets continue to sell like Bibles on the Vegas Strip, the pressure might be on her to cancel. I think, however, that if she's realistic, Vegas may still be the ticket for Britney. Just not at $200 a pop.
For starters, if you're going to just stand there and lip-synch your hits while people dance around you, there are Britney drag acts across the street who already do that for a tenth the price.
But here's the deal. There are two Vegases. There's the one Britney may have thought you was signing on with, and there's the one that's calling -- a warm comforting place where everyone will love her, and they can all pretend time stood still.
Don't think Celine Dion. Think Donny and Marie. I imagine it's hard to be the first of the '90s Mickey Mouse Club superstars to fall back to Earth. Justin Timberlake and Ryan Gosling are hotter than the sun. And though Britney's longtime frenemy Christina Aguilera isn't selling any more than her, Xtina has a trademark kick-ass voice that will keep her in the public eye for the foreseeable future, if even as a duet partner for hotter artists.
Britney's voice was never her strong suit. Nor, ultimately, was it her dancing. She was of a certain time, both in her life and that of pop culture. Her flashpoint consisted of being young enough to titillate and shock while wearing schoolgirl outfits. You don't have to be a genius to know this doesn't work so well when you're a mother in your 30s. Single-mom Madonna could navigate her sexuality and her age onstage right into her 50s, but Britney was never a fraction as self-aware as Ms. Ciccone.
But if thousands of people at a time aren't prepared to pay to see Britney Spears, hundreds might on a nightly basis. Outside Caesar's Palace and its ilk, in the lower-rent casinos like The Mirage and Circus Circus, time stops and careers are preserved in amber. Boyz II Men and what passes for Motley Crue are there (meanwhile Tommy Lee and D.J. Aero have their own Vegas act). Taylor Hicks, arguably the least successful American Idol winner, can be seen for just $32.50 at the Paris Casino. For $17.50, you can see The Osmonds, minus Donny, at the Suncoast.
It's like that original Star Trek pilot where the happy ending saw the crippled Capt. Pike being given a chance, via alien mind-powers, to live out his days in an illusion of youth, vitality and sex with a beautiful woman. The artists know it's not the '90s anymore, and the audience does too. But for an hour or so, it is again.