It’s Britney’s 40th birthday, and with age comes wisdom and reflection. For over 20 years, society has mistakenly viewed Britney as a teen pop princess without agency. But look again, comrades! Her oeuvre and body of work has been littered with subversive messages, anti-capitalist ideas, and yes, foreshadowing. Is it possible that this 40-year-old mother of two (and survivor of the year 2007) has been cleverly hiding secret messages in her music videos and songs all this time?
With 2021 being a banger year for Brit—after the #FreeBritney movement snowballed and a series of small legal wins in court and huge changes in public opinion and pressure led to the dissolution of her 13-year conservatorship—we thought we would use the occasion of her birthday to take a look back at her most iconic music videos. But not just any hits, the one we think could have maybe, just maybe predicted the end of her conservatorship. Is it possible she knew emancipation was on the horizon? Let’s inspect these videos with a new lens.
So it’s obvious that her conservatorship didn’t exist in the year 2000, but the imagery in the video, coupled with the emancipatory lyrics, cannot be ignored. It’s like she foreshadowed being 40 and free when we watch her use her fists to slam open a locked door, launching everyone else in the room back on their heels. Then she drives a car almost off a cliff, and instead walks with purpose and confidence to the other side of the bridge.
Unlike her other music videos from this time, like “Sometimes” where she’s playing cute and light, here she's bathed in dark tones, surrounded by shadows, and has a fierce don’t-F-with-me face. Couple that with lyrics like, “I'm not your property as from today, baby/You might think that I won't make it on my own But now I'm/Stronger than yesterday/Now it's nothing but my way,” and you’ve got yourself an end-of-conservatorship tune, baby.
Apart from the obvious title reference to being in bondage, stripped of free will or agency, the symbolism in this video is off the charts. When Britney sings she wants to “dance next” to the rest of us, but she “cannot hold it/cannot control it,” she is stuck in an abandoned tenement, sweating her butt off to perform for someone just sitting there watching her. Countless other bodies keep touching and grabbing at her, not giving her one moment of peace, and when a single raindrop falls beyond the balcony, everyone runs to get a drink. She knew she’d break those chains one day!
Britney sings “baby can’t you see, I’m calling,” about a “poison paradise” that she’s “slippin’ under,” and then shows us how she will use her creativity, cunning wits, smarts and gusto to get her out of this mess. We watch as she pushes a serving cart through a plane, catering to passengers' every whim, only to reveal herself as a secret agent, here to blow s**t up and take no prisoners. Yes, girl, set fire to it all!
Now this one is almost too obvious, and even lends itself to Britney’s already established socialist ideas (who could forget last year when she called for a general strike and the redistribution of wealth on her Instagram?) Britney here is clearly calling out the illusion that working grants one freedom and emancipation. We see Britney, with a “hot body” and looking “good in a bikini” and a “Maserati” but she’s all alone in the desert, and her followers who want what she has must be horsewhipped. Britney even engages in the whipping! Considering that this video was released at the height of her conservatorship, we feel she’s clearly drawing a through-line here.
It’s hard to ignore the fact that Britney is singing about a “Hollywood girl” who “cry, cry, cries in her lonely heart” and yet everyone thinks “she’s so lucky.” In the video, we see what we can only deduce is 2021 Britney travelling back in time 20 years to 2000 Britney, trying to warn her about the perils of the industry, and all the people who want to take advantage of her. Present-day Britney sits atop a peak overlooking Tinseltown, older, wiser, and seeing through fake people straight to their hearts. Britney knows the score. . . if only she could have stopped it!
This one just spells it out. As she sings about “resorting to some havoc” and then “settling in court,” Britney shows us all the ways that society, culture, media and the Hollywood machine failed her as a recording artist and as a young woman. We watch as paparazzi stalk her home, take upskirt pictures, verbally and physically assault her and then blame her for reacting. They call her “Miss American Dream since I was 17” but by the end of the video, she is the one with the last laugh. She dances, she smiles, she walks away victorious. And isn’t that exactly what happened this year?
[video_embed id='2332819']BEFORE YOU GO: Sandra Bullock said she begged Viola Davis to be in 'The Unforgivable' [/video_embed]