In an excellent post on Feb. 28, Pop Dust’s Maura Johnston asks if the nearly daily leaks of song snippets from Britney Spears’ March 29 album, “Femme Fatale” are a good thing. And she poses the bigger question: are they standing in for Spears herself, who has so far been largely M.I.A. from television or radio in promoting the forthcoming set. (A little note: while we were writing this, Spears tweeted yet another snippet; this one for “Criminal.” We embedded it below.)
More astonishing to us than the constant flow of seconds-long song snippets is that somehow Team Britney has kept full songs from leaking, while we keep getting tiny teasers, like little amuse-bouches for our palates. And so far, it would seem, with the exception of flute-laden "Criminal," we’re in for a typical Spears album with flirty come-ons set to dance beats of different stripes, all within the pure pop metier that she’s helped keep alive for the past 12 years.
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So far, the only appearance on Spears’ docket is a “Good Morning America” performance on March 29, the morning of the album’s release. But she's never been one to blanket television and has always been fairly discriminating in her choices.
The lack of activity seems especially glaring in light of Lady Gaga’s constant spotlight grabbing, as Johnston points out. In what may be the longest set-up in modern record release history (we started our clock last summer when she previewed “You and I” from her new album on “Today”), Lady Gaga has sucked the air out of the room for almost all artists, especially those who play in the same pop sandbox as she.
While we’re not privy to the inner workings and set up for Spears’ album, we wonder if powers-that-be at Jive must have thought that by setting Spears’ release date a good two months before May 23, the drop date for Gaga’s “Born This Way,” they would get a good running start. This has not been the case given Lady Gaga’s full-on assault. However, upon further reflection, we’re not sure that Spears has been outmanned. Both artists get plenty of ink for the the most mundane crumb of information. Every little morsel, whether it’s a track listing, an album or single cover, or, even a particularly juicy tweet, gets breathlessly covered as if it were of great import. (We at Hitfix are as guilty of this as anyone).
First single, “Hold It Against Me” was so anticipated that there were posts about when you could first hear it, then dissections of the song and its lyrics and then the countdown to the video. The song set a record for most radio plays in its first day of release, according to Nielsen Broadcast Data Systems, and became the 18th song to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” became the 19th). The sneak peeks have come from different quarters, whether they were Dr. Luke or Spears or will.i.am, which is pretty smart. Obviously, they’re getting the OK from Spears’ camp, but it’s a way to spread the seed further, whereas Lady Gaga is clearly ground zero for any LG info.
Like Gaga, Spears is in perpetual communication with her fans via Twitter, where she is about to hit 7 million followers (and may be the time you finish reading this). Almost every day brings a tweet, and some days there’s a flurry. Some are about the new album, others are just communicating about her life, including sharing that she’d just seen “Hall Pass,” and that her boyfriend would never get one.
So is Lady Gaga stealing Brit-Brit’s thunder? Perhaps. But it’s easy to forget that there was actually a time--and one not so long ago-- that none of us knew what a Lady Gaga was and the simple fact is that Lady Gaga is still a relatively new artist. She should still be out there pressing the flesh. Britney, who's been famous for almost a decade longer than Gaga, has reached a point where she can be more selective. Plus, Lady Gaga may be the most driven artist that we’ve ever witnessed, so to compare anyone’s efforts to hers is an exercise in futility.
Just as it’s not that long ago that we hadn’t heard of Lady Gaga, it’s not that long ago that we only heard about Spears and her personal problems. Spears has experienced nothing short of a masterful comeback, both professionally and personally, and if dialing back on the public appearances and spending time with her children is her way of making the whole, um, circus, manageable, while still getting 24/7 press, we say good for her.
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