Studies in contemporary Spinozism, part X; Britney Spears

Last Thursday, or whenever that was, I wrote a small text on Britney Spears and her little radar-machine. Her album Blackout has been a great friend of mine, comforting me on scary flights and coming to the rescue in bars with terrible music and annoying people talking too loudly. Blackout has that perfect blend of affirming emotions, while simultaneously telling everyone to FU. I especially recall one night, a night with only a singular set of properties, in short, a haecceity, in the coastal city of Hurghada, Egypt. This event, taking place in an apartment with slow internet and cheap tax-free booze made me #neverforget the words ”It’s Britney bitch”. For a brief moment, our bodies were dictated by heavenly spears. However subjective this anecdote may be, I think it flipped my world upside down.

Much appreciated, however often neglected, is Spears’s tendency to avoid transcendental romanticism and instead turn to an ”object oriented”, or perhaps material turn, in her works. Let’s take a look at her latest single, Hold it against me:

If I said my heart was beating loud
If we could escape the crowd somehow
If I said I want your body now
Would you hold it against me?

This ”holding against” has two different interpretations, one ressentimental and moralistic (would it be wrong?), and one haptic and material (would your body be aligned with my body?). Now, to find out more about which one would be the right one, we have to take a closer look, back to the Blackout album, mentioned above. ”Holding against” is close to the concept of holding together – an assemblage of bodies, and an expression of emotions. Contrary to widely held beliefs in western cultures, of love being an inner emotion experienced by a subject, Spears transcends the imaginary territorialities, and puts the object of desire not as an intellectual enterprise, but rather as an extraction of an entity from a crowd. Contrary to the extensive properties of a mass (weight, length), the crowd is an intensive measure. In the bouncing and vibrating crowds of a dancefloor, a street or a protest, the selection and removal of an entity is always a qualitative operation, selection instead of averageness or probability.

A specific passage in the beautiful song Why should I be sad (from the Blackout album), reveals Spears’s ambitions:

I sent you to Vegas
with a pocket full of paper
and with no ultimatums on you
I thought what could separate us
but it just seemed that Vegas
only brought the pimp out of you

The location is specific, the ”paper in the pocket” is not even rendered expressive and the place itself has agency; it brings out the pimp out of (you). Vegas is a tribal expression, it’s meaning bears no trace of universalism, even though the tired semioticians desperately try to make it fit the category of ‘American hegemony’.

Going back to the recent Femme Fatale album, once again the distinction between reason and embodied emotions is made:

But mama im in love with a criminal
And this type of love
Isn’t rational, it’s physical
Mama please don’t cry
I will be alright
All reasons inside
I just cant deny
Love the guy

Rational love has been the anti-thesis to the ideal of transcendental and emotional love, at least in pockets of intellectual history. Whether it has been lived or not, is a matter of anthropological inquiry. However, its current status as myth is disqualified by Spears in a very meaningful fashion. ‘Rationality’ replaced by physis, nature. As nature falls back on us, our pathetic morality breaks down, mostly because we fail to find the safe-heaven of perfect logic in a world which is chaotic like physis. Nevertheless, Spears assures us that everything will be alright, that the very reasons for this are immanent inherent and undeniable, due to love.

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