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Britney Spears' comeback: A snap judgment

Spears_2 It’s not that Britney Spears isn't trying. It's not that her team, led by her longtime handler Larry Rudolph, hasn't carried out a strict, carefully orchestrated comeback game plan.

You just can’t force the girl, a mother of two who today celebrates her 27th birthday and the launch of her new album, “Circus,” to want a comeback, even while the world seems eager for it (fans sent her single, “Womanizer,” to the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in its second week of release). Being back in the spotlight has worked its magic on her hair, her body and even her personal life.

But the fire in her eyes? And Britney's once consistent ability to turn it on when the curtain rises? That appears to be absent, at least at the moment. In its place we’ve got the former pop princess on autopilot, and it’s as devastating to watch as her 2007 MTV VMA performance of “Gimme More.”

First, there was this year’s VMAs.

MTV would support its onetime golden girl and present her with her first-ever "moonmen," including one for the ceremony’s top honor, video of the year. Spears’ appearance would also be decidedly low-key: no performance, just a taped sketch with Jonah Hill and her thank you speeches. Comedy is usually Spears’ strong suit no matter what insanity has gone on in her personal life -- just watch her past appearances on “SNL” and her more recent role on “How I Met Your Mother” -- but her bit with Hill fell flat.

Viewers stuck around to see what might happen. The awards show was watched by 8.4 million people, an increase of 19% from the year prior. Still, it was the first sign things weren’t quite back to normal.

Rolling Stone and Glamour landed the splashy profiles in which Spears agreed to participate. But the music mag, which in its February feature painted a portrait of an out-of-control starlet, also noted that while Spears was better, she was also flanked by her team at all hours, her time managed down to the minute. Glamour, in a more feel-good, hopeful piece, noted that Spears was “nervous” during the interview and that her energy level at the photo shoot went from “alert to lethargic.”

Sunday’s heavily hyped MTV documentary on the singer, “Britney: For the Record,” also made no attempt to hide the singer’s mood swings, One minute she was joking around, but for most of the program, she seemed lost in her own thoughts. She talked about wishing she could start over -- with, perhaps tellingly, a new life, not with a new career -- and at one point she broke down to her interviewer: “I’m sad,” she said, before letting the tears flow.

But, as usual with Spears, one strong performance could forgive everything. The music video for “Womanizer,” promoted and launched as an event in and of itself on “20/20” in October, made it seem like it could be possible too. There she was, dancing up a storm and rocking her newly reshaped bod.

Unfortunately, the same weekend “Britney: For the Record” aired, videos of Spears performing her single in Germany and on Britain’s "American Idol"-like “The X Factor” circulated online. All the moves were there, but the singer went through them as if she were counting down the seconds until she could run off stage. When the host of “X Factor” attempted to ask a few questions afterward, she gave polite but clipped responses.  Did she have a good time? "Yes, awesome, thank you." Did she have any words of wisdom for the show's contestants? "Good luck and just keep doing it."

To cap the comeback media tour, ABC's "Good Morning America" erected a lavish circus tent with all the accoutrement for Spears’ appearance today (her first stateside performance of material from her new album), got celebrities including Hugh Jackman, Taylor Swift and Reese Witherspoon to tape birthday greetings, and presented her with a birthday cake that took 60 hours to make.

Spears performed two numbers with the same restraint she exercised in the events abroad. And afterward, when confronted with the enthusiasm of Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts, she was politely flummoxed. “Thank you,” was all she kept repeating. Spears watchers were unimpressed.

Maybe things will change should “Circus” sell well. It won’t be tough to beat the disappointing sales for her last album, “Blackout.” Maybe she’ll take comfort in the cautiously optimistic reviews. Maybe when her tour launches in March, she’ll be entirely rehabilitated.

But for now, Spears’ comeback feels like one assigned to her. Should she decide she wants in, perhaps then the fireworks will follow.

-- Denise Martin

Photo credit: Getty Images

 
Comments () | Archives (46)

I am far from a Britney fan and truly never thought she was extraordinarily talented from day one. I occasionally read a story about her and this happened to be one of them. I also took note of some of the comments made by people regarding her comeback. Quite honestly, I think it is being pushed on her before she is ready. This girl has hardly had time to heal from a break down and to get her personal life on track before she was thrown into the spotlight by money hungry relatives and handlers. I actually feel really sorry for her. She has two small children, a failed marriage and a break down and people really expect her to be fully recovered and dancing across stage like nothing is happening to her? Get real people. To add to it, I am willing to bet that she is on some type of medication to for personality disorder and/or depression. That kind of medication has some deep side effects. One of those side effects is being lethargic. The medication(s) also RELIEVES her symptoms, they don't take them away completely. I would really like to see some of these critics get up on stage with all that going on and perform 100%. People amaze still amaze me at the extreme insensitivity they have for others and especially celebritites.

Britney Spears i look up to you and keep your head hi

I look up to you keep your head high and do not give up you have two cute lil boys dont give up iv looked up to you for 18 year and i love you im a big fan
-

Some of you are taking this article too literally. I like Britney Spears and for years, I've never been able to stop observing how hard she works. Britney has been working ridiculously hard for most of her life and a lot of things make me believe that getting into the spotlight really wasn't her idea. When people listen to her say those things about her life, what do you hear? I hear a very, very sad person. I hear a person who is fed-up with her lifestyle. I hear a very lonely and hurt woman who feels like this life that she lives only leaves her empty. Money and fame doesn't equal happiness... she's living proof of that. Can she stop though? Not really. People expect her to keep going and going and going. She's expected to get back in shape, look beautiful again, have killer live performances, have another number one album, go on a big tour etc. etc. Maybe it would be good for her to take a break and relax with her family and her two sons. I agree with this writer... is a comeback really what she's after or is that just what people are shoving her into?

Some of you are taking this article too literally. I like Britney Spears and for years, I've never been able to stop observing how hard she works. Britney has been working ridiculously hard for most of her life and a lot of things make me believe that getting into the spotlight really wasn't her idea. When people listen to her say those things about her life, what do you hear? I hear a very, very sad person. I hear a person who is fed-up with her lifestyle. I hear a very lonely and hurt woman who feels like this life that she lives only leaves her empty. Money and fame doesn't equal happiness... she's living proof of that. Can she stop though? Not really. People expect her to keep going and going and going. She's expected to get back in shape, look beautiful again, have killer live performances, have another number one album, go on a big tour etc. etc. Maybe it would be good for her to take a break and relax with her family and her two sons. I agree with this writer... is a comeback really what she's after or is that just what people are shoving her into?

After watching that joke of a documentary that revealed NOTHING, it is clear that she is only good at playing the blame game now. She doesn't understand why people are saying "comeback". (Did anyone even bother to tell her that everyone in the industry said her career was OVER after her joke of a perfomance on the VMA's?). People shave their hair everyday, she said. It doesn't mean they are crazy, she was just going through stuff and wanted to shed it. (Then why did she cover her bald head with ugly wigs & hats?). I'm sorry but the world should be so over Britney Spears, because she doesn't deserve to be on top anymore. She needs to take responsibility for her actions and the pain she caused her family, especially those innocent boys. She said people took advantage of her. . . . well Miss Spears, no one can take advantage of you without your permission. Consensus is she should JOIN A CIRCUS.

I have to say I agree with the writer. I think this comeback was forced on her. I mean think about just one year ago she was in the midst of the most traumatic period of her life. Now its a year later and she's supposed to have magically recovered from that type of trauma, I don't buy it. Don't get me wrong I think she's back on the right track but her management team should have allowed her more time to get back into the swing of things. I mean anyone who watched that documentary could see that she feels trapped and controlled and isn't that the reason she rebelled in the first place. Also from a fan perspective I think we expect too much from her. I mean I noticed that her performances were not up to par with her past ones. The dance moves weren't as big or as sharp and the energy was a notch below where it should've been. Personally I'm just happy she's on her way back. Keep it up girl!

I completely agree with this article. When I see her interviewed, she's not all there. It's like she's a robot answering the questions without giving any real thought.

I'm worried for her. Freedom or no freedom, that girl has mental problems and will always feel sad from time to time. She needs a lot of psychological help.

Can you blame her if she's not really engaged? She's made tons and tons of money over the years, and she clearly has had periods where she's miserable because of the public attention she gets, she's a mother of two... So her management's solution is to do more things that will get her more attention? Girl's a sport for putting up with all of this (as if she has a choice...) and managing to make the album not-bad, losing the weight, and playing her part in the "Womanizer" video well. If she sleepwalks through the promotional appearances, the tour, whatever, I can't find it in myself to hold it against her. She's not even in control of her finances anymore, and with her life being micromanaged the way it appears to be, it seems she's less a person than a brand now in the eyes of the people around her. I actually feel sorry for her.

I think everyone should leave her alone. She has gone through a lot in the past few years. I disagree with people who say it is too early for her to come back. She seems to enjoy her work, and that's what she needs to be doing is working. That will help her depression more than anything. I think the tour will be good for her. It will give her a chance to get away from everyone who is controlling her and maybe give her a little more freedom. She doesn't have as much energy as she used to on stage, but that is to be expected. She is older. She has had 2 children. And she is most likely on some type of medication that takes a lot of her energy away. I'm sure Madonna doesn't have as much energy on stage now as she did when she started out, but no one is on her back about it. I just bought tickets to one of Britney's concerts and I can't wait to go!

Best way to come back from the drawbacks she had is to do a good job in her scheduled 2009 world tour. Good luck Britney! http://www.britneytour2009.com/

I think Britney's terrific. It's ironic, no matter how many awards she receives, how many millions of CDs she sells, she'll still get blind-sided by the pap. Somehow I'm reminded of Elizabeth Taylor during her many ups and downs, marriage breakups, deaths, divorces. Her press releases would say she has entered some hospital for a rest due to exhaustion. When Brit tried to enter a hospital quietly somehow the press managed to get in there and open the flood gates. Please let's not talk about 27 being over the hill and time to get out of this line of work, think Tina Turner. Keep on improving Brit and don't listen to the nay-sayers. You've proven you've still got what it takes!

Great piece. The fire in her eyes, her moves, her expressions -- is gone.

You are jerks. The fire is in her eyes, her moves are still there and her expressions too! You have two children, divorce, and a break down back to back. Love Circus and Womanizer video. Had to be a man wanting somw nasty moves to write this article. We love you Britney! The cd is great! Move forward tell the LA Times to kiss it.

A YEAR AGO SHE WAS TOTALLY UPSIDE DOWN.. BUT IM PROUD OF HER, IN ONE YEAR, SHE WAS ABLE TO MAKE AN ALBUM, WORK OUT - SEE THAT KILLER BODY.


WHAT DO U EXPECT PEOPLE? SHE HAVENT PERFORM IN YEARS. DONT EXPECT HER TO PERFORM 100%. THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS 100%. WE'RE ALL HUMAN, WE DO MAKE MISTAKES. IT'S HARD TO BE IN HER SHOES COZ WHATEVER SHE DOES MEDIA IS ALWAYS WITH HER.

AND FOR THOSE PEOPLE WHO SAYS SHE'S NOT A GREAT SINGER NOR A PERFORMER. NO ONE ASK YOU TO BUY HER ALBUM OR WATCH HER PERFORM.

ACTUALLY, AT THE END OF THE DAY. SHE'S A BETTER PERSON THAN THOSE COMPLAINERS. SHE'S A MOTHER AND SAVING MONEY FOR HER KIDS.

HOW ABOUT THOSE COMPLAINERS, COMMENTORS? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?
BEING A COUCH POTATO? LOL. PEACE

maybe if you actually listened to "Circus" instead of just dismissing it because it's genre of pop music, maybe you'd be a little more enlightened to the fact that this album is a really good piece of work.

What Britney lacks no one can give her: self confidence.

Approximately 400,000 people who have purchased her CD think she's doing something right... That's what matters.

What have you accomplished, besides writing for the eloquently named "Pop and Hiss" section?

Ok as person with indifferent feeling on brit and kids..........please quit sounding ignorant she is not dancing as much do to knee surguries as recent as 2004 when she canceled her tour and her insurance would not cover her. She had to pay.... the scars are all over the internet. She is good. She is an inspiration to those who are suffering through mental hardships........ shes out of bed. S he is trying and she is smiling again. It doesnt appear forced at all she appears fragile because us Americans are demanding perfection fom he and slam on her constantly. Leave her alone.......please judge yourself and if you dont like her dont keep up with the all the other stalkers and post things just to say negative things. Dont throw rocks at glass houses because you people know u cant do what she does and survive what she has. Quit being part of the problem! Please just be compassionate to another humanbeing for once :) Melissa

don't you just wish her parents would leave her alone and let her get well and make their own money for a change? Quit pimping this poor, mangled, damaged girl out and let her have a the normal life she so obviously craves.

Shame on you, Jamie and Lynn. And good for you Jamie Lynn, making it so they could NEVER do to you what they have done to her! Although, I guess I figured that even those leeches couldn't make money off of a CLEARLY insane girl.... you'll have to come up with something even better now!

i know britney could do it people please if she could handle 20 paps please!!!!!!! THIS IS NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 
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