Britney Spears and Johnny Cash

Interesting New York Times piece on the Britney phenomenon. And here’s the song, Piece of Me, he’s talking about:

I think one of the reasons it works so well is because she sounds so incredibly wasted and dispassionate while singing it — it’s like everything characterful about her voice has been removed: all you hear is the vaguely sleazy overtones and thinness and exhaustion and a touch of fuck-you defiance. It’s not just the production or the autobiographical lyrics (when Madonna tries the same tack, it usually fails abysmally). Britney’s skinny little wrecked voice matches where she’s at in her life. I remember feeling the same way about one of my favourite songs — Johnny Cash’s incredible version of Trent Reznor’s Hurt. One of the reasons it’s amazing, I think, is because he can’t make the notes properly on some of the lines — you can hear his strength, but also his increasing fraility. You know he’s going to die soon. And the video is heartbreaking. Apparently, Trent Reznor and Zack de la Rocha (Rage Against the Machine) watched this video together and both of them had to take a break from the work they were doing because they were so upset.

2 thoughts on “Britney Spears and Johnny Cash

  1. But surely Johnny Cash’s voice tells the tale of a life of depth, of good and bad, of lessons learnt, of other people not just himself? Britney’s voice/story is shallow, self-indulgent, centred on herself or more particularly her sexuality only. They both made mistakes but Johnny’s at least were interesting. He has lived: she has writhed a bit. His song is transcendent, hers ephemeral. We’re comparing Nelson Mandela and Hector O’hEochagain here!

  2. Yup, I agree! Well, mostly. It was a bit cheeky to throw the two in together, but her voice did genuinely make me think of Johnny Cash’s — not a sentence I ever thought I’d find myself saying:-) Also, with regard to Britney’s story — I do think her story is very interesting. I think in a generation or three’s time, when we’re trying to explain what on earth happened the world back in the 2000s when everyone became crazy obsessed with celebrity, Britney will be the symbol of it all. She is living out The Truman Show.

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