Monday, September 4, 2000

Dancin' Fool

I'm nothing if not a people person. Personable and cheerful, I love people. Thus you can imagine my joy at being able to work at the House of Representatives' State Fair booth in the Education Building this year. Yes there I was a smiling simpleton on a hot and humid evening conversing with all those lovely sweaty fried food consuming people who feel that government is just a big intrusion in their lives and how our legislature does nothing but waste tax money.

Those who know me also know that I love nothing more than dancing. You can't keep me off the dance floor girlfriend. Thus when a gaggle of teenage girls stopped by our booth (that may not be the right term for a herd of teenagers but it seems apt) I of course had a wonderful discussion (no sarcasm intended) about what the kids are listening to these days. I'm truly not one to criticize anyone's taste in music. Whether it be country or rap, opera or new age, I've always felt that if music means enough to a person to be a fan, I'm all for it. If the boys from N'Sync changed your life with a song, or Puffy expresses your rage better than you yourself can, hey that's wonderful. I've also over the years tried my best to keep up with the popular groups so I can communicate with the kids (it's all part of my "tough love" program).

Thus tonight I decided it be time for the newsletter to finally do some hard hitting reporting and fulfill its civic duty to finally decide who is better- Brittney Spears or Christina Aguilera. Rock and roll rivalries have a long and colorful history from the Beatles vs. the Stones, to Poison vs. Cinderella, to Nirvana vs. Pearl Jam. With this in mind I purchased both teen sensations' debut CDs. Having never seen either one live (although I have seen both perform on TV) this determination is thus limited to the recorded songs that launched their respective (and respectable) careers.

First of all Brittney. What a cutie!!! Maybe her name should be Cuteney Spears! That come hither yet all American look she gives on the CD cover while clenching her knees together is as appealing as the Barbie doll pink background behind her. The opening song, her first "hit" "Baby One More Time" is somewhat disturbing. The song is essentially about obsession and acquiescing to the traps of physical abuse- mistaking love and lust for pleasure and torture. "My loneliness is killing me/I must confess/I still believe when I'm not with you I lose my mind/Give me a sign/Hit me baby one more time."

For a teenager to be singing these lyrics to a youthful fan base seems more than a tad cynical. It's different when Liz Phair sings "I never met a man who was so pretty inside/He's got diamonds on the bed of his thumbnails/and I never realized I was so dirty and dry/Till he knocked me down, started dragging me around in the back of a convertible car/And I liked it/I liked it more and more." Phair in her song of abuse is at least playing a character and the song is an effective commentary of abusive relationships. Brittney's song displays no similar irony and thus comes across (as others on her disc do) of believing that being in love has to do with soulmates and accepting whatever service that myth requires. Yet her electronic Tasmanian Devil voice she uses to croak out the lyrics is quite fetching.

The weakness of the disc is its indistinguishable tracks. It all pretty much sounds alike. Brittney doesn't exactly exude any special talent (perhaps her greatest appeal- she is the success story any teenager wants to be). She comes across as a boring Madonna.

Christina's disc isn't quite as difficult to get through. Her booming voice is used well on a variety of different songs. From the funky electronic opener "Genie in a Bottle" to the soulful "Reflection" she has the ability to sing the hell out of a song. That's another way to say the disc is at the very least listenable. This one strives to be more like Aretha than Tiffany.

There are similarities to both discs. Themes of how love sets you free and makes you happy (HAH! when has that ever been the case?) abound. Both young women make a point of thanking God in the credits of their CDs (Brittney: "First, I want to thank God for the blessing of song..." Christina: "I must begin by thanking the Lord above for the opportunity to share the gift of music with the world..." Wow it's an eerie reminder of all those supposed "coincidences" between the Lincoln and Kennedy administrations and assassinations: "Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy... Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln..."). So maybe in the end it ultimately isn't about being rivals. Maybe it's about choices and co-existing with those we seem different from but are more alike than we realize.

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