"I Don't Know How To Say It": Our Exclusive Q&A with Britney Spears
"She wanted to make it very personal," said Britney Spears' manager Larry Randolph of the diva's eighth studio album, Britney Jean. Randolph said that back in September, right around the announcement of Spears' two-year residency in Vegas. Last week, the album finally arrived in stores and we are now able to hear for ourselves these confessional songs that are "all custom made for her, based on what's going on with her life and in her head."
Spears confirmed that Britney Jean is a personal album. It's so personal, she said it was personal twice to Ryan Seacrest in September. That's really personal. A lot of her lyrics suggest that she is in a state of deep confusion. Perhaps even a fugue state. But if she is deeply confused, it's a personal confusion, and if she is in a fugue state, it's a personal fugue state.
We caught up with Spears this week* to discuss this very personal album, and talk (personally) about how she feels, personally, about writing something so personal. Spears discusses her state of mind, her drinking, Zen, onomatopoeia, her real message to her gay fans, and so much more in our chat below.
Gawker: Hi Britney, how are you?
Britney Spears: I drank some red wine, and now I'm walking on the sky.
That sounds intense.
Good, just making sure. Now—
Do I imagine it, or do I see your stare?
I don't know, "stare" seems like embellishment, but yes, I am looking at the person to whom I'm speaking.
Is there still longing there?
On my end?
Oh I hate myself, and I feel crazy. Such a classic tale.
Wait, what are you talking about? Classic in terms of "just so typically you," or classic like a public-domain book that you could get a typo-soiled edition of at the Kindle Store for $.99?
Current girl friend, ex-girlfriend, I'm trying to be cool. Am I being paranoid, am I seeing things? Am I just insecure?
You know, I think you are the best-case scenario for whatever these symptoms you have. So I will go with "insecure." All of us are, sometimes, Britney. Even, apparently, you.
While I wait I put on my perfume. Yeah I want it all over you. I gotta mark my territory.
Are you talking about perfume or piss?
I wanna fill the room, when she's in it with you.
I'm glad you aren't wearing it today, and I promise that I'll never be in the same room as her as long as I don't have to smell your piss. I don't even know her name.
Let's take a walk and get lost.
That doesn't sound fun to me.
You make me feel like a million billion.
I'm glad, even though I'm still not quite sure what you are talking about.
I'll let you lead the way now.
I will not lose faith 'cause you will lead the way.
I want you to take the wheel.
No, but just for good measure, why don't you hit me with another cliché?
The road will twist and turn but I know that I am in good hands.
That's two, impressive. Besides idioms so well worn they perfectly describe the roads you'd like to travel on in your songs, do you have any influences on this album that are new to your work?
Yes you bring me zen.
Yes you bring me zen.
How exactly do I do that?
Please don't mess with my head. Please don't mess with my head.
At this point, I wouldn't know how to try. How do you think you've changed over the years?
There was a time I was one of a kind.
That also seems like a stretch, but if I'm being honest with you, I think you've lost some of your spirit over the years. Your voice sounds petrified. Your eyes are dead. Even people who were extra charitable and deemed Femme Fatale futuristic are having a hard time saying nice things about your new record. Again and again, reviews are calling Britney Jean generic.
La di dee, la di dah.
Is that an Annie Hall reference?
I don't know how to say it.
This album is supposed to be personal, and yet when you are at your most confessional, you're also at your most confused. You seem very disoriented.
Not alone not alone not alone. Not alone not alone not alone. Not alone not alone not alone. Not alone not alone not alone.
Well that's great. I'm happy for you. Tell me about the guy.
Watch your mouth, lock it up.
I don't know, I feel like you need some assistance when it comes to revealing. You're giving me nothing here. If we could create a Simone-like being who felt only in the bland, nonspecific ways that the heros of pop songs do, it would be you.
You got a one-way ticket I got you out on the curb.
All of those words are short and simple and yet none of them make any sense strung together like that! I don't even know what you're going for.
We going downtown. I'm all up on ya, on ya. You want it don't ya, don't ya?
You never know what you got till it's gone. You never know what you got till it's gone. You never you never you never you never. You never know what you got till it's…
Joni Mitchell never lied, right?
In the beginning we were both crazy.
I think I've been nothing but normal this entire time. I'm really just trying to catch up with you.
We gotta get over, over the mountain. We can't keep standing, standing there. Let's move on and be stronger.
OK, here is a very normal question that I think you can answer very normally: What's one thing that you've learned in the past five years?
OK, let's try it again: What's your favorite sound?
Tik tik tik tik tik tik boom. Tik tik tik tik tik tik.
What happened to the second boom?
I bring the treble, don't mean to trouble ya.
But you brought the bass on the first boom.
I make the bubble up, call me the bubbler.
How do you mean?
I am the bad bitch, the bitch that you're lovin' up.
Only out of habit, Britney. It takes a lot more than sassy gay-man-trapped-in-a-woman's-body pander-talk to make me love you up.
Actually, "Work Bitch!" was meant to take the whole opaque of "work bitch" and make it literal. Whereas some feel that to get what you want in life, you have to work it in that vague way of being fierce and fabulous, I wanted to present a bunch of desired outcomes that could be achieved through actual hard work, be it vocational or physical: a hot body, a Bugatti, a Maserati, a Lamborghini, martinis, looking hot in a bikini, live fancy, live in a big mansion, party in France. I don't know, I thought it was clever.
That is actually clever – sometimes people don't even seem to know what they're talking about when they say, "Work!" It's just a vague sign of encouragement, and it's kind of funny to flip what has now become a cliché on its belly…
Work, work, work, work. Work, work, work, work. Work, work, work, work. Work, work, work, work. Work it out, work it out, work it out, work it out. Work it out, work it out, work it out, work it out. Work it out, work it out, work it out, work it out. Work it out, work it out. You better work bitch. You better work bitch.
That sort of undoes the specificity thing that your song establishes early on.
This is living. This is living. This is living…yeah. Adios, I'm out the door.
*This "interview" is comprised entirely of inane lyrics from her inane new album to illustrate just how impersonal personal can sound when in the hands of a shell of a person who clearly does not want to do her job anymore and really shouldn't have to. Really, Britney Spears' main function seems to me making a mockery out of "personal," public communication.
Oh, except the third answer from the bottom I made up because I think (I hope) that's what she'd say. "Work Bitch!" actually is pretty clever.