britney umbrella

Britney Spears was tired of getting a cold after going out in the rain, so she created umbrellas in 2007. Instead of touring her Blackout album that year, Spears traveled the world to give umbrellas to people at high risk for rain-induced sicknesses. This humanitarian act inspired singer, Rihanna, to write a song titled Umbrella to honor Spears’ philanthropy (2007). Spears is pictured above donating an umbrella to paparazzi.

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My Prerogative (Dir. Jake Nava)
Greatest Hits: My Prerogative (2004)
Written: Bobby Brown, Gene Griffin, Edward Teddy Riley; Produced: Bloodshy & Avant

They say I’m crazy [drives a car into a pool]

I’m sorry, can we just, can we roll that tape again, can we just take a moment and really appreciate, really revel in, the absolute miracle that is:

They say I’m crazy [DRIVES A MOTHERFUCKING CAR INTO A MOTHERFUCKING POOL]

I mean: that’s one way to claim for yourself the role of Queen Of No Fucks Given. That is one way to really drive home, pun not intended, just how unsorry you are, how little you truly care that all you people talking all this stuff about me. That is also one way to, you know – I don’t want to belabor this point, because we all are smart aware media-savvy people here, yes, who understand already, but just to be clear: wild antics, juicy anecdotes about drugs and trashed hotel rooms and groupie sex and being a toxic sewer hole of a human being who happens to play electric guitar, these are part of the appeal of the rock god mythology when the rock gods in question are men. Meanwhile Britney, way before the umbrella and the shaved head and the reckless driving (although even those people came down harder on her for than they would have for men), makes the kind of irresponsible choices that are beyond normal for young twentysomethings and she’s a scandal, a slut, a sleaze. She’s out of control, and for a woman, that’s a transgression and a danger. For a man, it's… well, it’s his prerogative.

There’s a certain amount of rock star cockiness implied in putting out a greatest hits collection at 23, six years and four albums into your career, and the tracks released with it – Do Somethin’, (I’ve Just Begun) Having My Fun, and this cover – lean into both that and the Party Girl idea. I’m just a crazy kind of girl, Britney sings on (I’ve Just Begun) Having My Fun, I’ll tell it to the world; and here, as we see, she does. Instead of denying or apologizing for the things she does, she makes them part of who she is.

The video for My Prerogative toys with the dark side, everything coated in a sinister grimness that matches the hiss of her vocals. At one point she comes into a room to see a man watching a black and white video of her in the same footage we see ourselves at various points, writhing on a bed in white underwear, making bedroom eyes at the camera. When Britney finds this, she walks to cross between the projector and the screen, a stunning shot that captures so much of her approach to exploring her fame in videos: she understands that Britney the sex symbol will be looked at, and she will insert herself into other people’s gaze to disrupt and complicate their view of her. She exists as images on a screen with which you will do as you wish, but she will not let you forget that she is a real flesh and blood girl, that even as the pictures keep flickering, that girl comes first.