Britney. What are we going to do with you?

Sure, you wore sweat sock wrist bands at the Super Bowl, accessorizing wonderfully with football pants and —shocker!— a tight halter top. Your blonde mane undulated as you tough-talked your way across the stage, doing the tube sock boogie with Aerosmith and those jackasses in N*Sync. What can we say? You played your role and got the hell out. There isn’t much more we can ask of a teen pop sensation who happens to embody the sexual frustration of a nation’s males.

That’s what’s intrigued us about you from the beginning, girl. Your first record’s cover art featured you, doe-eyed and pig-tailed, gaping at the camera with sugar plums and fairies dancing in your baby blues. “My, what big eyes you have,” you said as you stared back at us, head cocked unsuredly to the side. How could we have known? Who could have predicted that you’d be anything more than a female Bobby Sherman, a new generation’s Tiffany?

Then came THE VIDEO.

The head was cocked at the same angle, and the pig-tails were there. But something had gone terribly wrong. Mascara? Pouting lips? Talk about blonde ambition. The girl on TV had done a Daisy Duke on her shirt, rolled up the tartan, and thrown her bra in the trash. She was a vision out of your average “Pentouse: Forum”, and Jenna Jameson was in the wings saying “you go, girl!” Wake up late, honey put on your clothes, and take the credit car to the liquor store. That’s what your doe-eyes were doing for us, now…

A lot has changed since 1998, and I don’t mean trading pig-tails for a blood red catsuit. Britney has emerged not simply as a sex fantasy wrapped up in sugary teen clothes, but as a revenue-creating brand for Jive Entertainment, and in a larger sense The Machine of the music industry. At an MTV-sponsored halftime show, why wouldn’t they tap their most recognizable and bankable brands, Britney and N*Sync, as major players? That’s good business. After all, it really is all about the benjamins.

Britney isn’t the next Tiffany, or the same as Richie Valens, The Ohio Express, or any other music industry product before her. Because the music she performs is an afterthought in a larger entertainment aura, I believe it’s no big thing to like that music. Listening to “Stronger” by Britney Spears (off of her latest opus, “…Oops, I Did It Again”) for me is sort of like reading Entertainment Weekly, or watching a re-run of “Wings.” I don’t seek out doing either, but when it’s there I might enjoy it for a minute, on a sort of entertainment-static level. The value-add of the Britney brand is that she’s in 3-D and isn’t named Steven Weber.

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