EDIT: I mistyped first-day spins as first-week spins for “Bad Romance,” “Only Girl,” and “California Gurls.” I alternated between the two words a lot in this article, so this wasn’t intentional. It’s been corrected. Forgive, please! OK, thanks. Anyway, here’s the article –
Britney Spears has spent the past week shattering records: her incredible new song “Hold It Against Me,” which smuggles industrial, dubstep, and rave beats onto American radio, annihilated Mariah Carey’s first-day spin record to debut with an astonishing 700 plays — only to go on to defeat Eminem for the first-week spin record, too, racking up an unprecedented 4,600 plays. The song is set to debut at a mind-blowing #16 on the pop charts, tying Madonna’s “Frozen” and failing only to match Mariah Carey’s “Dreamlover.” But a word of caution about the “Dreamlover” record: what matters more is absolute, not relative domination: “Hold It Against Me” outdid “Dreamlover” on all of the fundamentals. “Hold It Against Me” only ranks lower because of its impressive competition (“Firework,” “Grenade,” “We R Who We R”) — in a weak field, such as the one that “3″ faced, Britney might have even debuted in the Top 10.
Most incredibly, though: the track is set to follow “3″ to debut at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making Britney only the third artist ever — Celine Dion and Mariah Carey are the others — to have more than one #1 debut to her name — and only the second ever — besides Mariah Carey — to have two consecutive #1 debuts. (With her second single imminent and more goodwill behind her than ever, could Britney destroy this record, too?) Wow.
There is only one other artist who could have dropped a single, grant no radio interviews, no live performances, and no buzz campaign — and have it arrive to this kind of reception. His name was Michael Jackson.
This confirms that Britney’s “competition” is now taking place primarily in the history books, not the charts. The new argument should be about where she ranks amongst pop legends: others in her lane include Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and Madonna. Lady Gaga is in the rearview mirror, trying to outdo contemporaries like Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Ke$ha. (Compare Bad Romance’s first-day spins — 180 — with California Gurls’ — 200 — and Only Girl — 200.) All of these artists have been on the scene for only a few years. That Britney is even being compared to them is merely testimony to the fact that she is sublimely relevant this far into her career in a way that Celine Dion was not fifteen years into hers. The interest in Britney has not let up and shows no signs of doing so: and right now, it’s for all the right reasons — her top-rate pop music and the imminent return of her legendary dancing skills.
Britney Spears has retained a mystique that other artists simply can’t come close to: an intangible aura that makes people want to know what her next move is — even nearly thirteen years after her debut. She doesn’t have to rely on gimmicks, she doesn’t have to embark on a media blitz, and she doesn’t have to “live her act” in public — indeed, her humility and down-to-earth sensibility is evident for all to see every time she goes out in some trashy weave or refuses to bother with make-up. She just doesn’t care about public image — and thank God for it. She lets her work speak for itself — and it does. She smiles, places her single on iTunes — “Oh, I’ll just leave this here” — and the entire pop world loses its mind. The power of Britney in that arena is like nothing since Michael Jackson. If we’re going to talk comparisons, Britney’s total domination should draw questions of whether she has cemented herself as being in the same ranks as Madonna and Michael Jackson yet, or whether it’s going to take another five years — not whether she can outdo the latest It-Girl who only hit it big two years ago.