Usually, when people talk about musicians whose lyrics are the embodiment of poetry, people like Bob Dylan or, well, 50 Cent get all the credit. And, you know, deservedly so. But today, I thought I’d write about someone whose songs don’t typically get ranked in the same category as the aforementioned musicians. Yeah, I’m going to talk about Britney Spears.
I know, you think I’m probably joking, but I’m totally not. Because seriously — she has some really good songs! I know she doesn’t write them herself or anything, but whoever does the writing deserves some credit for the accurate capture of life itself. (Maybe it’s Barry Manilow, since he writes the songs that make the whole world sing and all.) ‘I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman’? I feel like that every day. It’s because I’m 25.
One of Britney’s latest hits was the song ‘Toxic’. Near the beginning, she sings, “A guy like you/ should wear a warning” and who hasn’t met somebody like that? I’ve met several somebodies like that, and I can say, with total honesty, that when the song gets to the chorus,
With a taste of your lips
I’m on a ride
I’m slipping under
With a taste of poison paradise
I’m addicted to you
Don’t you know that you’re toxic
And I love what you do
Don’t you know that you’re toxic
I know exactly what she means. But then, who couldn’t? Wanting what you shouldn’t, being a junkie for bad, bad love, well, it’s a story so many of us know so well.
And really, isn’t that what poetry is all about? Relating on an existential level with words? Knowing exactly what the poet means, even though you’ve never thought to say it that way before? In some way, I think it is. And have I ever thought of saying, “With a taste of poison paradise/ I’m addicted to you”? Well, not in so many words, no. But do I know what Britney means? Absolutely.
Then there’s ‘I’m a Slave 4U’, which, admittedly, I don’t relate to that much, although I’ve known some people who wished I did. But even though that song isn’t so relatable (to me), it’s easily made up for by ‘Oops… I Did It Again’ which is almost like the story of my life.
Anyway, I’d be remiss if I were to leave out the song that made Britney a superstar, because honestly, I’ve yet to find a better rendering of regret and longing in song form. That’s right. I’m talking about ‘Baby One More Time’. Come on, get the image of the schoolgirl uniform out of your head for a minute and think about this seriously. I know I’ve felt exactly like this at least once in my life:
Oh baby baby
I shouldn’t have let you go
And now you’re out of sight, yeah
Actually, more than once. Definitely. Is there a better way to say this, really?
Shouldn’t have let you go. Exactly.
But there’s more. Because I haven’t even gotten to the chorus yet! Seriously:
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
I’m kind of speechless, actually, because what else is there to say? It’s all been summed up so perfectly. Poetry. Of longing.
Those are my thoughts about a few of the (highly underrated, but admittedly totally overproduced) songs of Britney Spears. What do you think about that?
Wait, no, that’s not what I want to ask. What I want to ask is, when it comes to music, are there any songwriters who stand out to you as poets? (Please don’t even start with Bob Dylan because everybody picks Bob Dylan and so, yawn come up with someone else.) What makes their songs stand out to you as poetry? Does the poetic level of the lyrics have any bearing on whether or not you like certain musicians over others?
Come on, kids. It’s April Fool’s Day. But even though I wrote about Britney, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to answer the question.