The first half of the 2000’s was a wonderful time for music but one thing I’ve noticed is that most critics like to completely disregard the workings of the princess of pop herself, Britney Spears. With three very successful albums released during this time and numerous live performances, many would regard this time as Britney’s prime and I’m not one to disagree with that statement. Oops!…I Did It Again, Britney, and In The Zone all went #1 on the charts, spawned numerous hit singles and produced music videos that are still iconic to this day. With simply amazing live performances to boot, Britney was literally on top of the world. But as we all know, fame comes with a price and there’s no point in addressing the elephant in the room about that; we all know what happened shortly after this era. Nevertheless, a couple of years before things seemed to go downhill, there are signs that Britney was trying to tell us something very important and she did that through one of her best, but possibly most understated music videos to date.
Specifically, I want to talk about Britney’s fourth studio release, In The Zone. Noted by critics as her first undeniable adult record, this one took a major step away from the pop sound that we were used to with her first three albums (also, as a side note, I’ve ranked all nine of her studio albums and if you’re interested, you can find it here). It felt more personal and very authentic to the young adult she was growing into and it’s a record that I absolutely hated upon first listen. And I know why I hated it: because I was a child when it came out and didn’t understand the concepts or particularly like the non-bubblegum pop sound. With that being said, now that I’m about her age when this was recorded, it makes sense. The ideas are relatable and the sound is so unique, showcasing Britney at her most creative and interesting. Four singles were released from this record with the most popular being “Toxic”. However, if you look deeper past the surface, the most mind boggling song on here is “Everytime” and if you can decipher the music video, you’ll easily find out why.
The typical Britney Spears music video features lots of choreography, background dancers, fun costumes and various backdrops. Up to this point, essentially all of her music videos were like this; pleasant and entertaining to look at but not much beyond. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that; as a matter of fact, that’s what made her such a stand out artist. But then comes along the bright white video for the ballad “Everytime” and the idea of choreography and costumes is thrown out the window. A nice, slow dance video would have sufficed or maybe a cute scene would have been fine too.
The video opens up with a helicopter view of Las Vegas with a billboard advertising Britney live in concert. We start to notice a limo with paparazzi swarming it as the camera pans down and inside the limo is Britney and her boyfriend, who are arguing and seemingly agitated. They try to get out as the paparazzi swarm the car and there’s a very small part (you’ll miss it if you’re not paying attention) where she is hit in the head and pulled back by one of the paparazzi. They’re trying to enter the hotel and as the couple is fighting with each other, Britney’s boyfriend is trying to fight the photographers as well. Soon after, they enter the hotel and continue yelling at each other, where he throws a vase and breaks a table and she throws a drink in the bathroom. So far the entire video is in slow motion, creating a divide between what feels real and what doesn’t. The video itself almost seems like a dream, or rather a nightmare that you can’t wake up from. After this there’s a small shot of Britney turning around, wearing all white, standing in a white hallway. The next shot brings us back to the iconic bathtub scene, where she realizes she’s bleeding from the back of her head, loses consciousness and falls into the tub. Now this next part is what makes this video so worthwhile. During the end of the bridge, we see Britney walking down a bright white hospital hallway, with doctors and nurses running down the hall. Nobody seems to notice her, and she slowly makes her way into a room where they were unsuccessful in reviving a patient who looks eerily similar to her. She walks to another room afterwards where a woman has just given birth to a baby girl. Back in the bathroom, her boyfriend finds her drowned in the tub and towards the end of the video we see her being pulled into an ambulance on a gurney. And yet, the video ends with her getting out the bathtub unharmed, making us wonder if that was just all a deranged fantasy.
“Everytime” undeniably remains the darkest music video in Britney’s entire videography but if you take a closer look, it’s very understandable. This was just a small window into the life of this mega pop star where she showcases her struggles and weakest points. We all still talk about what happened after this era but we rarely discuss the signs that were there long before hand, this video being a particularly good example. Her message is undeniably clear: the media smothered her by constantly stalking, following and criticizing her and it’s obviously taken a toll. There have possibly been moments where she’s wondered if this life is even worth it and how the world would appear if she wasn’t there. As sad as that is, the world moves on, as portrayed by her death in one room but a new born baby in the room next door. But when she emerges from the water unharmed, it all seems okay in the end. She’s smiling and looks happy to be alive, reminding us all that life truly is beautiful despite all the hardships. As unconventional as it may seem, this project is so special because it allowed us into the secretive life of a major pop star that is burdened with fragility and uncertainty. With a perfectly executed concept and a beautifully produced video, the reality of fame and how Britney actually feels is so evident, yet so easily ignored. “Everytime” as a song and music video remains very well known but a hidden gem at the exact same time.