This Week in 2007 is a weekly column looking back on Lindsay Lohan, the first iPhone, George W. Bush, and everything else we loved about the year 2007.
Britney Spears released a poll asking fans to vote for her fifth album title 10 years ago this month. She later named the album Blackout but originally toyed with, or pretended to ponder, stranger titles. Two options, Dignity and Integrity, sounded like generic, B-list pop names (Hilary Duff indeed released a Dignity in March 2007), showing Britney's inside knowledge of how the pop machine produced boring concepts. Other proposals, Down Boy, What if the Joke is on You, and Omg is Like Lindsay Lohan Like Okay Like, suggested she had developed an absurdist sense of humor on par with Samuel Beckett.
Four months after she shaved her head, Britney seemed to mock her tabloid image. Her survey, and the accompanying image of her wearing nothing but a blonde bob wig and a pair of white gloves, wouldn't have been a shock to those following her oft-forgotten personal blog. Like her current Instagram's curatorial mix of sad babies and inspirational quotes, her old blog shows an intelligence and sense of humor rarely attributed to her.
Britney blogged throughout her 2007 mental breakdown (which has now become a meme and inspiration to troubled millennials) years before the Kardashians chronicled every dress and Joyce Bonelli contouring session on their personal apps.
She published her first writing, the poem "Remembrance of Who I Am," in May 2006. Britney kicked the year off by making headlines for driving with her infant son, Sean Preston, on her lap, and nearly dropping him on a sidewalk in New York three months later. ("Oops… Britney drops baby, but not a drop of her drink," blurted the Daily Mail.) The pop icon acknowledged personal turbulence in her poem, describing herself as unleashed in the opening lines: "No more chains / That you gave me."
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Britney laments how the subject of her poem led her to follow some unwise patterns. Whose habits she addresses goes unnamed, but how he, or they, harmed her, and how it affected her status as the princess of pop, is clear in the third and fourth stanzas:
Manipulation is the key
They screw it in
Because you're naive.
You come to me now
Why do you bother?
Remember the Bible
The sins of the Father.
What you do
You pass down
No wonder why
I lost my crown.
Britney shows self-awareness and blames "manipulation" as the root of her issue, going on to point out a father figure who did her wrong; an evil dad motif seen throughout the Old Testament. This is also the first of many allusions similar to those in Southern Gothic literature.
The guilt you fed me
Made me weak.
The voodoo you did
I couldn't speak.
The phone is ringing.
Resurrection of my soul
The fear I'm bringing.
Britney fills the above two stanzas with more Southern references ("voodoo," "resurrection," "the fear I'm bringing") that she likely heard during her Baptist childhood in Kentwood, Louisiana, far from Brentwood. She uses her southern upbringing as a poetic tool, writing like Truman Capote before her.
Britney continues the poem speaking of herself in the third person, warning the parental symbol, "She's not the same person that you're used to." She concludes in first person, writing about how "good it is to be me," but adds an asterisk: "*This is for everyone who thinks they know me…" Is her poem directed at an unknown male? Did he knock her down, or is he a substitute for the public that thinks they know Britney from her music and tabloid jaunts?
It's unclear, and that mystery may cause readers to dismiss the poem. Her later blog posts flip-flop from self-aware to inane. After falling asleep at Caesars Palace's PURE nightclub in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve 2007, Britney writes, "It's been so long since I've been out on the town with friends. It's also been 2 years since I've even celebrated my birthday. Every move I make at this point has been magnified more than I expected, and I probably did take my new found freedom a little too far."
Her post reads like publicist mumbo jumbo till she blurts out a funny one-liner: "Anyways, thank God for Victoria Secret's new underwear line!"
In Britney's old personal blog, she melds self-aware realizations with a Valley girl-style stream of consciousness. Maybe she was fucking with us, or maybe she was a master of dumb-but-brilliant humor like Anna Nicole Smith. Either way, What if the Joke is on You wouldn't have been a bad name for that comeback album.