It’s Britney vs. Britney in her music video for “Hold It Against Me.”
If it hadn’t been for the two weeks worth of teaser clips released on Britney Spears’ Twitter account, the Jonas Akerlund-directed music video for “Hold It Against Me” would have been a complete shock when it was released. Rather than portray the song literally by setting it in a club or having Spears chase a love interest, Akerlund took the video in a different direction and created something unlike any else in Britney’s catalog of videos.
The video is dark, deep, and can be interpreted many ways, as her manager Larry Rudolph pointed out in an MTV broadcast after the video premiered. Regardless, the overriding theme of the piece is the trials and trappings of celebrity.
The video begins with a comet hurtling toward Earth. Some have suggested this represented the way Spears crash landed into public consciousness and pop culture in the late ’90s, but considering the clip begins with the words, “Earth 2011,” that seems unlikely.
Another false notion floating around the web is that when Britney logs onto the Plenty of Fish dating website and finds a man she can presumably hold against her, it is meant to symbolize Spear’s search for love. Great idea, except the director’s cut of the video on Akerlund’s website cuts the scene (as well as all other product placement references) out of the video. Unlike say, “Telephone,” where the product placements play an ironic and meaningful part in the story, Britney’s use of Plenty of Fish, Make Up Forever eye shadow and Sony televisions were just advertising. Reports estimate that the product placement raked in half a million dollars.
All that money is one of the upsides to fame, but Akerlund hints at fame’s darker side when he shot Spears surrounded by microphones. Like a halo surrounding Saint Spears, they symbolize the tabloids constant obsession with the minutia of her life. Not surprisingly, these scenes are short and choppy. All eyes might be on Britney, but as her last Rolling Stone interview proved, her management guards her and makes sure she doesn’t say or do anything worth reporting.
After dancing around for a bit and spritzing herself with her own perfume, Spears finds herself surrounded by screens playing some of her music videos while wearing a white wedding dress. Notice the videos are mostly her earliest clips rather than her later, more sexual ones. Lots of “…Baby One More Time,” “Sometimes,” and “Lucky,” but no diamond bodysuit.
As the breakdown in the song begins, Spears shoots paint from tubes attached to her hands. Her dress and the screens end up drenched in color. Could it be that Akerlund wanted to portray Spears’ fall from grace and the tarnishing of her squeaky clean virginal image?
Interspersed are the most iconic images from the video — the battle of Britney vs. Britney. Spears’ manager offered one suggestion of what that represented.
“There are really two different Britneys,” he said. “There’s a public Britney and there’s a private Britney, and they’re very different. Maybe the world doesn’t really know that, maybe those of us who do know her really well understand that, but there really are two different Britneys. Maybe at some times the two Britneys are at odds with each other; most of the time they’re not. There’s some of that going on. I think it’s also about Britney just being strong and still on top after all these years. … But there’s a few different ways to look at it.”
Some fans have interpreted it another way — Britney battling with her past and taking control of her image and career. One only needs to spend a few minutes on the Popjustice message boards or read a few tweets from producer William Orbit to find out that Spears is losing that battle. The video seems to hint at that though. The battle seemingly ends in a draw, and despite the pyrotechnics and confetti falling from the sky at the video’s conclusion, there is still a sense that not all is right in Britney’s starry world, highlighted by the multi-colored question mark that ends the clip.
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