There goes Britney's voice

And good bloody riddance to it too. At it turns out, jailbait-turned-trailer-trash-mum-turned-(somehow)-Las-Vegas-act Britney Spears cannot, in fact, sing without, shall we say, significant digital assistance:
So Britney Spears can’t sing? Quelle surprise, as the French say.The leak of a dull, flat, wobbly vocal exposed as utterly inept without the aid of autotune is just the latest opportunity to mock her minimal musical ability, as if that was even a consideration in a contemporary pop career. But if you have been paying any attention to the career of Spears at all, you would know by now that she can’t really sing, can’t dance and often can’t be bothered even making an effort to pretend otherwise.

Personally, I think Britney is the very worst kind of modern pop star, which is, of course, part of what makes her so fascinating. She is not famous for any particular charisma or talent, she is famous for being sexual jailbait who made a very public transition from cherubic Mickey Mouse Club starlet to provocative schoolgirl fantasy figure with the video for her 1999 hit single ‘ … Baby One More Time’. She was the Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus of her time, a teen crush who also fed dark adult desires, promoting an American dream of apple pie chastity whilst performing risqué songs with revealing costumes and dance moves, the latest incarnation of a bizarre cultural fascination with the virgin whore. She achieved such an incredible degree of fame in the early 21th Century (she has sold over 100 million records worldwide) that her career since has been one long public burn-out, a fairly standard pop soap opera narrative of extreme fame exposing family dysfunction, romantic disasters, drug addiction, weight problems, depression, breakdown, recovery and comeback. 
She has, along the way, made some absolutely fantastic pop records [Didact: I beg to differ], punchy, plastic, shiny assertions of identity packed with ear-catching hooks, each essentially the creation of top backroom writer-production teams cynically playing with the public image of the star and delivered by Spears with a kind of robotic blankness then tarted-up with slick, big-budget soft-porn videos.
This is partly why I listen to heavy metal and rock- and, especially, why I love going to concerts. There is no more true test of a musician's abilities than playing live in front of rabid fans who know every note, every word, every passage of every song.

Some metal bands are better about this than others, by the way. If you listen to albums by the almighty IRON MAIDEN, for instance- particularly their later work, such as "Brave New World" and especially "The Final Frontier"- you'll quickly notice that the albums have the same raw, punchy quality that their live performances do. This is entirely deliberate on the part of the band and its producers- they like to capture their live sound by playing an entire song together, all the way through, via several takes, and then doing some minimal editing in order to clean up bad transients and slight mistakes.

The result is that, when they perform live, Bruce Dickinson sounds almost exactly like he does on the record- usually better, in fact, particularly now that his voice has aged and mellowed and has more resonance. That is what makes a MAIDEN live performance such a treat to watch; the band performs the music very well on the albums, and then makes it sound even better live.

The same is not necessarily true of other bands like JUDAS PRIEST, where it is well known that Rob Halford uses an autocue on stage (he IS pushing 70, though), or AMARANTHE, where it's quite obvious that there is a fair amount of mucking about in the studio to make Elize Ryd sound as good as she does. But by and large, when you listen to a metal band playing on an album, you can be reasonably assured that this is how they will sound when playing live- and they will actually play live, not lip-sync to a pre-recorded track.

That, ultimately, is the difference between metal and pop. Pop music is, by definition, what is popular and therefore is packaged to meet the demand of the lowest common denominator. It has no soul, no character, no artistic merit at all. No one will remember most pop songs 30 years from now.

Metal, however, is about virtuoso skill, lyrical craft, and- most importantly- amazing stage performances. That is precisely why bands like IRON MAIDEN, MOTORHEAD, JUDAS PRIEST, MEGADETH, KREATOR, and so many others are still out there, still going strong, still making music and touring and enriching people's lives even after 20 or 30 or 40 years.

Metal, with some very notable exceptions (*cough MANOWAR cough*) is about integrity, tenacity, skill, and most of all live performances. It is everything that pop is not, and long may that remain the case.

Hear the atrocious cat-strangling that inspired this expulsion of bile:


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