Criminal is the latest song from Britney Spears, released last month. The most recent single from her seventh studio album Femme Fatale.
It seems another age now since she first burst onto the pop-scene with ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ proving to be more than just a one-hit wonder, more than just another passing pop fad. Like her other pop contemporaries of the time Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake they have all endured, continuing to make great pop music if Britney herself the more hit and miss of the three.
Justin Timberlake indeed has successfully made that usually doomed transition from the pop stage to the cinema screen (think Prince, think Madonna) with The Social Network and Friends with Benefits – nevertheless more of the music please Justin.
Criminal is an unusual popsong in that it has a flute – but please don’t think Jethro Tull! – providing a recurring theme to the persistent beat of the song itself. Lyrically it is in the tradition of the Shangri-Las – Britney running away with a bad-boy and pleading with her Mum not to disown her – remember I Can Never Go Home Anymore? – but musically it has none of the melodrama of those Shadow Morton produced epics.
The video director is New Yorker Chris Marrs Piliero, whose most famous pop video to date perhaps is the witty ‘Tighten Up’ by The Black Keys, who sees himself here it seems as a film director – and why not – with Criminal a stab towards his Hollywood CV.
The first clue of this being the inclusion of opening credits, the video later ending with a long credit role.
Add to that it is filmed in 16:9 aspect ratio.
An early getaway scene sees the two partners in crime fleeing a party – Britney Spears having booted her be-floored assailant in the family jewels – on a motorbike in traffic which red Double Decker buses establishes that the City we are in is London. And not the Tourist spots of London either but Stoke Newington – I wonder how this Hackney area came to their attention? It was one of the riot-affected London areas so perhaps that is how?
Her villainous accomplice is her jobbing actor boyfriend Jason Trawick – what’s a little nepotism from your millionaire girlfriend?!
Later in a preposterous scene that might have made even Guy Ritchie blush the Metropolitan Police Armed Response Unit are seen letting rip a hail of bullets upon the couple’s hideout apartment as Britney and her beaux passionately embrace. We then discover that this symphonic salvo of shrapnel was all in vain as in fact the both of them have escaped and eluded the law’s grasp yet again.
Earlier in the video we have even more passionate scenes between them so much that YouTube has age-restricted the video. I do not know if there are many readers of the blog below 18 but I shall ensure I am circumspect with my choice of video-stills!
The video was also criticized for Britney Spears sporting a gun – but I feel, a bit like the faux-controversy over Rihanna’s Man Down video, it is not clear why guns are an accepted staple of Television, Cinema and Computer Games but not Music Videos?
The local Hackney Council even criticized Britney Spears for promoting gun violence – a premise only credible if you consider depicting something as promoting something. Then the Member of Parliament for Hackney, Diane Abbot, got involved acknowledging it was only ‘a music video’ but then going on to say it ‘was glamorising gangs’ and perhaps most absurdly of all that ‘Britney should know better’ – why Britney Spears has a popstar should know better I am not sure!
Still on the basis that all publicity is good publicity then no doubt quietly Britney and her record company were pleased with this Yankee storm in an English tea-cup.
The Video Director Chris Marrs Piliero will have also been pleased with the video’s cinematic reception – Rolling Stone going as far to make Hitchcock comparisons. Music critics and their hyperbole hey!
Criminal is not of course anything close to classic cinema. No Oscar will be coming its director’s way – a VMA though most certainly could. Though Britney as leading actor will not I think be walking the MTV carpets should they have had an actors section, which they don’t! Damning with faint praise she acts better than Madonna but no match to her aforementioned ex, Justin…but the video provides a good enjoyable five-minute odd romp for all that.
- Britney Spears and Jason Trawick Get Hot and Heavy in Her “Criminal” Video – Love It or Leave It? (popsugar.com)
- Britney Spears Is ‘Criminal’ [Video] (gawker.com)
- Music Video Review: Britney Spears – “Criminal” (blogcritics.org)
- Watch: Britney Spears, ‘Criminal’ (pinkisthenewblog.com)
- Britney Spears’ ‘Criminal’ Director Talks Gun Controversy (mtv.com)
- Britney Spears makes a video. (popjustice.com)