Britney Spears will reportedly perform at next month’s Grammy Awards. But will she be able to reach the heights of weirdness possessed by the fever-dream mashup of “From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart” and “…Baby One More Time” that she performed in 2000? Travel back to a stranger time with the clip below.
It’s kind of crazy to think that this performance happened only 11 years ago, because it seems like it’s from another pop universe entirely. Start with Britney’s outfits, which seem downright habit-like compared to the getups worn by pop stars today—although this was, after all, the pre-wardrobe malfunction era, so bodysuits with cutout sides did still have a vaguely daring air about them.
Examining the clip at a level deeper than its outfits, though, is not unlike reading an executive summary of Why People Complained About The Grammys, Even Now—the limpness of the audience, the weird glomming-together of Important Artistic Statements and loose-limbed (and way superior) dance pop, the lazy hotel-lounge arrangement backing Britney’s watery rendition of “From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart,” Britney’s attempt at breakdancing, the almost-callout to Wire’s “Three Girl Rumba” at the beginning of the costume-change-occasioned robot dance breakdown. Also, the robot dance breakdown, although that can probably be explained at least a bit by the times; after all, it was the year 2000 and people were still coming to grips with the idea that the world had officially entered the future, and hadn’t ended because of worldwide Y2K-related panic (although damn if the dot-com bust didn’t try to take at least some of it down). Plus Daft Punk was probably just filtering up to the teenpop hordes at that point.
It’s probably worth noting that the above tableau was presented the year that Santana’s inescapable Supernatural steamrolled through the Record, Song and Album of the Year categories on the heels of it selling a lot of records; it’s 15 times platinum as of this writing, although who knows how many of those copies are currently languishing in used/refuse bins. (And Christina Aguilera wound up beating Britney for Best New Artist that night.) So saying that this performance is from another era isn’t entirely off the mark—after all, Napster was just starting to reach the world beyond Shawn Fanning’s dorm room, while Taylor Swift was 12 years old.
But it’s also worth having this clip ready for comparison to whatever Britney unleashes when she takes the stage in Los Angeles in a couple of weeks to preview her new album, because no matter what sort of crowing the bloggerati engages in, she’ll very likely be less trainwrecky than the above performance from 2000, to say nothing of her VMA sleepwalk from three and a half years ago. Whether or not the absence of the “childhood dreams run amok” element that runs through the above clip is a good thing, though? I’m not sure.