BRITNEY SPEARS – “Autumn Goodbye”

Twinned quaintness: a B-Side, and a Britney tune carried mostly by its sung melody. It’s A-Side was “…Baby One More Time”, which may not be the best of her records but is still the audio/video template for everything else – sexuality as a production gloss, a rampaging text (*mops sweaty pomo brow*) blithely unaware of its own unpleasant implications. The crucial difference between Madonna and Britney is that Madonna is famous for her decisive image-control and Britney’s rep is built on her (apparently) accidental PR messes – domestic violence subtexts; virginity claims; drunken weddings; suicide videos. Weirdly I think this might be why she endures – unusually for a modern pop star, she makes huge, glaring, honking mistakes.

Madonna also never made a habit of doing things like “Autumn Goodbye”, a farewell-my-summer-love burble which sets out the stall for Britney-as-innocent. It has a very nice tune which slides from an aching verse to a jaunty chorus and which is ample reason to ferret it out. Listening to it now though the production – or lack of it – is what strikes me. “Autumn Goodbye”, with its little blurts of canned trumpets and aerobicise backbeat, sounds cheaper than almost anything else under the Spears imprint. In fact it sounds European – Pete Waterman could have done it, or more likely one of his staff could have done it for a half-hearted Steps solo album. I have plenty of tolerance for this sound – doesn’t excite me, doesn’t offend me – but it’s certainly Not Britney. As such “Autumn Goodbye” is a snapshot of Britney before she was Britney – before Team Britney had worked out what to do with her.