“I may have made it rain / Please forgive me”

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On ABC’s “Primetime” in November, 2003

This essay is the second of a two-part series on the music videos that came out of the Justin Timberlake/Britney Spears breakup. It’ll make the most sense if you’ve read “The Ballad(s) of Justin and Britney, Vol. 1: ‘Cry Me a River’” first. It was edited by Jasmine Mani.

“I’m embarrassed, can we stop for a sec?” asks an emotional Britney Spears about halfway through her Primetime interview, where we last left off. It was November of 2003, and Diane Sawyer had just pressed the young star about how “rough” things had been lately, from her breakup with Justin Timberlake the previous year, to her aunt’s ongoing cancer battle, to her parents’ recent divorce. “You’ve had a year that would test a lot of people,” Sawyer says. …


“The bridges were burned / Now it’s your turn, to cry”

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On “The All-New Mickey Mouse Club” (MMC)

This essay is the first of a two-part series on the music videos that came out of the Justin Timberlake/Britney Spears breakup. (Click here to read “The Ballad(s) of Justin and Britney, Vol. 2: ‘Everytime.’”) An early version of it was edited by Dilara Elbir; Jasmine Mani edited the most recent version.

2007 was particularly good to Justin Timberlake. He spent most of the year touring in support of his second studio album, FutureSex/LoveSounds, which spawned four number-one singles — “SexyBack, “My Love,” “What Goes Around… Comes Around,” and “Summer Love” — and ultimately won him as many Grammys. By the time he sat down with Oprah Winfrey on her namesake show in September, he’d also appeared on the TIME 100, aired his tour as an HBO special, starred in Shrek the Third, and won an Emmy for “Dick in a Box.” In the Oprah Winfrey Show episode that aired on September 19, Oprah asks Justin about staying grounded, the necessity of hard work, and how he’d been “living that celebrity life” — Oprah’s words, not his — since he was on The All-New Mickey Mouse Club (MMC) in his preteens. …


A closer look at the Lady Gaga/Beyoncé video—its origin story, its influences, its themes, and its legacy—on its 10th birthday

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“Once you kill a cow, you gotta make a burger”

“I hate ‘Telephone.’ Is that terrible to say? It’s the song I have the most difficult time listening to.”

“Because it was offered to Britney first?”

“Well that’s not exactly what happened, but I don’t want to delve into that. I could delve into it if you turn that off,” said Lady Gaga, motioning to journalist Peter Robinson’s audio recorder.

It was May of 2011, the same month that the then 25-year-old star released Born This Way, and Robinson had asked her what she thought her worst song was. There weren’t too many to chose from yet—she’d technically only put out one album, The Fame (2008), and its reissue, The Fame Monster (2009)—but her answer was still unexpected. “Telephone” had been a standout track from The Fame Monster. It was nominated for a Grammy; it featured Beyoncé, another massive star; its video garnered half a million views in its first 12 hours on YouTube. “When I say it’s my worst song it has nothing to do with the song,” Gaga clarified. …


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This essay was originally published by Much Ado About Cinema on January 31, 2020, and edited by Dilara Elbir and Mary Beth McAndrews. “Why Did You Do That?” was a column dedicated to pop music videos warranting further critical respect and/or attention.

In October of 1992, Madonna was Vanity Fair’s cover story — well, she and the two projects that she released shortly after the issue went to press. There was Erotica, her fifth and most sexually-explicit studio album to date, and there was Sex, which writer Maureen Orth called “perhaps the dirtiest coffee-table book ever published.” By the end of the Erotica era, Madonna would — among other things — sing about taking her partner from behind, pose for softcore porn, star in an erotic thriller alongside Willem Dafoe, and simulate an orgy with her dancers on stage (dozens of times around the world). …


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This essay was originally published by Much Ado About Cinema on October 7, 2019, and edited by Dilara Elbir and Mary Beth McAndrews. “Why Did You Do That?” was a column dedicated to pop music videos warranting further critical respect and/or attention.

You wouldn’t necessarily guess listening to Gwen Stefani’s Love. Angel. Music. Baby. (2004) how much she cried making it. The No Doubt frontwoman had first considered recording a solo album during the band’s Rock Steady Tour in 2002. One morning between shows, she heard Club Nouveau’s “Why You Treat Me So Bad?” from 1987 — you’ll recognize it as the precursor to “I Got 5 on It,” the song that was featured heavily in Jordan Peele’s Us (2019) — and something just clicked. Gwen “turned to [bandmate Tony] Kanal over breakfast and said, ‘I want to do that song,’” reported Jenny Eliscu in a 2005 Rolling Stone piece. What she meant was the sort of pop she listened to as a high schooler in the ‘80s — Prince, Depeche Mode, New Order, Madonna. “It was Kanal, after all, who had introduced her to that kind of music when the two were teenage sweethearts,” Eliscu wrote. The idea crystallized in Gwen’s mind: why not work on an ‘80s-inspired dance record as a side project? …


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This essay was originally published by Much Ado About Cinema on September 4, 2019, and edited by Dilara Elbir and Mary Beth McAndrews. “Why Did You Do That?” was a column dedicated to pop music videos warranting further critical respect and/or attention.

When Beyoncé first met with Miguel to discuss what eventually became “Rocket,” the longest track on BEYONCÉ (2013), she’d only recently given birth to Blue Ivy. It would have been mid-2012 or so; Miguel recalls that “she was looking beautiful; her skin was glowing and she was ready to create.” Beyoncé was feeling more sexually empowered than ever as a new mom — she says as much in a behind-the-scenes doc released with the album — and wanted to record something D’Angelo-esque in that spirit. …


“You can’t just admit marginalized students to your program and call it a day.”

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When we’re talking about gender equality in the film industry, there’s a statistic that people love to reference: Roughly half of today’s film school grads are women.

It often comes up in the context of hand-wringing about the state of the industry. How could it possibly be, they ask, that so many women are being funnelled into the business each year, but the opportunities for them behind the camera haven’t improved in almost two decades? …

About

Sydney Urbanek

Culture writer and (actual) music video scholar with a potentially unhealthy interest in the lives and art of pop divas

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