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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 September 2007, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Has Britney killed off her career?
By Mark Savage
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Britney Spears at the VMAs
Spears appeared to forget the words to her song

By now, you will know that Britney Spears' much-vaunted comeback appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards was nothing short of a shambles.

The singer, out-of-shape and seemingly dazed by the bright lights, stumbled through a lip-synced performance of her forthcoming single, Gimme More, in front of a perplexed showbusiness audience.

Responses were led by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, who wrote a vitriolic, expletive-filled open letter to Spears on his website.

"We are insulted, offended and disgusted," he spat. "What you did was disrespectful to your few remaining fans."

Professional reviewers were unimpressed, too.

"Spears trudged through her paces as if she were at a dress rehearsal," wrote The Boston Globe's Sarah Rodman.

"The fire has apparently gone out of her loins," added Ann Powers in the LA Times.

"People have said she was drunk," music journalist and founder of the Popjustice website Peter Robinson told the BBC News website.

Max Clifford
Max Clifford says he wouldn't have let the show go ahead
"But it was weird because, choreography-wise, she hit all the marks. If I was drunk I wouldn't be able to do that.

"Maybe she had diarrhoea and her mind was elsewhere."

'Down the tubes'

In the wake of the broadcast, many have asked whether Spears - who recently divorced husband Kevin Federline, shaved off all of her hair and checked into rehab - should have been put on stage in the first place.

"If I'd been in charge, she wouldn't have done the show," says PR guru Max Clifford.

Instead, he says, Spears needs "someone to take hold of her and get her the help she needs".

Part of the problem, it has been suggested, is that Spears recently split from the management team who made her a star.

Kanye West
I just felt so bad for her
Kanye West
"To surround yourself with yes-men is wrong career-wise, whether you're Britney or Pete Doherty," says Mr Robinson.

Mr Clifford agrees: "The record company or management, or whoever it is, have got to be businesslike enough to say, 'We're not protecting our interest.'

"A fit, together Britney Spears has the potential to have more and more success over the next few years.

"Someone who's doing the kind of things she's doing now, the career is rapidly disappearing and going down the tubes."

'Exploitation'

Speaking on New York radio station Z100, rap star Kanye West had another take on the affair - saying MTV should shoulder the blame for Britney's bad press.

"They know that Britney wasn't ready and they had her perform, so they exploited her," he said.

"I just felt so bad for her. Man, it's a dirty game. This game will chew you up and spit you out."

Britney Spears at the VMAs in 2001
Spears' previous MTV appearances are remembered more fondly
It has been suggested that MTV's choice of camera angles - which favoured long shots over close-ups - showed producers were aware of problems with Spears' performance after dress rehearsals.

PR expert Mark Borkowski argues that it is the TV network, not the singer, which has come off worst from the debacle.

"You can't use the media as Britney has and not expect to be crucified if you're not up to scratch," he says.

"But what the hell was MTV doing providing the crucifix?

"Credible brands need to be trusted, and that is exploitative PR.

"They will struggle in future to attract that sort of star, which is what their audience wants."

Sympathy

As for Spears, pop watchers say her shambolic performance doesn't signal the end of her career.

"People forget that before her last album came out, there were the same stories - that Britney was going off the rails and she was supposed to be over," says Mr Robinson.

Britney Spears at the VMAs
The 25-year-old has not released a single since 2005's Do Somethin'
"But when she started doing her day job again, people realised that she was a very good pop star."

"It isn't a disaster," says Max Clifford.

"I'll tell you why: Most people seem to see her as a victim. The fact that everyone has been so critical and so nasty will, in some ways, reinforce the public sympathy there is for her."

Indeed, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, Robinson wonders whether Spears masterminded the whole spectacle.

"I did have this theory that Britney was deliberately going off the rails, so that when she came back everyone would go: 'This is more amazing than we ever thought it would be.'"

"The song [Gimme More] is really amazing, and I've heard two other tracks from the album that are really good.

"But there's only so far that an amazing song can really turn things around."




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Britney performs on the MTV stage



SEE ALSO
Britney's MTV comeback falls flat
10 Sep 07 |  Entertainment
Spears debuts new material online
01 Sep 07 |  Entertainment
Britney's ex wants legal expenses
31 Aug 07 |  Entertainment
Bid to open Britney court papers
15 Aug 07 |  Entertainment
Spears and Federline now divorced
31 Jul 07 |  Entertainment
Spears guard faces battery charge
28 Jul 07 |  Entertainment
Spears sorry for 'brolly attack'
06 Jul 07 |  Entertainment

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