Glee Playback: Britney Spears Makes for Mixed Results

Brittany is brilliant channeling Britney, but not all the songs - or cameos - add up

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In last night's much-hyped second episode, Glee, of course, paid tribute to Britney Spears (added perk: John Stamos guest spot!). Spears' cameos and almost all the renditions of her tunes took place in the glee clubbers' fantasies - perhaps because Britney has a perfume called Fantasy, which was advertised during the show? But more importantly, Beyonce backup dancer-turned-Glee cast member Heather Morris - whose Brittany emerged as fan favorite, thanks to off-the-wall one-liners like, "Did you know dolphins are just gay sharks?" and "Pretty sure my cat's been reading my diary" - finally got her share of the spotlight. Let's scrub the highly awkward scene involving self-pleasure and Rachel Berry groupie Jacob Ben-Israel out of our collective memory, and remember the music ...

Related Photo: Britney Spears on the Set of Glee

"I'm A Slave 4 U"
Brittany fiercely opposes the Kurt-led campaign to have New Directions sing Britney: "My name is also Britney Spears. My middle name is Susan, my last name is Pearce. That makes me Brittany S. Pearce... I've lived my whole life in Britney's shadow." But when Emma's new dentist boyfriend, Carl (John Stamos), determines most of the glee club needs tooth work, Pandora + anesthesia = Brittany hallucinating a rendition of "Slave" that pairs classic Spears moments (the "Oops!...I Did It Again" orange bodysuit, dancing with a python to "I'm a Slave 4 U" at the 2001 VMAs and the glitter bodysuit from her "Toxic" video) with an attempt to seduce Dr. Carl. Plausible? Not at all. But seeing Brittany pull off these moves and recreate the iconic scenes from Spears' heyday were worth it.
Britney Cameo: None.

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"Me Against the Music"
Brittany and Santana break out their iPods at Dr. Carl's in anticipation of more anesthesia-fueled fantasies. After dialing up Spears' 2003 duet with Madonna, they dream of an impressive recreation of the "Me Against the Music" video that cleverly plays on the ambiguity of the Brittany/Santana relationship. Brittany's dancing shines once again, and the sassy soul of Santana's voice makes us wish she had more solos.
Britney Cameo: At the end of the number, Spears replaces Santana and pins Brittany against the wall. "Your breath smells really good," Brittany says. "So does yours," Spears answers. "And you know why? This is a fantasy."

Related Glee Star Chris Colfer on The Best and Worst Parts of Playing Kurt Hummel ˜ And His Favorite Britney Spears Song

"...Baby One More Time"
Not to be outdone, Rachel goes on her own Britney trip at the dentist, after priming her mind with the star's unauthorized biography: "I look forward to the day the paparazzi provokes me and I attack them!" But we were left wanting more from the frame-by-frame take on Spears' debut video - especially because the tune lost all of its scandalous sexuality with Rachel's octaves-higher singing.
Britney Cameo: Spears appeared as the teacher in the video's starting moments.

"Stronger"
Artie is still coping with rejection from the football team and by his ex, Tina, so he envisions a world where he is getting ... stronger ... emotionally and physically. It makes sense as Artie's theme, and we didn't mind the weirdness of a male singing lead as much as we thought - but we wanted more Brittany!
Britney Cameo: Before breaking out into song, Spears dream-chats with Artie, Tina and Brittany in the hallway. She offers culinary tips (ranch dressing on pizza, anyone?) and gets Tina to apologize for dumping Artie. "Artie, I'm sorry," Tina says. "And I'm stronger," he responds.

"Toxic"
Mr. Schuester finally agrees to let New Directions to sing a Spears song at the upcoming school pep rally - and says he'll join them. As with the highly inappropriate (yet hysterical) take on Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It" that marked the glee club's debut in front of McKinley High last year, the crew puts a Fosse spin on their stripped down version of "Toxic." The moment is so hot it sends the school into a frenzy and prompts Sue Sylvester to pull the fire alarm.
Britney Cameo: None. Fantasy over.

"The Only Exception"
In the episode's only non-Spears song, Rachel returns to Mr. Schuester's original lesson plan with Paramore's "young adult contemporary" hit. She dedicates it to Finn and sings a gorgeous and tender rendition to close out the show. Paramore's Hayley Williams later tweeted to this to Lea Michele: "Your voice was sick!! I love your version more haha!" We have to agree.

Bottom Line:
Glee is at its best when it finds songs to support the plot, and doesn't create a plot around songs, as evidenced by the all-around brilliant "Toxic." As a result, we were left a bit unsettled: Why did all of our main characters suddenly turn to Britney when they needed to loosen up - and why didn't they look to any recent tracks to help them do so? Where did our potentially new New Directions members from last week go? And why didn't Kurt sing any solos? Next up: it's Billy Joel time in "Grilled Cheesus."

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