After flirting with an intense dark/light duality since the late Nineties, Britney Spears‘ twisted side took on more graphic, unapologetic proportions by 2008 with the nihilistic pop politics of Blackout. The singer’s accompanying mental health scandals giving her pop lustre a certain tortured gleam. She smartly embraced those tensions, creating visuals like this titillating video of her writhing around while mouthing the words to Marilyn Manson’s 1995 cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This).”
Originally broadcast as a live interlude clip for her Circus tour, where Britney test-drove her Jekyll-and-Hyde image through various persona-shifting guises, a high-quality version of the video leaked online this week, sending YouTube viewers into a frenzy. For the video, Chris Ashbrook, who also directed Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart’s original “Sweet Dreams” clip in 1983, portrays Spears as the mistress of a dark masquerade-cum-orgy, with her dancers slinking around. In many ways, it’s the perverse culmination of what Spears’ live act has been about for years, just with Manson soundtracking.
Amazingly, it all feels rather appropriate. For some, the idea of pairing Britney Spears and Marilyn Manson might seem apocalyptic, the ultimate collision of musical opposites. But for others, that’s the very point: sweet dreams (beautiful nightmares?) can be made from these two antithetical pop ingredients, who arguably had an equal hand in birthing Lady Gaga. In any case, in this era of unlikely pop partnerships, this is one we wouldn’t mind seeing in the light of day – or darkness of night.