Earlier this year, a video surfaced comparing footage of Britney Spears from when she first started her “Pieces of Me” Vegas residency in 2013 to a recent performance. Ride-or-die Britney fans know that her dance moves were permanently affected by her knee injury in 2004; couple that fact with a cavalcade of personal issues stemming from the 2007 breakdown—resulting in the conservatorship that has since ruled her life—and it’s undeniable that the old Britney hasn’t been with us for a very long time.
There’s life in this recent Vegas video—she’s dancing better than she has in years and looks like she’s having fun doing what she’s been doing since her stage debut (albeit local) at the age of five, instead of appearing like an anxious deer caught in headlights. More and more videos released from the “Pieces of Me” show similar indications of improvement, from her saying, “Men, frankly, can suck my fucking toe” to voicing a desire so many of us share: wanting a hot nerd with a really big dick. And if you haven’t been following her Instagram—a weird mix of inspirational quotes, goofy videos, and straight-up mom posts—it’s the most illuminating look we’ve had into her life in years.
So last week, when Britney teased new music on Twitter with a sexy video using #TakeABow, Britney fans (myself included) freaked out. Was it a new perfume? A new single? A Vegas announcement? (It was later revealed to be “Private Show,” a single AND a new perfume). When that teaser turned into into Britney dropping “Make Me” Featuring G-Eazy on Friday, her first single since 2015’s misstep, “Pretty Girls” with the now defunct Iggy Azalea, fans practically exploded.
Here’s the thing about “Make Me,” though: It’s fine. Produced by Burns (a Calvin Harris lookalike?), it’s Britney meets 2016. (OK, it’s dance-y and earworm-y enough that I’ll regret calling it “fine” in a matter of weeks.) The song is a bit melancholy but without fully becoming the #sadgirl dance pop of a Carly Rae Jepsen or Sky Ferreira. The guest verse from rapper G-Eazy is also perfectly fine, but why wasn’t Ty Dolla $ign available? Inevitably, the remixes will be better than the original and it’ll still sound great on a dance floor.
But a fine single from Britney isn’t about the music—it’s that she’s even here and making it. The single feels more like a message to her fans, to let us know that she’s doing alright. It’s easy to have a deep emotional attachment to Britney. So many of us grew up with her from 1998’s “…Baby One More Time,” when she was just 16, through the failed relationships, the career highs and lows, a muddied TV/film career, her children. She was the gateway pop music drug for a generation. We watched her thrive via No. 1 singles and iconic music videos, and we saw the same industry that shaped her break her down (see: the early onset of TMZ). Still, she was always the girl next door, the goofy best friend—her down-to-earth attitude made it easy to imagine her as your closest confidante; when she needed help, her fans were always there to support her. Post 2007, in one of her documentaries, and through her lawyers, Britney heartbreakingly stressed that she just wants to be a good mom—that’s it. Now, it seems as though her Vegas residency has given her the stability to rediscover her musical appetite.
Of course, I’d be happy if Britney’s ninth studio album delivers “Toxic” level singles (maybe with a dark dash of 2007’s Blackout, her most under-appreciated album). It’d be great to see her work with new producers, like Snakehips, or even better, that long-rumored collaboration with Dev Hynes. Even if the album doesn’t live up to expectations (I’m still an apologist for 2013’s Britney Jean), knowing that Britney is happy and healthy is enough.