Do you remember when Britney Spears could dance? Not dance, like, better than your average person, which she still can, but like, dance dance? Like at the end of her infamous performance in a nude sparkle suit at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, when her nostrils were flared and it was clear her brain was somewhere else, somewhere where all she was focused on was dancing her ass off? Anyway, we couldn't help but think of that Britney during the new video for "Hold It Against Me," which trots out a ton of bells, whistles, and wedding gowns, to not-so-bad effect, just to make up for the basic fact that she isn’t in the dancing shape, or really, the performing shape she once was. Not that Britney doesn't dance in this thing, just that it's mostly from a stationary position. The video is a mishmash of cuts and elements we've seen before, including Rocky Horror lips, hundreds of TV screens, and Brit in an inexplicable metallic white wedding dress. It gets a bit more fun at the musical breakdown, two minutes and 45 seconds in, when Spears starts shooting colorful silly string out of her hands (hey, Ke$ha!) and catfighting herself, and, more clearly, her body double. (The Britney vs. Britney fight is a reference to so many other videos that have come before, including "Toxic" and Mariah Carey, but at this particular moment it plays like a particular hat tip to Nicki Minaj.) At one point a simple shot from the "...Baby One More Time" video, of Britney singing straight to the camera while sitting on the bleachers, shows up on a screen, but is quickly defaced by more silly string. It's a callback that, intentionally or otherwise, jibes with the video's Brit on Brit catfight: Present-day Britney isn't fighting herself so much as that earlier, less messed-up Britney, the one we all keep hoping she can be again. Not to bring the mood on a high-energy, professional, dance video way down — because really, the video is fine enough — but all that shot did was remind us that there was a time when Spears's eyes didn't look quite this empty.
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Got that, Carol?