Last night, Britney Spears released the highly anticipated video for her latest single, “Hold It Against Me,” directed by Jonas Ã…kerlund. This is an analysis.


First off, the bad news: The editing is horrendously fast-paced, and undoubtedly the video’s greatest flaw. Much as with his videos for Lady Gaga‘s “Paparazzi” and “Telephone,” director Jonas Akerlund has fallen head-over-heels with the quick cut technique, as though attempting to increase the amount of frames per second more and more with each new clip. “Hold It Against Me” races from scene to scene at a dizzying pace. It’s frustrating, distracting and occasionally nauseating as a result.


Which leads into the other problematic Akerlund trademark: The product placement.Too much. Way too much. From to Sony to Britney’s latest fragrance, Radiance (I have less of an issue with that last one), the clip is completely mired in clunky, obvious references to the products funding the production.

And while I realize that brand marketing continues to evolve with the digital revolution, there’s simply got to be a more subtle way to go about it without completely shattering the illusion of the world created within a music video. Sadly, these jump cuts entirely disrupt the flow of the video.

If I said my heart was beating loud…

The dancing: No, it’s not what it once was. And to be fair, there’s some justification for anger from the fans here. After all, the video’s choreographer, Brian Friedman (who I adore and admire completely) spent weeks raving to MTV about Britney’s energy and the challenging choreography–all the while suggesting a complete return to form.

In reality, the moves are only slightly above “3”-level difficulty and basically on par with the “Circus” routine–still nowhere near the almighty Oops… to In The Zone era. There does seem to be more of a passion or fire in her eyes at certain points, although she still remains hopelessly stiff and cold in others.

All that being said: What did you expect, really? She technically hasn’t danced–as in really, really danced, since 2004’s knee injury on the set of “Outrageous.” From “Do Somethin'” on, the energy has remained at a frustrating halfway point. By 2007’s Blackout, it was painfully clear that we were never going to see the fire of “I’m A Slave 4 U” again.

But that doesn’t mean that Britney’s any less of a pop star. For some reason, there’s this expectation that Britney Spears must always equate with heavy dancing. Lest we forget, there isn’t even a dance sequence within the video for “Toxic,” which is generally treasured as one of Britney’s finest video moments.

Do I wish she danced again? Yes, of course. Do I know why she’s not dancing like she used to? No, I don’t. But is that going to stop me from liking her? Not even slightly. I’ve accepted that the “I’m A Slave 4 U” Britney is a thing of the past–10 years, to be exact. Time has passed, and Britney’s artistry has changed. Accept the new, or cling to the past and remain bitter–the choice is yours.

If we could escape the crowd somehow…

But onto the plot, which is where the video’s director truly shines: Much as with Lady Gaga’s “Telephone,” Akerlund has turned what was initially a song about getting hay-zay in the club into an incredibly rich mini-epic with a far more intriguing plot-line.

Pop often gets a bad rap for being superficial, but I think there are plenty of intricate themes being explored in this clip. There’s so much going on–the paint splattering, the videos playing, microphone wreaths and epic battles–that there’s plenty of room for interpretation. Here’s mine:

A legend crash-lands on Earth. If you’d like to play along, it’s the alien pop star from “Oops!…I Did It Again.”

She’s immediately put to work, which explains the meta aesthetic–it’s a video within a video. She is the pop product, and this is the production. To a certain extent, the many product placements featured toward the beginning of the video serve to bolster this idea, bombarding the viewer with this constant notion of consumption.

We find Britney quickly rising in the Matrix-live television room, lifted on high in that gorgeous white dress surrounded by her greatest achievements. This is the representation of her meteoric rise to fame, as well as the public’s perception of the superstar. She is the supreme pop princess, gorgeous and angelic.

But as the video progresses, she begins to crack. She goes a little “cray-zay.” Trapped in the middle of the microphone wreath that surrounds her (perhaps symbolic of the media scrutiny that’s followed every inch of Britney’s career), she starts to unleash the tiger–teeth bared and fingers clenched.

Back to the white dress, and the dancers suddenly come flying out from under her dress, blind and scurrying. The wheels come unhinged, and–after a particularly ghoulish Joker-esque smile–she truly loses it. The paint begins to fly from her own fingers, coating everything she’s ever done.

To me, it’s the representation of Britney’s well-publicized breakdown–the tarnishing of her career in the eyes of the public as her handlers run awry while left to her own devices.

As she unravels publicly, we start to witness the internal duel–a fight between two Britney Spears. It’s representative of the inner demons she encountered during the breakdown, but–at the risk of jumping to conclusions, I think it might even touch on something far more personal.

Though it’s never been officially confirmed, there’s been more than enough speculation (not to mention the textbook behavior displayed during the Blackout breakdown era) to suggest that Britney is in fact bipolar. This duel might just be the perfect representation of her struggle to overcome her own darkness.

(I understand that I may be entirely off base with this, so please…don’t hold it against me.)

And then comes the fall. She hits the ground, splattered and broken–as do the dueling personalities. This is rock bottom (January 2008?)–the point of (seemingly) no return.

And yet, all is not lost. Writhing on the ground, she slowly regains her footing along with the two dueling Britneys, who seemingly come to a ceasefire in their own battle. We’re immediately led to the final dance sequence–ending with a triumphant Britney standing victoriously with her head held high. She’s back.

It’s the rise, the breakdown, and the comeback. It’s beautiful, it’s tragic–it’s the life of Britney Jean Spears.

If I said I want your body now…

In all honesty, I don’t see anything boring or generic about this video. It’s completely open to interpretation (down to that ominous question mark at the very end of the clip!), and much more entertaining, visually appetizing, personal and thought-provoking than most of what Britney’s produced in the past five years. In fact, it’s one of her best videos yet.

For fans and haters alike yearning to see a return to a 21-year-old Britney, prepare to be disappointed–that Britney doesn’t exist anymore. There’s much more to her artistry than a bared midriff and fierce choreography at this point in her career. She’s not always going to be sexy, and she’s not always going to be a dancer–she’s an entertainer, and the ultimate definition of a pop star.

This is next level. This is the future. This is Adultney.

But that’s just speaking from a rational standpoint. As for a review in stan terms?


About The Author

I'm like the ringleader. I call the shots.

  • Mikey


    You and I are definitely on the same wave length. Beautiful post.

  • Emily

    You are so spot on with this review! This is pretty much exactly how I interpreted it, too! Great post! :)

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  • Justin

    That was an aboslutely perfect review. I agree with every word. Bravo.

  • Andrew

    This was amazing. Great explanation. I hold true that Britney did nothing for this video besides give it inspriation…anyone could have done the moves and imagery she did. BUT…Britney shade aside, the storyline of this video was kind of a perfect way to kick off a comeback, no? Recognize the rise and fall and show how she is slowly rising again.

  • Guido Willweber

    man I love u and ur site and ur support for our pop goddess no matter what. :)

  • Alex

    I loved your review!
    I could not agree more with what you said in the last paragraph, that this is the next level.
    It took me 4 years to accept that, this is not 2001 anymore!!!!

  • Casey Rathunde

    First off, a quick heads up – the video that premiered on MTV had none of the obvious product placement shots that the Vevo version does. I thought that I was going crazy when people started talking about the placements! If you can get your hands on a copy of the “real” version, it’s a much better edit.

    As far as the dancing goes, Britney’s skill as a dancer wasn’t always about the difficulty of the choreography, it was in the conviction of the movement. The dance scene in the second verse is as sharp as we’ve seen from her in years – maybe not on par with some of her best early videos, but at least in the same class as the bulk of them. She’s whipping her head around in way that we haven’t seen from her since “In The Zone.” I wish that the editing didn’t break the flow of the dancing up so much, but I do like what I see. While it might not be technically more difficult than “Circus” or “3,” her delivery of it is vastly improved.

  • Britfan

    im sorry but i completely disagree with what u are saying about her dancing, as u say urself the video is choppy & constently changing s its hard to actually see her dance moves, and on parts when the camera is zoomed in on her body u can tell she has got a brilliant dance routine in which she is knocking out some hot moves, but we dont see nearly enough of the dancing that is because of the editing of the video NOT because britney cannot dance anymore!! yes her knee surgery prob did effect her ability a bit but the girl has still got some hot moves MORE than most pop stars today. I know u love brit & u not bashin her unlike perez! but i think mayb u should consider the editing etc before saying stuff about her not being able to dance in this video!

  • david

    Love the review, but did you take down all the comments on the video premiere entry from yesterday? They seem to have vanished.

  • david

    Love the review, but did you take down all the comments on the video premiere entry from yesterday? They seem to have vanished.

  • david

    Love the review, but did you take down all the comments on the video premiere entry from yesterday? They seem to have vanished.

  • david

    Love the review, but did you take down all the comments on the video premiere entry from yesterday? They seem to have vanished.

  • david

    Love the review, but did you take down all the comments on the video premiere entry from yesterday? They seem to have vanished.

  • Teo

    I guess i’m not alone with the interpretation of the video. I agree with pretty much everything about this. Good work!

  • Bradley Stern

    Thanks, and don’t worry–prior comments are saved will be going live shortly. As you can see, I’m updating to a sexy new comment system. They’ll be up soon! xx

  • Bradley Stern

    Thanks, and don’t worry–prior comments are saved will be going live shortly. As you can see, I’m updating to a sexy new comment system. They’ll be up soon! xx

  • つよし ウノ

    true.. if people watched her rehearsals for mannequin and circus (video), she can still do some hard choreography.. but what I speculated is that i’m feeling she’s not comfortable dancing with her high heels and outfits nowadays..

  • M Rachmat Sulthony

    OMG, you’re sooo right. First time I watched the video I was like: “Is this the amazing overly-hyped ‘all-dance’ video Brian Friedman has been tweeting about non-stop? This is NOTHING compared to Slave 4 U or Me Against The Music!”…

    But then I realized, NO ONE from her team ever said that this video is going to be a HARDCORE DANCE video. NO ONE! It’s just me (and perhaps us) and the media who over-hyped it and unconsciously we were rising our expectation and wishing everyday that this video is going to be the return of DANCENEY.

    You were right, MANY THINGS HAPPENED with Britney, I dont know exactly what it is, it’s just that 2001 Britney will NEVER come again. Like you said, it’s the new ADULTNEY, a more mature Britney… a brand new DARKNEY!!!

    By the way, here’s my reaction:
    1st time –> Wow… (a little disappointed)
    2nd time –> It’s slowly grow in me *wide smile*
    3rd time –> OMFG, the fighting scene was epic!!! KARATENEY is flawless!!! (and THAT feet bouncing was hilarious!!!! LMAO)
    4th time –> OMFG, the final dance sequence is actually NOT THAT BAD, it’s amazing! I’m lovin it!!!
    10007623753275th time –> HOW DO I STOP PLAYING THIS VIDEO?!?!?!

  • Garbage9

    I really like your review, but I don’t think I agree. First of all, the dancing. I cannot accept a popstar like Britney not being able to dance throughout at least a dance breakdown. She’s a legend, and of course, she’s not the teenage star she once was, she’s been through a hell of a lot… But come on, other pop legends never quit the dancing, even in their 50s, so I find it a bit lazy on Britney to rely on her endless charisma, her new stylist (hate the styling, BTW), her ‘concept’ video director (he’s a genius, but an overrated one), etc. The editing is too fast paced, but it’s no excuse to avoid including a big choreog. If she was able to pull it off so fiercely at the video shoot, as everyone had us believe, then why are we not getting it? Yes, I know: it’s a video, and we should expect live performances with all the dancing Friedman promised we’d see in it, but personally I’d rather have seen her showing everything she’s got right now, not tomorrow, next week or in a month.
    Secondly, and on a very personal note, I’m having a hard time seeing the Britney I used to love. Whenever I look into her eyes I see almost no life at all. It’s like she’s turned into the puppet many accused her of being when she began her career. She lacks passion, and a lot of it. But this is just my perception.

  • M Rachmat Sulthony

    But I do see sparks and life in her eyes. It’s a matter of personal perception, but for me… she’s back. I swear to God, that FIRE in her eyes has returned! (especially when she sprayed Radiance on her neck, those are really goofy-Britney-eyes)

    Do you realize that the dance scene on the second verse and the final chorus is pretty precise? Maybe it’s the editing, Jonas Akerlund is not famous because of his ability on making a dance video, he’s famous because of the art he poured in almost all of his videos :)

  • Katie Gustafson

    Kung Fu Britney will knock all the haters on their asses. ;-)

    I thought it was great. I was shivering in anticipation up til the premier. I much prefer the MTV version that didn’t have the product placement. Even just the perfume annoys me. So many pop starts have perfumes now and they all put it in their vids, like Avril and Christina both have done recently. Ok, we get it! But I’ll take the perfume over the zoom-in on SONY and the gawd-awful dating website taking away screentime from B.

    The editing was way too quick on the changes and it was hard to keep up with at first. I thought the dancing was way above “3” level, though, and hair and makeup were amazing. I now want my wedding makeup to be like the white dress makeup. Gorgeousney! Her clothes actually fit her and didn’t look like something she pulled out of her lingerie drawer before saying she was now ready to shoot.

    A lot of time and effort and planning went into this video. Sure, I miss the Britney I fell in love with from 2001, but I’m not the same girl anymore, either.

    Let the countdown til the album releases begin!

  • Lulu

    I absolutely agree, perhaps Brian did wrong by telling us about a “Dance Video” but it is not all about the dance, I really like your thoughts on the video and I think you might be right.. This is a great concept video, and I don’t really see her so stiff, is just the terrible editing. But, she is GODNEY

  • snakesayan

    Here my review!! I loved this video!!! It is EPIC!!! AMAZING DANCE and GREAT CONCEPT!!!

  • JJ535


  • Jj535

    I gree with you 100% the more i watched the video the more i LOVED it!

  • Jordan

    Awesome review!

  • Like_o_like_h

    PERFECT review. Almost made me cry. I love her so much and I love the video even if I was disappointed at first with the lack of dancing (I blame it on Brian for hyping it up).

  • Elle

    lol I love your blog. There have been some very interesting interpretation’s on the video. Surprised you didn’t mention the Poker face (Circus era) before the paint scene.

  • jd2011

    I missed her and she’s back. She’s the old Britney of my high school years, but an even better version. She has matured and grown into a beautiful woman. She has made it through difficultly and makes me realize I can too. Love you Britney!

  • Adam Vargulish

    I couldn’t agree more. My favorite thing about the video is that it is open to interpretation. It is not a cookie cutter video. They could have easily done something in a club setting that seemed to play along with the song and instead they went for something more thought provoking and personal. I think in time fans and critics will come to view it as one of her best.

  • Juan Carlos Reeves

    i totally agree i wasn’t in to much of the video til i read what u say i totally agree with you i see the video with other eyes is just brilliant!

  • Caesar Live N Loud


  • Anonymous

    Actually, those were basically my reactions! XD

    Brad, you hit the nail right on the head with this review. And about the dancing, if this is the way she’s gonna dance from now on, I’d be fine with it. The choreography was solid and she hit EVERY move right on. Certainly better than Janet is right now. >_<

    P.S. Sooooooo glad you got Disqus. You finally gave me a reason to get an account. And it looks sexy.

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  • Mauricio Villa

    It’s one of her best videos ever, I adore it and after reading this the plot has been revealed to me, I feel enlightened!

  • Miranda

    Excellent review! I’m a huge Britney stan too and I touched on the topic of Bipolar disorder. Some people thought I was crazy for mentioning it but I’m glad I’m not the only one who has it cross their mind.

    Thank you!!

  • Christine

    The Video: A Guide for the Perplexed
    Hold It Against Me Video: What the hell was that actually about?
    It symbolizes her rise, fall, and comeback
    She hits the earth like a meteor symbolizing the immediate and record-breaking success of her first record
    She is immediately surrounded by managers, make-up artists, publicists, record-executives ect. They are putting on their clothes which symbolizes how perverse and sick-minded Hollywood people are, but they have to tone it down a little bit because they are working with a minor (Britney was 16 when she first started). They make her put on make up/perfume because they want her to change her image into a glammed up girl and leave behind who she really is. Meanwhile, there are camera flashes showing her fame.
    The girl in media room represents her career. The wedding dress represents her purity and a perfect image that she had in the beginning of her career.
    The blind people represent the general public who are blind because they don’t see her for who she really is. In the beginning of her career, the general public builds her up to the top while she creates her original music videos, represented by her rising up surrounded by them.
    She feels lonely and looks for love, because she isn’t getting any being famous… This is symbolized by her finding someone who looks like Kevin Federline on a dating site. Finding him through the internet represents that she has nobody in her life who loves her, so she goes out to find someone… the internet dating site also represents how she found someone just by the cover, and can only see whatever he puts in his online profile, or whatever he “wants” her to see.
    Then she starts fighting herself. This represents how she had to fight her own insecurities, hardships, and how she didn’t know who she was. The red Britney is constantly seen in front of microphones, and is the “famous Britney.” She is depicted as being evil. The green Britney is the Britney that she thinks she is. In more detail, you see them fighting but eventually the green Britney strangles the red Britney, or the one that was changed by fame and has a more-evil image.
    Paint starts to come out of her fingers right as she fights herself. This occurs simultaneously because it is showing how her personal struggles affected her career. The paint gets all over her old videos — ruining her reputation, ruining her career, making people affiliate her with the messiness of her personal life rather than her great pop art.
    If you look close, she has a creepily-large smile, almost like the joker. This represents that she tries to fake her happiness in her career but it starts to become obviously over-faked. It doesn’t look natural. When she pretends like shes happy, people know she really isn’t because they see the problems in her personal life.
    The blind people (general public) come out from underneath her…. representing that the general public stopped supporting her. She falls to the bottom of the media room representing her fall in her career.
    Instead of dying, she gets up and starts to dance again, representing that she didn’t give up and continued to work hard to get herself back on track. The two Britney’s that got in a fight with each other stop fighting and she starts rising to the top again in the media room. It takes a lot out of her, but she continues to arise to be the queen of pop once more! The paint is still on her dress and on the videos, representing that the mistakes she made will not go away, and she will never be able to have that “perfect/pure” image again but she still rises.
    The question mark at the end represents’ “Who knows what will happen next? The next chapter in Britney’s epic career is just unfolding.”

  • Christine

    btw, smd if don’t think its genius, read post below!!

  • Christine

    ps, it wasn’t me who thought of it, i found it from a site, copy and spread the post, education is the best medication

  • Divadevotee

    I totally didn’t understand the video. Thanks a lot for the enlightening analysis. Puts a different spin on the video, and makes me think about it in more positive light.

  • Andrew Miller

    I couldn’t agree more! I love love love your Site! I run a music blog also; . would you like to be affiliates?

  • Guest 182

    this review is just perfect….. loved…. has all the good and bad things of the clip and an outstanding interpretation of what is going in the clip… loved.. tks!

  • Okaynow

    What do you mean she hasn’t danced since Outrageous? Have u not seen the Mannequin rehearsal, the video of her dancing while pregnant to “Just Yesterday”? All the rehearsal footage from the Circus era her dancing is on point!

  • Sherwin

    Dead-on review. At least you’re no Prophet, that paranoid goof.

    Anyway, dancing wasn’t the focal point of this video, after all. It should have been, but Britney’s dancing really paled in comparison to her work ten years ago. Yes, she’s still better than most pop stars trying to be “dancers” nowadays, but yeah, “I’m a Slave 4 U” it is not. Her back-up dancers practically danced with more conviction than she did. But is it better than her dancing on “3”? Hell yes!

    That being said, the REAL strong points of this video were the visuals and the plot. The symbolism in this video was powerful and effective but certainly not at the cost of the visuals, which are stunning and clearly had a lot of effort put into it. The whole video is literally a feast for the eyes.

    As far as the story goes, however, this is not just your average video. It’s Britney Spears’s whole entire career told in 4 minutes and 19 seconds.

  • shou

    GODNEY? she’s a copy! HIAM = Take If Off by Ke$ha
    I WANNA GO = The Killer’s song or Pleasure Ground by Carolina Marquez
    and the new one i don’t remember the name is a copy of ROBYN! please!

  • Cherokee

    OH EM GEE! The endings to your reviews are HILARIOUS!! It’s like stepping out of a cubicle and jumping on the boss’ desk! Perfect.

    I believe your analysis is right-on. Great job. Definitely referring this site to friends who, too, love to discuss the meanings of videos as I do.

  • guest

    We have to stop criticizing the dancing of someone who suffered a serious knee injury.

  • trenton

    she is so feral.

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