To a less ‘Toxic’ new year

Times Staff Writer

A swank nightclub in Las Vegas called Pure has just announced that Britney Spears will appear there Dec. 31 to party and count down the last seconds of 2006, a year that, for her, has been a roller-coaster ride. In recent weeks, that ride has looked like it’s been headed toward rock-bottom -- or is that rock-bottomless?

Spears has circled 2007 as her comeback year, but, two years removed from her last hit, “Toxic,” it’s not clear that the former pop queen will be warmly welcomed back to her throne. Or as Mitch Schneider, publicist for David Bowie and Aerosmith, put it: “I think that waking up on the morning of Jan. 1, 2007, as Britney Spears is not an easy thing to do.”

Spears has given birth to two boys in the last 15 months. She has become a poster girl for ditzy parenting and just split from husband Kevin Federline. And, on three occasions in November, she sent newsflashes (literally) around the world with her new habit of going out on the town without underwear beneath her miniskirt.

The relentless tabloid behavior has many in the music industry predicting full career implosion, but others say this is all passing turbulence. “Britney is a huge star, shining,” said Steve Davidovici, managing partner of Pure, who, by the way, denies reports that his venue paid six digits to have Spears count backward from 10. “Let’s start the year on a good note.”


In that spirit, here are some recommended New Year’s resolutions for Spears from pop music mavens:

Resolution No. 1: “I will go into hiding.”

This one came from Geoff Mayfield. The director of Billboard magazine’s charts was in Vegas this week for the Billboard Awards, where Spears was a hot topic -- but only for tabloid-type reasons. “I think she simply has to go away for a while. She needs to let people forget her awhile. Getting away will accomplish a couple of things -- she can take care of herself and work on being a good parent and a healthy human being. But also it will give people a break from this barrage of all-things-Britney, a lot of which has been negative.”

How much attention does Spears get? Yahoo announced Tuesday that she was the most popular search term for the year to date.


Resolution No. 2: “I will become the next Mariah Carey, not the new Michael Jackson.”

There’s plenty of ways to approach a comeback, but not all of them are wise. “I think there will be ridiculous expectations on that first single no matter what she does,” said Jay Frank, chief of programming for Yahoo Music. “So I think she just needs to get that single out and move on with life.... That would be better than trying to come back with some grandiose, full-blown album.”

Frank said the model should be Carey, who was written off and responded like the Rocky Balboa of divas. “She walked away, stayed low-profile and just worked really hard.” Carey also embraced a leaner, contemporary hip-hop sound. The result: Grammy nominations and the second-best selling CD of 2005.

What’s the worst approach? Frank said Jackson’s pattern of inflated and unfocused projects and haughty resistance to starting from scratch. “That,” Frank said, “could be a disaster for Britney.”


Rick Dees, the venerable morning DJ now on Movin’ 93-FM, said the audience’s fascination with Spears was still potent but that it could easily flip into disdain. “She needs to be careful. I’d hate to think she’s getting desperate. You wonder who’s giving her advice.”

Resolution No. 3: “I will avoid Central Park.”

Schneider, the publicist who also worked closely with Ozzy Osbourne, said there was now a standard list of tactics for comeback campaigns.

“She could do the free concert in Central Park, but that could be instant career death for Britney if it goes badly. She hasn’t had a tour in years, so she’s not on her game. The same goes for a network concert special. She could do an ‘MTV Unplugged,’ but that would just underline her vocal deficiencies. She could do a club tour, but you can take the girl out of the arena, but it’s hard to take the arena out of the girl.”


Schneider said the real dilemma was that the music scene had changed so fundamentally. Spears was good primarily at selling CDs, but now CDs don’t sell like they used to, no matter who’s on the cover.

“There will be people in a boardroom trying to figure this out for her. The only thing I can come up with for her that makes sense is ‘American Idol.’ She needs to be a judge on ‘American Idol.’ It’s all moving toward her becoming Paula Abdul.”

Resolution No. 4: “I will remember that (when I choose to wear them) I put my pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else.”

Speaking of Dec. 31 countdowns, Dick Clark pretty much invented the shtick. Clark has seen pop stars come and go for a half century or so. He said the key to survival is in keeping your heels connected to the planet.


“My advice for any star is: ‘Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t think it’s going to last more than 20 minutes. Keep your feet on the ground, for God’s sake.’ They begin to believe their own publicity. They think it’s going to go on forever. It won’t. That only happens with a handful of people.”

Resolution No. 5: “I will go back to being fake.”

A lot of Spears’ fans think she should just stay true to herself. Don’t believe them for one second, said Perez Hilton, the self-proclaimed “gossip gangsta.”

Hilton was “a huge Britney fan” back when Spears was the aloof sex bomb hiding behind glossy production. But then she cut loose her circle of advisors and abandoned the facade.


“Now we see the real Britney: Marrying a loser, having two babies

Resolution No. 6: “I will learn to make people laugh but in, like, a not-mean way.”

Spears got famous in music videos, but Mayfield said his defining memory of her was on “SNL,” not MTV. “She was on ‘Saturday Night Live’ a few years ago, and I just remember her being so funny and ready to be self-deprecating. She was great. Maybe there’s something there. She could do some sort of talk show or character role.”