All eyes on Brit in the center of the ring just like a circus! And the circus has just begun as Britney Spears began her two-year residency titled “Britney: Piece of Me” at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas in December.
Spears is expected to perform 96 shows over the next two years at the venue. She is performing some of her greatest hits, including “Baby One More Time,” “Oops! I did It Again,” and “Lucky.”
“Obviously, the show is supposed to be a career retrospect and a celebration of, you know, the past 15 years,” Spears’ manager, Larry Rudolph, said in Britney’s documentary titled I am Britney Jean which premiered on E! Dec. 22, 2013.
Britney has been an American Pop icon since one of her biggest albums, “Baby One More Time,” debuted in 1999 and became the best selling album ever by a teenage artist. Britney was only 18 years old when the album was released. Ever since, her life has been a whirlwind of tours, fame, paparazzi and worldwide recognition. She has produced eight studio albums and has done seven worldwide tours.
Spears has never previously done a performance that combines her greatest hits across all eight of her albums. According to the Caesars Entertainment Box Office, her shows are almost always sold out and she has brought a lot of traffic to Planet Hollywood. The box office gets a ton of calls for her special VIP packages. The most popular package is the VIP meet-and-greet package, which includes a quick hello and a photograph. Spears feels that Vegas is the perfect location for this show.
“I feel really at home in Vegas,” Spears said in I am Britney Jean. “It’s just a really exciting place to go. It’s like such an overall place of celebration and family and fun and I’ve been, you know, touring for like the past four years and I’ve been at a different hotel room every night and I just figured it’d be a really good place for my children and for the family.” Spears has two children, Sean Preston Federline and Jayden James Federline, who are eight-years-old and seven-years-old, respectively. Their father is American dancer Kevin Federline, whom Spears was married to for three years. She is currently dating David Lucado, who is not in the entertainment industry and works for a law firm in Los Angeles.
There are many different elements that make Spears’ Vegas performance unique and flashy. There is a magic show section where Spears performs inside a ring of fire. She bungee jumps from a tree when singing “Toxic.” She is also lifted into the air in a Cinderella-like costume when singing “Everytime.” Ultimately, Spears believes that this show is different in that it is her most personal yet and really hopes to connect with her fans.
“I really hope my fans get like a personal feeling from me, you know, and just a piece of me really,” Spears said. “Literally, like a part of my soul cause I’m really putting my heart and soul into this.”
However, since Britney doesn’t engage in much audience interaction and lip-syncs the entire show, fans and critics don’t really feel that her personality shines during the performance. She only addresses the audience twice in the show, telling them to count to three and then asking “How ya doing Vegas?”
“I feel like at some point, you have to kind of connect in a personal way on some level in these shows,” Las Vegas Sun reporter John Katsilometes said. “The really great ones do this. Kevin Faith does it. Celine Dion does it. She doesn’t talk about her life, family, what’s going on with her at any level. I want to like her. It’s just hard to like her when you don’t get any kind of contact with her.”
Las Vegas Review Journal reporter Mike Weatherford agreed.
“There’s no star power,” Weatherford said. “It’s not just a generational thing. Some of the younger stars, like Miley and Beyonce, are showing more personality. She just doesn’t seem to be conveying a presence up there.”
This could possibly equate to the fact that Britney defines herself as very shy and says herself that she isn’t really made for the entertainment industry.
“I’ve always been kind of shy since I was a little girl,” Spears said. “It’s just like me. It’s who I am to be modest, so I really can’t help it. It’s almost kind of like its my alter ego when I get on stage. I turn into this other person.”
Fans and critics have also been disappointed that Britney lip-syncs the entire show. This doesn’t seem to bother some fans, though, and it is something they expect.
“It doesn’t bug me that she lip-syncs during the show,” Britney fan Amber James, of Cookson, OK, said. “She’s Britney, and regardless of lip-syncing or not, puts on a great show.”
James has been a huge fan of Spears since she was a child and traveled to Vegas in January specifically to see Spears perform. She clearly doesn’t mind that Spears lip-syncs during the show. Las Vegas Sun reporter Katsilometes agrees.
“Britney’s fans, more than any artist I’ve seen, are there primarily to watch her rather than to hear her,” Katsilometes said. “I don’t think the vocal quality or vocal performance is of any priority maybe at all to them. I think they want to see somebody they idolize in person primarily and they want to hear her music. But, they don’t need to hear her sing to enjoy her performance.”
While lip-syncing may not bother Spears’ fans, Katsilometes and Weatherford agreed that this aspect of her show is not up to par with that of other performers in Vegas.
“If you’re just seeing Britney Spears and you haven’t, you know, seen many contemporary artists in her category, you’d probably be alright with it,” Katsilometes said. “But if you have seen some of the top acts that are out there, and then you see her and know that what she presents on stage is largely recorded, I think that you’re going to take note of it. I think you probably won’t like that show as much as others who do sing and play live.”
Weatherford noted that Spears’ lip-syncing might have only become an issue because she landed a spot in Vegas, and that lip-syncing is not new for her.
“Because of the context putting her alongside Celine Dion and all the other people, all of a sudden it’s like a big deal that she’s lip-syncing,” Weatherford said. “But it didn’t seem to be an issue when she was just out doing her regular tours.”
According to Weatherford, there is a generational divide between those who are mostly bothered by the lip-syncing and those who don’t really mind.
“I guess it seems to bother the people that are least likely to go to the show,” Weatherford said, in referring to an older audience. “That sort of generational divide for people that are younger, that grew up in the club era, it’s more about the production and the mix and the video that went with the song than it is about how well somebody sings.”
While Weatherford and Katsilometes have their criticisms about Spears’ lack of personality in the show and her lip-syncing, both agree that the production is fun and can be admired.
“The show is a generous, interesting, largely enjoyable experience, but you have to manage your expectations about the star in the middle,” Katsilometes said.