Last week, Britney Spears admirers all but hit the proverbial fan when an un-autotuned version of her single “Alien” leaked on the internet. WARNING: it’s bad. Really, really bad:
Of course, staunch Britney lovers immediately defended her, shouting out curses and declarations against the monster who posted the song. Before long, my entire Facebook newsfeed looked and sounded a little like this:
The horrors! How dare anyone make fun of Britney after all that she's been through! Even the track's producer, William Orbit, took to Facebook and issued a rather cryptic, strange statement about the leaked song. No where in his comments does Orbit deny that the voice on the track isn't Spears; instead, he provided this observation:
"I'd like to affirm that ANY singer when first at the mic at the start of a long session can make a multitude of vocalisations in order to get warmed up.[…] Whomever put this on the internet must have done so in a spirit of unkindness, but it can in no way detract from the fact that Britney is and always will be beyond Stellar! She is magnificent! And that’s that."
Alright, Mr. Orbit: Britney might be "beyond Stellar" (with a capital "S"), but you've got one thing wrong. Britney Spears is not a singer. She never was a singer, and she'll never be a singer.
That's not to say Britney Spears isn't a lot of things: she's an entertainer. She's a performer. She's rich as hell. But she's not a singer.
And while we're at it...Miley Cyrus? Not a singer. Nicki Minaj? Not a singer. Justin Bieber? Definitely not a singer.
Yes, these individuals are all talented in their own special ways: gyrating on stages, screaming obscenities into microphones, lip-syncing actual auto-tuned pre-recorded tracks. But to call them singers is an insult to those who actually, well, train and can sing. It's part of a larger problem with how we perceive musical talent into today's pop-star-laden TMZ world. These performers are a mimicry of music, of singing, of sound.
That's why, when the horrors of Britney's unrefined voice hit the Internet, people lost their crap. How could she sound like this? Hate to break it to you, but she's always sounded like this; what you think of as "Britney Spears singing" is really just a bunch of computers.
Britney has her own act in Vegas now, and she packs them in to the Planet Hollywood Resort where she plays. I have no doubt that audiences can see Britney fly through the air, dance in shiny silver outfits, and parade around a stage surrounded by fire. But sing?
Well, you'll just have to leave that question to the pop star behind the curtain.
Follow Bryan Buttler on Twitter.