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Lonely Then, Like an Alien: Britney Spears and the Public View of Mental Illness

By Courtney Enlow | Celebrity | July 10, 2014 |

By Courtney Enlow | Celebrity | July 10, 2014 |

Last week, an unedited version of “Alien,” the opening track of Britney Spears’s latest album Britney Jean leaked onto the internet, courtesy of an oh-so thoughtful source. Since then, it’s gone viral and websites from TMZ to Time have been laughing at the easiest target on the planet.

Well done, internet. Thank god we’ve finally taken Britney Spears down a peg, am I right?

William Orbit, the track’s producer, released a statement on Facebook:

Dearest Music Lovers, I have heard that Britney vocal link that everybody’s been discussing. It has been impossible not to as there have been many comments directing my attention to it. [I won’t re-posting it here]. 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.

Warming up is essential if you’re a pro, as it is with a runner doing stretches, and it takes a while to do properly. I’ve heard all manner of sounds emitted during warmups. The point is that it is not supposed to be shared with millions of listeners.

A generous singer will put something down the mic to help the engineer get their systems warmed up and at the right level, maybe whilst having a cup of herb tea and checking through lyrics before the session really kicks off. It’s not expected to be a ‘take’.

I think that 99% of you reading this will totally understand.

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.

Since her 2004 24-hour marriage, her 2006 brushes with vehicular law and her infamous 2007 series of mental health cries for help, what should have been off limits years ago has been cemented as a constant joke for the scourge of the internet. Everything she does is subject to the laughter and ridicule of the click-and-drag-her-through-the-mud public. Spears wears jean shorts. Spears drinks Starbucks. Spears likes Cheetohs. Spears goes to dance class. Spears goes to her kids’ soccer games. It’s all a joke. But it’s not a funny one.

Because they’re not just laughing at Britney Spears. They’re laughing at mental illness.

It’s been common knowledge since 2007-2008 that Spears has a serious personality disorder, one that clearly requires heavy medication, which has led to her significantly subdued performance ability. The fact that she is even still able to get on stage and move at all is frankly impressive, albeit tragic and obviously not of her own choice.

This is not a pop superstar at the top of her game who is being taken down by jealous h8erz. This is someone life has knocked around enough—why are we adding to that load? Why are we continuing to add to that load?

Every instance of a school or public shooting leads to the same conversation: what is this country going to do about mental illness? Well, it starts here. It starts with Britney Spears. It starts with Amanda Bynes. It starts with Shia LaBeouf. If we as a society find it’s totally OK to ridicule them, what hope is there for the ticking time bombs? What hope is there for any of us who are suffering because our brains are broken and fucked up sometimes?

If you look at the lyrics of the songs Spears is credited as writing or co-writing, she’s been begging for years. Like in this video where she commits suicide (a happy ending where she lives was requested by the powers that be). Begging for people to please, please, just stop. And no one listens. It just gets louder.

I hope the day comes where Spears is allowed to be open about her struggles, allowed to do what she wants with her life, allowed to live life without being a joke. Because the joke stopped being funny years ago.