Last Night: Britney Spears and Nicki Minaj at the American Airlines Center

Britney Spears, Nicki Ninaj
American Airlines Center
July 12, 2011

Better than:
most shows by folks who actually sing, dance and write their own music.

Britbritaac.JPG
Mike Mezeul
It's Britney, bitch. For more photos from last night's performance, check out the slideshow.

Here's the thing about Britney: She's a mediocre singer and dancer who got very, very lucky and very, very famous by singing songs that she contributed very little, if anything, to.

As such, analyzing Britney as a singer -- as a singular human being, even -- is completely missing the point. Last night's show at American Airlines Center was the result of combined efforts by the best producers, songwriters, choreographers, set designers, videographers and lighting designers in the business. It was a performance by Britney, Inc. -- the corporate entity that makes up 99 percent of this show.

Sure, these people are, in theory, around to support Britney herself. But if one only considers Britney when analyzing her performance, that means missing 99 percent of what's going on.

Twin girl DJ duo Nervo got onstage first, to a completely unresponsive crowd. The AAC similarly remained at minimum capacity throughout the second opener, Jessie and the Toy Boys. It would be easy to feel bad for these acts if one forgets that they're playing AAC, which isn't a bad gig at all.

The crowd immediately started packing it in once Nicki Minaj began, and was at capacity for the rest of the show. Nicki showed no signs of the fat lip she reportedly received during a fight at the Hotel Palomar the previous night. Either her makeup artists were very good, or she wasn't hurt very badly.

Although it seems like Nicki's been around for a while, she released her debut full-length album a mere eight months ago; most of her hits have been collaborations with other artists, and this proved to be an obstacle that Minaj was not able to successfully overcome during her set. Even though the entire AAC was on their feet during "Bottoms Up," Nicki was relegated to the status of dancer for much of the song, as she only contributes one verse. Her skill as a rapper was lost in the video screens, backup dancers, guest vocalists and strange theatrical plotline. Many of these huge pop shows have some sort of theme, and Nicki's was no exception. There was narration during the costume changes, and we were supposed to be following some sort of plot that pitted Nicki, as some sort of sci-fi/fantasy heroine, against a dancer in a Saw mask. Although Minaj's live singing voice was better than expected, it's difficult to discern how much, if any, of her vocals were flown in.

There's no guessing on that front when it comes to Britney. We know it's lip-synced.

Brit's show also had a sort of theme: During costume changes, the gigantic video screens showed a nefarious-looking fellow who was apparently stalking Britney, the sexy lady criminal. Britney appeared onstage on a metal throne to the opening chords of "Hold It Against Me," surrounded by backup dancers dressed as sexy cops. The sexy cops were a running theme -- apparently, Britney the Femme Fatale is wanted by legions of officers in tight shorts doing backflips.

Go figure.

This is where Britney the singular human being gets drowned out by Britney, Inc. The show's choreographers and set designers are well aware of Britney's flaws. She can dance a little, so the backup dancers would mimic her moves and embellish upon them to make it look like she was dancing with them, and dancing better than she is able. Britney moved around more than anticipated -- anyone looking for the catatonic VMA-era Brit can look elsewhere because she ran up and down the runway in front of the stage, was hoisted above the crowd on a small platform during "Piece of Me" and flipped her extensions back and forth (for the record, her real hair appears to be chin-length) enough for one to believe that she was seriously working up there. And it appears that she actually sang live on "Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know"; her voice was shaking and went off-key enough during this plaintive ballad for one to believe that Britney, Inc. is trying to offset everyone's assumptions about lip-syncing by allowing her to sing one song unaided.

After playing 19 songs, Brit came back out for a two-song encore. The final tune, "Til The World Ends," saw Britney, Inc. pulling out all the stops: pyro, huge mobile art-deco set pieces, confetti, 16 backup dancers in LED-laced light-up clothing, Nicki Minaj coming back out to do a guest verse and Britney flying above the audience with angel wings strapped to her little podium.

And you know what? It worked. The entire AAC screamed along, hands outstretched, as Britney flew above them.

The giant corporate engine that is Britney, Inc., did its job at AAC last night. It put on an amazing show. It was a bit like a toy commercial at Christmastime, a colorful cacophony of festive fun that makes the toy look way cooler than it really is.

But unwrapping the sparkly gift that is a Britney show is completely unnecessary. It's really the thought that counts.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I've always liked Britney -- and when she went crazy and started hitting the paparazzi with her umbrella, I liked her even more. Britney is great because she is one of us, a normal girl with normal problems. If I were thrust into the limelight at 16, I would've done far worse than her.

Random Note: During Britney's cover of Madonna's "Burnin' Up," the guy sitting next to us (who happens to be a certain music critic for The Dallas Morning News), got super excited and sang along to every word.

By The Way: I kept a running count of pink Nicki Minaj-style bob-with-bangs wigs in the audience. Final tally? Eleven. 

Location Info

Map

American Airlines Center

2500 Victory Ave, Dallas, TX

Category: Music

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35 comments
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Brianharrison248
Brianharrison248

Ok Britney is Iconic She may not dance the way she used to but "WHO CARES" shes 29 not 19 anymore I enjoy her dancing she didnt get signed as a dancer she got signed as a singer who just happen to dance shes a show girl i think the femme fatale tour is one of her best tours. its very theatric. She dances better than alot of artist out here And i dont know if any of you realize that she is on a conservetorship ..And anyone with a brain can see that this conservetorship has channged her ( her father and handlers control her money, shes not aloud to do unmoniterd interviews, none are live interviews and shes not aloud to get married or do anything she even gets an allounce..on top of that they put her on alot of medication so of course shes not gonna dance like in her me against the music video when she was 21)  And as for her voice she has an amazing soulful voice  look at her audition tapes she got signed cause she had a great voice but it became appernt when she was recording her first album that they didnt want her to do that type of music they want her to have a babyish sexy voice that would be able to sell and relate to kids so she sings that way .. she lipsyncs because it will damge her voice if she keeps singing that way and its basicly her trade mark.. i cant wait till shes off the conservetorship because she looks unhappy and i would to and she can be free as a person and artist..she only stays on it so she can keep her kids her father only uses the fact that se had a meltdown as an excuse i mean shes perfectley fine .(how is she uncapable of doing interview if she can do world tours and make them money..) stop judging her without actually getting to the cause thats wat a journalist is suppossed to do all u guys do is bash how about we show support! I love britney i hope evrything works out 4 yu babe!

Superguest
Superguest

Britney sucks.  Pop culture today sucks.  Whatever happened to true artists making ti big.  Damn MTV led the downward spiral years ago.  Get your auto-tuned, lip-synched crap rap and thug culture and shove it up your stupid asses. Rock and Roll still will prevail idiots.

eh
eh

I was with Laura Mann at the concert and she did enjoy herself Laura was singing along and dancing! I am 23 years old and have always liked Britney but I also really enjoy music and great singers which Britney is not! She wasn't singing most the show and that's the truth. Her dancing was OK it was entertaining which is what's important but she wasn't amazing! And I do believe That there were tons of people who worked on this show to make it great not Just Britney. And I wish she would Have sang more she should have she's a "Singer" if she would have been singing and dancing the entire time she would have got more credit from me but she wasn't! And Laura Mann who wrote this review had a great time and loved it! And shes not old she's Britney's age and she not even as fat as Britney was oops did I say that? But really be honest with urself it was great but she wasn't giving it her all

Laura
Laura

thanks for coming with me to the show - I did have an absolute blast!

Ramiro
Ramiro

Britney sang I was there , there were times when she would jump and her voice would jerk. It was very clear when she was not singing, the remixed songs, Boys, Toxic, slave,...., but she sang a lot. Anyone how couldn't tell she sang must have not had good seating, y'all should save up for next time.

kalyn james
kalyn james

Laura, I appalud your critique.  I think it is fair and accurate. Luck is surely the case and she has LOTS of help to create "Britney", however, I worked at Disney as a dancer when the kids were all there (Brit included) and they did have to work hard. But, in the same vein, it's dancing and singing guys and I've done it on national TV and onstage and it is not rocket science!Britney certainly doesn't HAVE to do this as some have said below, but what else coud she possibly do? I found this article very engaging and while I would never pay to see a Britney spears show, (I'm seeing Sade, someone who actually sings and is not a media hog) I think she has some real entertainment value, especially for the kids and young adults who love to see her perform! Great job, Laura!

guest
guest

First of all, I cannot believe this many people read this horrible magazine/paper.  It sucks, used to be good back in the day.  And secondly, its Britney Spears.  

Perrymaniac
Perrymaniac

Laura you "like her" yeah right. I think you went in already ready with a pad and pen to notate what you didnt like, instead of judged it as whole. The tour is selling out, so articles or lack thereof have no weight ! Instead of wasting your time in a concert you didnt enjoy, you could have easily walked out, but you like thousands of others were there for Britney. Stop the hate and listen ...she is going to be around for a very long time. Britney has longevity

fushigiyuugi
fushigiyuugi

If it's as easy as having a team of capable people, Mandy Moore and even Mile Cyrus would have been as successful as Britney...

Guest
Guest

Your review is terrible. Britney lip synchs and everyone bitches. She sings live and people like you nitpick. It's amazing how she can never win. By the way, you must have not been listening too intently, because she sang more than one song live.

And I love how you say "99%" of the show is her team. LOL WHAT? That's a horrible overestimation. Britney has to rehearse with her dancers, she participated in their auditions to be on her tour (she judged them and picked them herself), she has a say in her costumes and makeup, and she helps choreograph. Oh not to mention - she has a say in her stage set up and just about everything else in the production stage of planning this tour. She doesn't just sit there like a robot, she participates 100% in every aspect of her career. A 'fan' like you already knew that though, right?I also thoroughly enjoyed your accusations that she can't dance at all. So if you had an epic breakdown in front of the entire world, wouldn't your confidence be shot too? She has to work back up to it - and she's doing a million times better than she has been since 2007. But I'm stating the obvious here, because a 'fan' would've watched all these tour videos, performances on youtube, and seen the improvement.

I don't know why you're so disgustingly nit picky in your review - not one person I have spoken with has had such ill words to say about this tour or show. My friend and boyfriend whom are not even Britney fans enjoyed the show immensely.

By the way, Britney has been around for 13 years, and she still manages to sell out arenas, have #1 albums and singles, and draw attention to whatever she does. The show was far from lackluster, but your review was not.

Tommy Moses
Tommy Moses

Ummm ya so i was there and quite honestly i thought it was an awesome concert and for the record, she sang live vocals on more than just 1 song. Im a HUGE Britney fan and i think what you said was rude and it was an amazing concert!!!

Dilan
Dilan

I couldnt agree with you more. This article was not nice.

J Mcb77
J Mcb77

To: laura mann...ok so I don't want u to think all britney fans are that out there! I respect the fact that at the end of your article u pointed out that u always have liked britney. Even through her public meltdown. That was even sweet to say u kind of liked her a little more. Obviously u already knew u were gonna get major backlash from britney supporters, myself included. I wish u would have enjoyed the show a little more. It does sound like u ultimately had a good time. I don't condone calling u fat as I haven't seen u. And if britney has taught us anything its 2 be proud of who u are. I recently saw an interview in which debbie gibson defended britney saying haters should basically shut it, to paraphrase. Art is subjective she went on. What she paints may be beautiful to some but look terrible 2 others. Most journalists who have written negative reviews and left it at that. At least u took time 2 stress that u do like the girl. Also one more thing...don't generalize her supporters as teens. My friends and I are in our late twenties and saw her femme fatale tour in 3 different cities. We have been brit supporters since her arrival. If u can say anything about britney its that she has very loyal fans! And we are proud of it! Go brit brit! Keep shuting the haters down!

Dallasgurl87
Dallasgurl87

I find Britney to be fascinating. I like her because she has never once spoke bad about any other artist, in fact she enjoys working with them (great job btw). She is a fighter, to have gone through what she has been through boggles my mind and to come out of it, whole. She is a great mother and that to me should be commended. Britney i tip my hat to you doll face

Stan
Stan

This writer is such a liar. Who hasnt danced to britney she is the pop icon of this generation. she isn't the best singer, but she doesnt claim to be. this writer all she is doing is being jealous and throwing shade at brit brit. she went because she wanted to see her, the ticket could been given to any brit stan.

Hailey
Hailey

this writer is crazy britney you did great! xoxo Id pay again to see you!

Brandon
Brandon

Laura Mann WHO? She isnt even a creditable writer. I really don't like people that feel the need to bash artist because the music they create isn't what they like. Guess what Ms Mann britneys' album is amazing. You really are pathetic to put down her hard work..shame on you

MattL1
MattL1

That's what critics are supposed to do.  Just because someone works hard, that doesn't mean the product is good.  It's the job of a writer to say so.

Brandon
Brandon

well this writer is dead wrong! Just look at every poll out there brit remains on top

brandon
brandon

"Quality" is perception, she did sing! ;)

MattL1
MattL1

She was far more generous than I would have been.  Popularity does not equal quality.  

I mean, for chrissakes, she didn't even sing.  Who goes to a concert where there's no music being made?

Lilp23afgec
Lilp23afgec

" flipped her extensions back and forth (for the record, her real hair appears to be chin-length) enough for one to believe that she was seriously working up there."

HATER she is going NO WHERE 30 years from now she will not only have multiple number 1s but will be the "best selling female artist of ALL TIME" GIRL IS ONLY 29, she is only two  #1 albums behind Madonna and Mariah!

Flop I think NOT she is STILL selling out venues and top charts. While haters like you (in their 40-50s) can't appreciate good music and mostly fun. It's people like you that make people like me appreciate Britney even more! so thank you HATER

Laura
Laura

hey! I'm the same age as Britney, and that doesn't keep me from being a funless codgery stick in the mud. Young people can hate fun, too!

Guest
Guest

OK lilliputin, back off. I'm in my 40's, and I like Britney, good music, and have mostly fun, not to mention a JOB. You appear to be very young, generalizing the way you do.And for the record, just because like an artist, doesn't mean it's "good music". To you it is, and that's great. But not everyone will agree with you. Hell, look at country music. I think it sucks, but LOTS of young people call that good music. YUK

Racheal_b9
Racheal_b9

Britney gets people like you all the time going on and on about how she is not talented but truth is she has a very unique sound unlike anyone else and you always know its her voice when its on the radio its AMAZING even when its raw and un tampered with go youtube a few acapellas she has done...as far as dancing goes she dances cute she has rythm and her own style she DOES have the skills but if you dont like her style that is your opinion just like most all of that article is your opinion most people dont agree with you and you can tell by the millions of albums she has sold in her career and continues to sale out the arenas i wouldnt base that soley on luck that is ignorance!

Collinsince1990
Collinsince1990

Yes Mrs Mann your "a fan" riiight who are you kidding. Your probably some chunky "loser kid" in high school -haha. Ultimately if Britney didnt want to be here for her fans she wouldve have stopped a looooong time ago she has enough $$$ to do it, but guess what she hasn't and is still consistantly pumping out hits looong after her prime she will still be around! She is still the "IT GIRL" the one to beat. Let's be honest her album has trumped all others in 2011 (just look at Billboard Polls..any poll for that matter! :) Face it honey your a hater and girl gots moves!

Laura
Laura

okay, I totally get bragging rights on this one.  Getting called fat is even better than being called a lousy journalist!  Ever since the now-infamous King Bucks Incident, getting called fat on public media outlets has become a badge of honor 'round these here parts. Thanks for my induction into a very exclusive club - I'm in good company!

J Mcb77
J Mcb77

Wow what a brilliant observation...britney dances like a whie girl. Stupid me. This whole time I was under the assumption she was white. My bad.

Tony
Tony

I was forced to accompany my sister and neice to this show and Brittney can really dance....like a white girl.   Zero rythym, zero voice, zero substance...my 13 y/o neice loved it.

J Mcb77
J Mcb77

U know what I agree with your notes at the end I too have always liked britney. She has the likability factor and seems super sweet and down to earh. I was at thw show. I thought it was awsome. She rocked and so did every part of it. I have to disagree about all the britney inc. Junk though. She always works really harc 2 put on a great show. She does a fantastic job at it. Maybe u should go up there and try to do it and see how easy it is to pull it all off.

Laura
Laura

I actually have gotten up there, and I know it's not easy to pull off.  I'm a singer in a band; my friend who went with me is a dancer and choreographer.  Our combined opinions on her skills in each were the same: we've done it on a stage (albeit a much, much smaller stage), and we both agree she's not awful, but not great in both aspects.

Perrymaniac
Perrymaniac

much much smaller stage and i dont a living could be counted as a stage. Your a britney hater admit it!

Claire
Claire

Fair enough, but you're not doing it on a stage right now, are you? Britney filled up the AAC (still, after all these years) while you sat there with your arms folded being a critic for the DO. To me, that tempers your combined opinions considerably. And do tell us where your band is playing. Even if I "like" you, I'm sure you'll at least be "not awful".

Vicrojas_18
Vicrojas_18

@ J Mcb77- I agree with you, she is amazing and it' not easy to do the things she does, specially to memorize all of those dance routines.

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