Bathed in Mystery

What's Britney doing in the tub? Dying artfully, it appears.

In terms of sheer humiliation, getting outsmarted by Britney Spears ranks right up there with high school yearbook pictures, premature orgasms, and Yanni fandom. And so we feel the kind of shame traditionally associated with the purchase of midget porn as we take in Britney's controversial new video for "Everything," the TRL chart-topper where she dies (sort of), then comes back to life (maybe), all while lying naked in a bathtub. Huh?

Britney says it's about reincarnation: metaphysics with fake boobies. But c'mon, would she know Immanuel Kant from Emmanuel Lewis?

Of course, we were also confused by Britney's last video for the hit "Toxic" -- you know, the one where she dresses like a stewardess, gropes model Tyson Beckford, and makes out with a fat dude on a spaceship. It was kinda like an extraterrestrial Mission: Impossible or maybe 2001: A Space Odyssey in Bondage Gear. Either way, it was enough to give E.T. a boner.

But "Everything" is even more mind-boggling. The clip begins with aerial shots of Las Vegas, including the Palms Hotel (where she got married on New Year's Eve). Then we see Britney and actor Steven Dorf trading heated words in the back of a limo. As they reach the hotel, the car is swarmed by paparazzi. Dorf smashes a rack of tabloids in frustration. (Britney seems to have a problem with the media these days, though album and ticket sales indicate that we're just about the only folks still paying attention to her.)

Once in their room, Britney and Dorf continue to argue. He mouths the words "I'm sorry" -- ostensibly an apology for his role in Feardotcom. She shoves him, he breaks stuff, then they take their clothes off. (Apparently, trashing hotel rooms like an Ozzfest flunky does wonders for the abs.) Then she hops in the tub, and things start getting weird.

As Britney reclines in the bathwater, we see her touch the back of her head. When she pulls her hand back, it's covered in blood. She also sports a bright red bracelet that seems to dissolve at about this point. Is the blood from a gash in her dome or a wound to her wrist? She continues to bleed, then slips beneath the water. The original script for the video contained a suicide subplot, but it was excised for being too racy. So we'll assume the injury isn't self-inflicted.

But where does it come from, then? Theories abound: Was she whacked by an aggressive cameraman? Did Dorf cut her with flying furniture? Did her cerebellum explode as she attempted to think and chew gum? Whatever the cause, the wound appears to be fatal, as we then see Britney walking down a white hall toward a bright light.

Then, all of a sudden, she's passing police and doctors in a hospital as a woman gives birth. As the baby is born, we see Britney being hauled into the back of an ambulance, seemingly D.O.A. The video ends as she reemerges from the tub, smiling as if she just blew bubbles in the bathwater. If it's insinuating that Britney's death led to the birth of the baby, that life is a continuous cycle, why is she still alive? Maybe it was all a dream, and a fittingly wet one.

After half a dozen viewings, we're still not sure what we're supposed to take from it all. Britney seems to be trying to tell us something about the transmigration of the soul, about spiritual permanence (stop snickering). Or maybe she's just trying to add meaning to a career that's been devoid of it up to now. One thing's for certain: Britney's ruminations on the transience of being come at a time when she's never seemed so mortal, what with tales of drunken escapades circulating on gossip pages and her latest album selling half what her last underperformer did. Maybe this is her swan (or rubber ducky) song.

But we're probably not giving Britney enough credit. With her topless take on the meaning of existence, perhaps she just wants to send a message to those of us who would spend a significant portion of our fleeting time on earth dissecting a video from a silicone-enhanced pop star. Okay, point taken.