NOW I'M AN EXPERT ON FORMER TEEN POP STARS

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Rake talks to French people

There’s an old joke among reporters: “What will I be an expert on today?”

Most of us are asked to learn about, understand and comment on a lot of stuff.

But still, getting an unsolicited request from a French television network to talk about Britney Spears was a surprise. Like everyone in Las Vegas with a television, I’d caught the fact that Spears made a deal with Planet Hollywood to do an extended residency. And just like the rest of the world, like it or not, I was familiar with Spears' basic history: she was in the Mickey Mouse Club, had some hits playing off her adolescent sexuality, swore a promise oath to her virginity, got pregnant and married, got unmarried, shaved her head, dressed up in black rubber, used a lot of auto-tune.

I think that’s about the scope of my ex-Spears-ience. That is, I know more about Britney Spears than I do about my maternal grandmother.

And of course I have opinions about the nature of trollop-rock and what Newsweek in 1993 famously dubbed “Sex, Kids And The Slut Look.” I think there is shaming directed at the performer because of her youth and success and looks, which is probably unfair and certainly unkind.

So she’s a pop star without, perhaps, a surfeit of talent. There are quite a few of them out there. Somebody’s buying tickets to Spears’ show. Spears is trying to make her residency interesting. It’s interesting that Spears is so confrontational with her public, titling her upcoming residency as A Piece of Me, as in, “you want a piece of me?” Fighting words.

(I'm assuming, or hoping, that that the title is not Britney's reference to the sharing of flesh in certain religious traditions.)

Her new single is, of course, titled “Work Bitch.” So that’s kind of punk rock. As I told the French teevee interviewer, Elsa Lhéritier with M6 television, Spears doesn’t do the kind of music that I would usually listen to, but her relationship with her fans and the world is interesting.

Trying to sound passably intelligent, I told Lheritier that some pop stars that do residencies in Las Vegas are very popular and make a lot of money while being able to go home at night. That’s got to be a nice alternative to being on tour, which is a logistical nightmare that has you sleeping in a different bed every night.

A residency in Las Vegas once had the cachet of, say, an extended stay in Branson, Miss., but these days you can still be a big, big star and play Caesars, I noted. Or Planet Hollywood, whatever.

But mostly I just wanted to go on French TV to talk about a pop star, so that’s what I did.