Britney Spears, queen of pop and of Instagram, celebrated her 36th birthday on Saturday, December 2, by making a video she has long wanted to make. But before you watch it, let’s go back a bit so that we can fully understand how this piece of motion picture art came to be, because there’s a backstory, and it involves Madonna (no, they didn’t make out again).
On December 2, Madonna, also the queen of pop (there are many queens; get over it), posted a video of herself singing a snippet of Spears’ song “Toxic” while playing an acoustic guitar. It sounds great! The video appears to be shot with Photo Booth’s “Thermal Camera” effect, perhaps an homage to the visual pop artists of the ’80s who ran in Madonna’s circle and influenced her art? Anyway, she captioned the video, “Silence =Death! ?. Song For World AIDS Day! ???. #toxic #poisonparadise ? @britneyspears. ??? Happy Birthday!! ????,” so, let’s unpack that. “Silence = death” is/was a slogan of the AIDS crisis response movement, especially ACT UP. Is “Toxic” a reference to the many illnesses people with HIV/AIDS are vulnerable to? Maybe. In any case, Madonna posted her video on Ms. Spears’ birthday, so of course she wished her friend a happy birthday. #poisonparadise.
Moving on! Spears apparently saw Madge’s post and took the message that silence = death to heart (though perhaps not the part about AIDS, though to be fair, it was Britney’s birthday) and decided to #YOLO, carpe diem, etc, and make a video she has long wanted to make. “I was really inspired yesterday by @madonna’s post. She’s right… silence = death! These words really stuck with me, because they are so true. I’ve always wanted to do a performance like this… singing in a pretty little black dress, with a simple 360, one take shot! I figured since it was my birthday, why not go for it?! So boom ? When the clock struck 12:00, I did it!!! Thank you all for the beautiful birthday wishes, and for letting me do what I love. I appreciate you more than you will ever know!!!!,” she captioned a video of herself standing in the center of her foyer in a little black dress, singing “Fools Rush In,” as the camera circles her.
So, technically, this video was directed by Britney Spears.
She also wore the dress to her at-home party, where her boyfriend gave her cupcakes in a candle-filled room.
Happy birthday Britney! We can’t help falling in love with YOU.
MTV VMAs: See What Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, and More Wore to Their First Video Music Awards
Arguably the queen of the VMAs, Britney Spears made her first appearance in 1999 in sheer black; 17 years later, she wore a similarly-colored ensemble.
Taylor Swift kicked off her storied VMA history in a blush pink dress in 2008; in 2015, she took home Video of the Year in sequined sweats.
Alicia Keys attended her first VMA’s in 2004 wearing a grecian-inspired gown; last year, she appeared bare-faced.
In 2000, Beyoncé attended the ceremony with her Destiny’s Child band members wearing matching leather looks; last year, she took home “Video of the Year” in a feathered couture gown.
Ariana Grande opted for a sweet floral look for her first VMA red carpet; in 2016, she opted for something a bit more mature, by Alexander Wang.
The picture of pop princess-dom, Christina Aguilera went leopard and sheer for the 1999 ceremony; by 2008, she was fully embracing the glam side of things.
Justin Bieber piled on the accessories for his first ceremony in 2010; in 2015, he opted for a more streamlined look in ripped jeans and a leather jacket.
Ciara attended her first show in 2008 wearing a silver minidress; in 2015, she took a much more fashion-forward approach in a fringed number.
Jared Leto presented at the 2006 awards wearing some serious guyliner and a white skinny scarf; nine years later, despite a new Academy Award, the actor proved he still was into his goth ways.
J.Lo showed up to the 1998 awards in a oversized cream suit and matching hat; the singer’s look for the 2015 awards was far more on par to the Jennifer Lopez we know now.
Kanye West arrived at the 2004 awards in an all-white ensemble; twelve years later, he wore a similar ensemble and arrived with now-wife Kim Kardashian.
Justin Timberlake showed up with the rest of the ‘Nsync gang in a leather jacket; by 2013, he had shifted to his signature fedora.
Katy Perry, who will host this year’s ceremony, crafted her own ensemble for the 2008 awards; at the 2014 awards, she riffed on Britney Spears’s iconic denim gown.
Lady Gaga kicked off her tradition of kooky ensembles in 2009 wearing a feathered look; in 2013, she saved her theatrics for the stage.
In a leather mini and trailing braid, Kesha made her VMA debut in 2010; in 2014, she toned down the look with a pastel gown and matching hair.
Madonna kicked off the inaugural ceremony in 1984; in 2009, she returned in a subdued black suit.
A year before her iconic lavendar catsuit, L’il Kim matched Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez at the 1997 awards; the rapper let her boots do the talking in 2013.
Gwen Stefani attended the 1997 awards with her No Doubt bandmates; in 2014, she was solo and donning shocking pink.
Miley Cyrus arrived at the 2008 awards in a modest metallic dress; in 2015, her look was still metallic but definitely not modest.
Pink, who will receive this year’s Video Vanguard Award, took home her first moon-man in 2001; the singer arrived at the 2012 awards in a metallic gown.
Rihanna was a fresh-faced and little-known singer when she attended the show in 2005; last year, she recieved the Video Vanguard award.
Demi Lovato attended the 2011 awards in a sequined minidress; four years later, she returned wearing a similar ensemble.
Selena Gomez made her VMA debut in 2011 in a high-low black dress; in 2015, she was super sophisticated in navy Calvin Klein.
Solange arrived at the 2001 awards in an ensemble she’d likely not be caught in today; the singer was much more in tune with her current sartorial standard by 2014.