The Week’s Winners And Losers: Britney Spears’ noughties snakes versus Nicki Minaj’s anaconda

It's not easy being green, as the former queen of rap learned this week

Let’s do the timewarp again! Yes, it’s been another week in pop culture, and another week of wins and losses. Readers, let’s spin the wheel of fortune, let’s hop atop the bucking bronco that is time and space and – for the love of God – cling on for dear life, because, as usual, it’s been a bumpy old ride. It’s a curiously retro edition of The Week’s Winners and Losers this time around. I’ve just checked and apparently Mercury is in retrograde again, so I guess that makes sense, although it feels like Mercury is always in retrograde. Maybe Mercury comes out of retrograde every now and again and someone shoves it back where it belongs, like when Rick Astley tries to have a comeback every decade or so. Anyway! Onwards!

The winners

Cast your mind back to the mid-noughties, the halcyon days of pop, and I guarantee that what comes to mind is Britney Spears doing ‘I’m A Slave 4 U’ at the VMA Awards with a yellow snake writhing about her neck. Fuck knows where the snake is now – probably living in a Vegas motel with Bubbles, Michael Jackson’s former chimp (who just turned 35, apparently – happy birthday, Bubbles!), knocking back prescription drugs and reminiscing on former glories.

Although Britney never really went away (thank God), she’s very much back back back in the twilight zone of the cultural zeitgeist that is the musical stage adaptation, thanks to the upcoming Broadway show Once Upon A Time. It’s hard imagine a more delicious hokey stage show cash-in than this, a tale of fairy princesses who forms a book club before a fairy Godmother joins their ranks and challenges their perceptions of the world. I mean, yeah, I’m in.

The play’s writer Jon Hartmere, whose hits include the panned Kevin Hart movie The Upside, has said: “These women have been in this hermetically sealed world, and then they start to get deeper into modern ideas – second- and third-wave feminism – and also explore how stories are passed down to us, and where we get our norms from. But it’s also super-fun and funny.” Sounds fucking terrible, Jon, and I’ll be there for every ill-conceived, excruciating second.

Also! The internet turned 30 yesterday – hard to celebrate this, really, the way it’s hard to celebrate the birthday of a vicious dictator who’s crushed industry and flooded the state with fake news, but we must raise a glass to our dear leader – while gaming giant Nintendo somehow recently turned 130, which means that Mario’s had more comebacks than Rick Astley.

The losers

Well, with wins must come losses, and it saddens me to say that the consensus appears to be that Nicki Minaj – who, to be absolutely clear, I stan (as the young people probably don’t say any more) – is on the slide. Last year’s album ‘Queen’, while actually not bad, thanks largely to the killer sass-fest ‘Barbie Dreams’, which could outweigh any middling material she might release, was a mismanaged disaster, its delayed release mired in confusion and controversial, uncleared samples. And then she had to cancel her American tour due to ‘technical issues’ and scrapped two European dates at short notice. It’s tricky being Nicki. 

Monday’s London O2 date went ahead in the end, but even this was largely considered a flop: she had to bundle two-for-one tickets to fill the room and came on an hour late to take a pop at New York rapper Cardi B, with whom she’s beefed for as long as anyone can remember: “Any of you know someone who copies everything you do all the time?” Ay ay ay, Nicki, you think, there can be more than one successful woman in rap at any one given time. Still: at least that anaconda of hers can kick it in the Vegas motel with Bubbles and Britney’s snake.

The inbetweeners

Actually, this week it’s the real life Inbetweeners – stars of the delightfully awkward sitcom, about four socially inept teenage boys, which bowed out in 2011 after three TV series and a couple of films – on the periphery of success and failure.

These fellas did the timewarp for several years, grown men pretending to be sixth formers until their bank managers said they could hang up their school shoes. They recently kind-of got back together for a quasi-10-year reunion on Channel Four, appearing out of character and reflecting on the show with Jimmy Carr.

Like most school reunions, it made you want poke your eyes out with a sausage on a stick. Fans hated it, moaning on social media that it was ‘self-indulgent’, and star James Buckley (who played the ever-horny Jay) this week went on Radio X to apologise, vowing never to return again to short trousers in any further reprise of the show. Like, it’s sad, I guess, that we’ve seen the back of The Inbetweeners, but they were in danger of looking like those blokes in their 30s that hang around outside the school gates in their Ford Fiestas, so it’s probably for the best.

All in all, what have we learned this week? That’s right: time is cruel, snakes are fun, Nintendo is somehow older than jokes about Bubbles the chimp and we’ll never get rid of Rick fucking Astley.