Opinion: Britney Spears' Gimme More single shows the positive side of internet leaks

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stu-col.jpgStuart Dredge writes…Heard Britney’s new single yet? It’s ace. No, really. It’s called ‘Gimme More’, and it’s just leaked onto the internetweb, via the website of a New York radio station.

It’s already all over YouTube. Not too long ago, this would’ve sent her record company bananas with piracy-fearing rage, threatening lawsuits on anyone who ever came into contact with the track. But ‘Gimme More’ is actually a prime example of the importance of these ‘leaks’ to the music industry, especially when it comes to Big Comebacks.

Why? Well, Britney is benefiting from ‘Gimme More’s online ubiquity for several reasons…

1. It’s a cracking tune, with bleepy synth goodness supplied by Timbaland protege Nate Hills.

2. It reminds you that Britney’s a Proper Pop Star, despite the public breakdown / scraggy ex-husband / impromptu baldness.

3. It’s getting people excited – or at least mildly interested – in her new album. The same album which, last week, was claimed to be receiving “no promotion” from her record label.

britney-spears-wallpaper.jpgIn terms of reputation-restoration, this is marketing genius. I’m not even sure if her marketing people were behind it, but if they weren’t, they should be claiming the credit anyway. And it shows why internet virality is the fast track back to fame and fortune for lost stars.

Face it: we all think Britney is bonkers, and that her upcoming album is certain to be a car-crash of rubbishness. So when something leaks from it, we rush to listen, only to find that it’s great – thus achieving a reversal of expectations that no amount of expensive advertising campaign could have sorted.

(Yes, this kind of leak wouldn’t be half as clever if the new track actually was a car crash of rubbishness.)

The point is, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this kind of thing, as record labels realise they can try and resuscitate the careers of disgraced stars without wasting millions of promotional budget.

It works for anyone you care to think of. Overseeing Michael Jackson’s comeback album? Leak video footage of him singing an amazing song from it accapella in the studio. While moonwalking.

In charge of Amy Winehouse? Ditch the scraggy current husband, and shoot some cameraphone video of her singing a rewritten version of ‘Rehab’ (“Tried to make me go to Rehab, I said yes, but let me push that hat-wearing idiot off a cliff first”), and stick it on MySpace.

Pete Doherty, Whitney Houston, Gary Glitter… Alright, maybe not Gary Glitter. But our ghoulish fascination in stars who’ve fallen is fast becoming a key part of their comebacks. It’s quite possible Britney’s return may still be derailed (say, she falls in with Winehouse for a night on the lash and goes downhill from there).

But for now, the leak of ‘Gimme More’ could give her the second bite at pop stardom that nobody would have predicted six months ago. Fluke or marketing genius? It hardly matters.

What’s that? You want to hear it? Oh, click below.

Stuart Dredge