❗️ The Age of (Not That) Innocence by Jeff Weiss.

Twenty years ago, Britney Spears did it again with her sophomore album, the final classic of the teen-pop era and a goodbye to the gilded years of the record industry. This is the story of how it was created—and its planetary impact.

Jeff Weiss is one of my favourite writers. Usually covering hip hop in a way that very few manage to do, he’s applied his usual elegance and passion to a slightly different topic this time – articulating the context around and the impact of Britney’s second album. It’s another piece of essential reading. You could say he’s… done it again. 😎

Towering above all pop culture totems was a 5-foot-4 ex-Mouseketeer turned teenaged Marilyn, who sold more first-week albums than any female artist ever had—1,319,000 copies—nearly triple that of the previous record-holder (Alanis Morissette). The eponymous lead single shattered ’NSync’s freshly set record for most radio station adds in a single week. In this never-ending prom of frosted-tip and puka-shell pop, Britney Spears was the queen, barely legal and the biggest star in the world. She was the vestal pseudo-virgin at the center of that neon helix between impeachment and implosion in a perfumed Abercrombie & Fitch nation, soundtracked by Swedish pop shamans and their sparkling American veneers.

Even if, like me, you not deep into the album tracks and only really know the singles, there is so much you can appreciate from that article (and of course, from Britney as a pop icon). I do have a soft spot for Oops… specifically. It’s a classic. Back in 2000 I used it as the background track for a rap battle I was in, which I remember none of the lyrics of other than “… even with this fucking beat, you know I’m going to win” (which in retrospect was a mistake, because it should probably have been “because of this beat…”; it’s an absolute banger).

🚛 An Oral History of Mad Max: Fury Road.

This has been doing the rounds this week, with contributions from all the main people that you’d want to hear from. In a nutshell, a slightly hectic and very fraught production, which led to the very hectic and slightly fraught film that came out in 2015.

MILLER A younger filmmaker who has done very well called me before his first feature and said, “Any tips?” I told him, “The day will come on the shoot when you think you’re completely crazy and what you’re doing makes no sense. Just keep going.” When he finished that film, he told me, “Remember what you said? What you didn’t tell me is that it’s going to happen every day.” And it’s true.

It’s one of those movies I wish I’d seen in the cinema, but I’ve no doubt there’ll be another chance at some point.

Screenshot of the black and chrome version of Mad Max: Fury Road.

🏝 The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months.

First the piece itself, and then the follow up with Sione Filipe Totau.

It’s an incredible story about a group of kids who get stranded on an island after stealing a boat to run away (“two sacks of bananas, a few coconuts and a small gas burner were all the supplies they packed”), then instead of descending into wild savagery à la Mad Max, worked together to survive over a year. People are generally kind and helpful(?) Apparently so.

Not a tropical paradise with waving palm trees and sandy beaches, but a hulking mass of rock, jutting up more than a thousand feet out of the ocean. These days, 'Ata is considered uninhabitable. But “by the time we arrived,” Captain Warner wrote in his memoirs, “the boys had set up a small commune with food garden, hollowed-out tree trunks to store rainwater, a gymnasium with curious weights, a badminton court, chicken pens and a permanent fire, all from handiwork, an old knife blade and much determination.” While the boys in Lord of the Flies come to blows over the fire, those in this real-life version tended their flame so it never went out, for more than a year.