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This Day in Pop: 'Perfume' music video premieres in 2013 (December 10)

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On December 10, 2013, Britney Spears released the Perfume music video to promote the second and last single off her, fan-favorite, eighth studio album Britney Jean. It was directed by Joseph Kahn who had previously worked on the Stronger, Toxic and Womanizer videos, and it was filmed from November 19 to 21 in the California desert and Lancaster.


The video portrays Britney and her lover, played by model Alexander Kjellevik, doing several activities like taking a trip at night, walking on the street while the guy flips his middle fingers to the world, drinking a beer on the roof of a motel, bathing in a pool and at some point Britney makes a ring out of a crooked nail and gives it to him as a symbol of love.


In 2013, in an interview for ET, she spoke very briefly about handling the situation of kissing a guy in a music video, while having a boyfriend in real life: "[...] we had a discussion about that, you know, it's like, it's really weird 'cause in Hollywood it's so acceptable to just like go and do a movie and make out with somebody and 'cause you're just, you know, flattered to be in a movie and stuff, but I think, you know, some people who are very old-fashioned kind of don't believe in that manner, so um, we're kind of like torn on the whole situation".



Later in the video, we see Britney wearing lingerie, in front of the mirror of the bathroom, putting on her Fantasy perfume, when a message from Cindy, played by Alandrea Martin, pops up on the screen of an iPhone. Afterwards, we see the guy and Cindy meeting at a gas station, while Britney is watching them from the distance inside a truck. The guy and his new partner, repeat the same activities we see him doing with Britney at the beginning of the video, while Britney drives away and is later seen crying inside the room of a motel. At the end we see the guy looking at the window, holding the ring Britney gave him. Throughout the video, we see intercalated aerial shots of Britney singing the song while wearing lingerie and her lover's shirt, lying in a mattress, with her man sleeping besides her.


Several teasers were released previous to the premiere of the video. Britney shared on Facebook: "We've set a date! Perfume vid will premiere Tuesday on VEVO. Had to dig deep and really play with some acting chops for this one!" After being uploaded to her VEVO account in December 10, the video received positive reviews from critics, but not so much from the fans. The concept and storyline of the video seemed confusing and dull despite the very theatrical overall vibe of the clip.

The amount of views it received was very overwhelming, paling in comparison to the massive hit its predecessor Work ***** was. To this day, seven years later, it's still yet to hit the 40M mark. However it did pretty well on the VH1 Top 20 in Latin America, occupying the top position for several weeks.


The original concept

On December 05, Joseph Kahn, the director of the video tweeted "Sigh I love my original edit no one will ever see. I'm gonna go cry in the arms of a Senegalese hooker".

Two days later, he continued: "Internet calm down. I never said I didn't like the #Perfume video. I said I preferred my very different cut but their cut is fine. Jeez. Artists have the right to release their videos the way they want. I'm just a work for hire. It's their money & their career. No worries".



Then on December 10 he added: "Wish they'd release the director's cut of #perfume. Britney's performance is unbelievable. A tur artist in it. Game changer. Official cut is a good video as you'll soon see. But it's a true loss not to see what she really did. It's incredible. Beyond other artists. Maybe if your voice is loud enough they'll release it. But other than that, I just needed to tell the truth. Something amazing is waiting".


"The DC is a minute longer and there's a very shocking ending. But not what you think. I call it BREAKING BADNEY."


In January 2014, Joseph was asked about it in an interview for Videostatic (who had also seen the original video):


Videostatic: I have the "official" edit of Britney Spears "Perfume" on my Best Of December list, which I think is incredibly valid even if so much of the recent conversation about the video has been about the Director's Cut which seems destined to remain unreleased. Having seen both — sorry, no spoilers — I think it's amazing the official version holds its own even though its been deboned of elements that would have cast the whole video in another light. Is it flattering that the video has been largely well received even if it's not close to your original vision for it? Or is it just frustrating?

Joseph Kahn: It sucks, especially since my director's cut is an entirely different video. The released edit is missing half of the story and all of the editorial structure. It took a lot of serious salvaging of footage to get it to an acceptable place after the concept was gutted. It's like watching people pet a shaved, bald, declawed cat. I don't gain any satisfaction from people liking work I did that's heavily compromised. I need to stand behind the work honestly otherwise I feel like a fraud. I guess people still like the video because of the gritty look which feels different, and the twist of the second girl in the second act. A narrative in two identical parts is still a solid idea even in compromised form. But it's such a faint reflection of the real narrative with broken execution and far less ambition. If they liked the weak version, I'd bet they'd love the strong one. No one knows what they're missing, and they're missing a lot.

VS: That's fair. And it's also fair if her fans  see the video and realize that this isn't  Britney "character" you've especially established in the universe of your videos. It's hard to imagine the Britney of "Womanizer" or "Toxic" just accepting that she's been ditched for a newer model, which is what happens in the released version of the video. Structurally and visually, it's a strong video. But, emotionally it doesn't feel true to the themes that Britney's been mining at every step of her career.

It also brings up a question of how often a music video director gets final cut. Even in a case like this where you have very established people in-front of and behind the camera with a history, it's clear which side wields the power. Do you ever get into projects where you get final cut, or some sort of agreement on what happens if they decide to not release the "A" version of the video?

JK: You're right, our previous three videos have been about empowerment and Perfume was going to be an evolution of that, but this time instead of revenge it was exploring sacrifice. Everyone understands revenge. Sacrifice is a much more mature concept of empowerment but that obviously got thrown out. It's a shame - it was a deeper maturation of the Britney "character" in these videos. I've done hundreds of videos and never had final cut, but honestly you hope you don't need it. Ultimately music videos are advertisements for the record company/artist so it's a work for hire. You hope at the end of the day there is no director's cut and we've managed to create a singular vision that makes everyone happy - especially the fans.



In July 2014, a person that claimed to be friends with someone working for a production company in Los Angeles leaked through a Facebook group what was supposed to be the original treatment of the video:


“I have a friend that works for a production company in Los Angeles. She sent me some interesting information regarding our fave pop star, Britney Spears. Mainly regarding the original Perfume music video. She edits videos and had access to the original cut of Perfume. The original Perfume story went like this….

Britney meets a guy with whom she falls instantly in love. It’s made clear to the audience that Britney is an assassin/hitman as we see her kill a group of people in a car (hence the gun pictures that were leaked to the media). She is given her next assignment who turns out to be the guy she fell in love with at the beginning of the video. The go to meet in their favorite spot, but Britney is not there. She is across the street with a rifle with her target set on him. She looks through the scope and sees her man holding a ring her made for her. She leaves and aborts the mission to kill him. She leaves town because she knows her is not safe around her. Doing this, she knows she will be killed for abandoning her mission to kill this guy. She hides out in a hotel and is taken by other assassins and beaten, tied to a chair, etc. She has sacrificed herself for this man. We see time pass as she dates a new girl, gets married, has a baby, etc. We see him looking out a window thinking about Britney, his true love that disappeared. Then, we see Britney on the floor of her hotel room, barely alive, as her body slowly turns to ash. The last shot of Britney is the hotel room is her smiling as their eyes seem to meet. Her body then disintegrates. The final shot of the video is Britney and her lover kissing in the sunset.

They turned the video into a cheating scandal rather than it’s true storyline exploring the idea of sacrifice because her team thought it would put a lot of media attention on Britney that would be negative. Mainly because of the killing scenes.

I’ve attached some before and after pictures of the editing process that she sent me too.


She also messaged me today to tell me that her company received a bid from her label for a big budget Britney video directed by Chris Applebaum. He directed her I Love Rock & Roll video and her Overprotected (Darkchild Remix) video. So, that being said…. EXPECT NEW BRITNEY MUSIC LATE THIS SUMMER/EARLY FALL!!!"


Joseph Kahn confirmed these claims to be somewhat true, explaining some things were actually changed prior to the filming of the video



He also clarified that things like Cindy's phone call were added after he was asked to change the storyline



In 2015, in an interview for BreatheHeavy, he talked about Britney and the Perfume video:


Let me put it this way: there have been videos of Britney in the past where people go in and they try to make artsy videos… I remember they did an animation video for one. I love animation, I love claymation, I love all that stuff, but I just wouldn’t do that with Britney. I think it’s wrong for the audience. It’s not what the audience wants from her. They want to connect with her. They want to know what’s going on in her head, they want to know what’s going on in her heart. As a director, when I do that, I am going to go in and try to figure out what’s the best way to present that particular song, and I have to listen to the song and figure out what the meaning of the song is to do that. I could possibly do the greatest claymation Britney Spears music video ever, and get a lot of props from other directors going, ‘hey, look at that ******* dope claymation technique you used,’ but I would just be wanking off her money.

Awe, I always thought an “out there” Britney Spears music video would be really cool for her though…
Well to be honest… that’s what I was trying to do with ‘Perfume.’ Those are all baby steps. You can’t flip it and turn Britney Spears into something she’s not. Like with any artist, if you want to take them into a different territory, you can’t just randomly punch in the dark and hope that you hit a target. You have to figure out what you’re trying to do. I had this idea with ‘Perfume’ that I felt was a bit more sophisticated and definitely took her out of the comfort zone and presented a different side, but I think I overshot.

What was the original concept?
I don’t have any emotional attachment to any of this stuff. I’ve had tons of videos. I’ve done like 500 videos probably, and when you do 500 videos, there’s going to be 20, 30 videos that just didn’t work out. Unfortunately, “Perfume” was one of them, and you move on. Whenever I do a video, I always feel like the video that I’m doing at the time is the best video that I’ve ever done. That’s the way that artists work. You’re literally going ‘how can I top myself every single time?’


At the time… when I made ‘Perfume,’ I felt it was legitimately, at that point in terms of my body of work and what I had done as a video artist, it was legitimately one of the best things I had done. I’ve moved on since then. My style has changed, I’ve learned new things since then. One of the things I thought about at that time was… 1. I love the song, I thought it was amazing. It felt like there was a certain level of emotion and I’d never done a Britney ballad, and I love ballads. I rarely get to do ballads. If you look at my history, most of it is mid-tempo to fast and so it was a great chance to do what I thought was a classic Britney ballad. I pitched this idea that it was going to take everything you knew about the Britney persona, of the videos that we had done, where she always plays an assassin or these superhero characters taking revenge on men. I wanted to flip that concept. I wanted her still to be the strong one. I wanted to do this thing where her strength would be a sacrifice. Her giving up her life for somebody.

THERE IT IS. She would be taking her own life? Or the guy would be killing her?
I still want to do this concept, but maybe as a short film or another video or something at some point because I never got to complete it.

The video’s actually done in two parts: the first part was she meets this guy, and it’s random, she’s beautiful, they fall in love. In my head I wanted to embrace all the **** people used to complain about her, like her being white trash and walking around with bare feet, and I wanted to use all that iconography and say ‘now here’s the super ******* ‘Perfume’ commercial of it.’ I put her in jeans, I didn’t have her in her big chunky boots, dressed her down and made it look like an anti-Britney. The first part of the video is that, but then you find out she’s killing people and she’s an assassin and halfway through the video, you find out the guy she’s having this relationship with… she has to kill him. It’s like ‘La Femme Nikita.’ And then I actually break the song, and there’s a moment in the middle where she’s about to kill him, and she doesn’t. Here’s where it gets a little weird… it turns into a metaphor. Suddenly you see another girl come into the picture, and that girl takes her place. Britney the character doesn’t kill him, and the second half of the video is her waiting in a motel room. Then we actually see the two characters that she didn’t kill go on and get married and have a life. Meanwhile, the people that hired her basically come in and beat the **** out of her, and we see her suffering as these other people thrive. She gave that gift to him. In my head, it was a metaphor for how… in certain types of relationships you may love someone so much and they will never know that gift that you gave them. It’s that type of love. To me it’s almost like how I view the idealistic version of what women do. Women, if they’re great mothers, they give so much to their kids, give so much to their partners, and they feel so much pain. This beautiful pain that I think traditionally is a female thing, and I wanted to express it as a metaphor. You would see Britney get hurt while the gift that she gave of life keeps moving on.

In many ways she did sacrifice her life… she became one of the most famous people on the planet and couldn’t have seen that coming at 16.
Absolutely. For me, it was kind of a meaningful expression. I think it was subconscious of how I viewed Britney, cause I’ve been through that journey with her. I was there when she was like 19-years-old and literally fresh off the boat… this perky, spunky kid from Louisiana, super smiley. Then I saw her during her ‘Toxic’ phase right before all the **** hit the fan. Then I saw her at ‘Womanizer’ which was only seven months after all that craziness came down. On the fourth go around, I just saw this woman. This woman who was damaged and beautiful but still willing to give love and still wanting to be loved. The only version that I could do was that video. That was the honest version for me, and I thought I had them on board… honestly, it’s hard to talk about the details of that stuff. Things just don’t work out. Sometimes you overshoot. Maybe the message was too complicated. Maybe the imaging was not right because she’s going to do a Vegas show and who needs this really dark video being popped out there?




Tbh, the comments section of the video is mostly positive, it seems that just not a lot of people know about it, or those that do, didn't care to go back and re-watch it after they did it the first time. Footage of the original Make Me... video, which was also scrapped in 2016, ultimately leaked and to me that seemed even more impossible to happen compared to the original Perfume concept, so who knows if the Director's Cut will ever see the light.


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50 minutes ago, PokemonSpears said:

Also, speaking of perfumes, we have some anniversaries these days:

On December 09, 2007, Curious Heart was announced



On December 10, 2006, Midnight Fantasy was announced



And on December 13, 2008, Hidden Fantasy was announced


no one I know likes midnight fantasy but honestly I stan and I spritz my mouth masks with it:awks_britney_side_eye_awkward_2011_ff_femme_Fatale:

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49 minutes ago, BabkaAutorka said:

I like the song but the music video is kinda... bad and boring.  

the video actually ruined my hype for the song lmao, the exact opposite of what it should've done

also why is this woman so ****** censored throughout her career? Feels incredibly weird and out of character after bodies of work like Mona Lisa, Blackout, Toxic's video, etc. I feel like we would've had an entirely different Britney had the conservatorship not happened.

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Perfume was certainly the standout song on BJ album and I remember liking the single when it came out. Then there were rumors that Joseph Kahn would direct the video for it. Same man who did Stronger, Toxic and Womanizer. I was so happy. :unbelievableney_happy_smile_joy_overjoyed_excited_yay:

But I'm not gonna lie. The video that ended up being released is very boring. It's just so vanilla. :eheeek_britney_unsure_ew_gross_um_awkward_embarrassed_cringe:


I'm here waiting for the original video to be leaked :blast_explosion_skeleton_skull_fire_flames_boom:

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I have always loved the song, but yea the video killed it for me. I remember seeing shots of her with the gun and knowing that Joseph Kahn was the one directing completely blew me off. The outcome though, was a disappointment and I’ve hated her team since then. :badthoughts_gun_kris_genner_thinking_debating:

The BJ era could have been huge (despite the album sucks) and the Perfume video would have created a huge buzz and chart runs. same goes to MM and the Glory era. Her team has always been a disappointment and Britney deserves better. 

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