First Jim Caviezel, then the zombies of ''Dawn of the Dead,'' and now Britney Spears: Coming back from the dead is now officially trendy. Spears' contribution to the resurrection genre, which debuted on MTV the day after Easter, is her video for her ballad ''Everytime,'' which appears to show the singer dying in a bathtub, then being reincarnated. Spears said earlier this month that she would alter the clip so that she doesn't appear to be endorsing suicide, but the new video may prove equally mystifying and controversial.
A month ago, Spears announced that the video, directed by David La Chapelle, would be her version of ''Leaving Las Vegas,'' the Oscar-winning downer about a man who drinks himself to death. In the initial video, according to an outline obtained by MTV News, Spears was to dramatize her reaction to the press onslaught surrounding her quickie Vegas marriage earlier this year by taking refuge in a Vegas hotel, immersing herself in the tub, and overdosing on pills. After fans complained that Spears might appear to be trivializing or even endorsing suicide, however, her label issued a statement saying she'd changed the storyline. ''Britney Spears was uncomfortable with these treatments due to the potential for a fictional accidental occurrence to be misinterpreted as a suicide,'' Jive's statement said. ''Ms. Spears revised the treatment to ensure the video for 'Everytime' will not have a scene in it that could in any way be perceived as a reference to a suicide.''
But the newly released video still shows Spears apparently dying in the tub, this time from a bleeding wrist. (Is the red band around her wrist supposed to be a self-inflicted wound? A Kabbalah bracelet? Stigmata?) At the end of the video, the singer appears in a hospital room as a mother gives birth. Cut to a smiling Spears emerging from the bathtub. (Has she come back to life as herself or as the new baby?)
Phoning in to MTV's ''TRL'' as the video was playing Monday, Spears confirmed only that the video is about reincarnation. ''It's different than anything I've ever done,'' she told viewers. ''It's dark, and it shows me in a different light. Of course, I'm going to go back and do dance videos, but I wanted to be inspired and challenged.'' But do her fans want to be challenged?