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    Oh Britney, What Happened?

    Entertainment Weekly deemed her an "awkward mess." The Las Vegas Review Journal said her performance was "as lacking in substance as her underwear drawer," while the New York Post opined that she "danced like she had a pantful."

    In short, the critics all agree: Britney Spears' performance at the MTV Video Music Awards was a stinker. But what went wrong?

    From the moment the lights came up on the back of her blond, hair-extensioned head Sunday, Spears' performance of her new single "Gimme More" was a disappointment.

    Gone was the whip-sharp choreography of yesteryear, as well as her ability to at least pretend she was really singing.

    Her once rock-hard abs have subsided to a somewhat less firm state—which is entirely understandable, given that she's carried two children. Not so understandable was her decision to flaunt her semigelatinous middle in a black sequined bra-and-panty number.

    Opening the VMAs could have been her big comeback moment—the stage-owning performance that would leave fans eagerly anticipating her upcoming studio album, due for release in November.

    Instead, it seemed like just one more nail in the coffin of the fresh-faced pop princess who won the world over with lyrics such as "Oops, I did it again."

    It's Britney, bitch…we just don't know her anymore.

    If Spears seemed unenthused about her own act as she went through her lackluster moves, that's because she was, one source tells E! Online.

    "Britney wanted an elaborate magic act on stage," an insider reveals. "But it got to be so over-the -op, it was just too complicated to pull off. So, she had to modify her act at the last minute, and she wasn't happy."

    The 25-year-old pop tart reportedly wanted to stage a series of Criss Angel-inspired illusions that would have had her disappearing and reappearing throughout the act.

    "But logistically, it was so involved, that the producers nixed the idea all together," our source said.

    Despite the reported change in plan, Spears agreed to honor her commitment to the VMAs, but she wasn't happy about it.

    "She went out all night and then came in for rehearsals entirely not into what she was doing," our source said. "It was obvious she didn't want to be there."

    Though people around Spears tried to reassure her the act was strong even without the magic stunts—even Justin Timberlake, who reportedly sent his ex a good luck note—the singer visibly lost her motivation to perform.

    "Brit no longer seemed to care. She'd roll her eyes in response or not say anything. It was hard to watch," our source said.

    Another source reported that Britney wanted to perform her vocal live, but while rehearsing, it became clear that lip-synching was her only option--at least from an appearance standpoint.

    "She, like, really wanted to sing, but she just couldn't," a friend of Spears' revealed exclusively to E! News. "She would have had to wear one of those headset things and they are so not cute."

    The friend further confided that the stiletto heel of Britney's left boot was damaged as she waited for her stage cue.

    "It was one bad thing after another. Brit was bummed out that she had to sing to track,  and then her heel broke so she couldn't even dance so great." 

    The last straw was when Britney had a reaction to the eye drops she'd been using to help her allergies. 

    "She really doesn't like it when her eyes look glassy," her friend said. "But I'm proud of her! All things considered, Britney did really really great."

    (Spoken like a true friend.) 

    Another possible explanation for Spears' oh so uninspiring performance could have been Sarah Silverman's nasty digs at the singer.

    According to X17 Online, the singer learned of the line Silverman planned to deliver about her kids—whom Silverman referred to as "the most adorable mistakes you will ever see"—shortly before she went on stage and was too upset to deliver as a result.

    However, Silverman's rep denied that account, claiming the comic never revealed what she planned to say before she actually said it.

    "Sarah never rehearsed her full monologue ahead of time so no one knew what Sarah was going to say except for Sarah," the rep told People.

    Critics weren't the only ones disappointed by the outcome. Following her performance, Spears was observed weeping backstage.

    And who wouldn't, especially after Silverman's postperformance comment: "Britney Spears. Wow. She is amazing. She is 25 years old and she's already accomplished everything she's going to accomplish in her life. It's mind blowing."

    Or maybe it's just plain sad.

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