The album everyone was dreading to review, mainly because it comes from an icon, is finally among us (well officially out on Dec. 3rd). The legendary Miss Britney Spears unleashes her EIGHTH, most personal record to date, the incredibly short, pop production overload that will forever be known as Britney Jean.
Spears has been a worshiped pop star since her debut back in 1998. That’s 15 years in the music business. Can you think of another pop song as timeless and important as “…Baby One More Time“? Probably not. The artist gave the genre some needed credibility, knocked out hits such as “Oops…I Did It Again“, “Stronger” and “Toxic” until her career was unfortunately sidetracked by a personal mental breakdown in 2007, leading to her greatest achievement to date: Blackout. An album that will always remain a true pop staple.
Circus, an album with a fun, colorful theme (“Unusual You“, “Shattered Glass“) and the hard-hitting, dance-heavy Femme Fatale (“I Wanna Go“, “Gasoline“) followed soon after, but never fully ignited the spark in the artist her devoted fans were hoping to witness. Yes, some songs were indeed catchy, many ruled the charts, but the glow was missing. Britney Jean was apparently supposed to bring it back.
Immense fear immediately set in upon the release of ridiculous lead single “Work Bitch“, the “for the gays” anthem (apparently we love cheesy dance tracks). Those fears and eventual frustration only kept getting heavier with the premiere of mid-tempo creation, “Perfume“. No matter the reception of the singles, full focus was to be on the music at hand and not clouded by the devoted love for the Holy Spearit (term coined by Bradley Stern of MuuMuse). Calling the new effort Spears‘ “most personal record” was a bad move, let’s be honest, there’s nothing personal about drinking wine or craving the lustful attention of a rapper. The message is not the album’s only flaw though. Drowned out vocals and mediocre songwriting from the likes of Sia, Katy Perry and Luciana, keep the artist from truly shining.
All blame could be selfishly placed on the shoulders of executive producer/”Scream & Shout” dance collaborator will.i.am, although he does provide enough arsenal for hate. “It Should Be Easy” features robotic/lifeless Britney on an unbearable techno disaster with hard-to-swallow lyrics such as “If I lost you, boy if I lost you, I’d lose myself and I wouldn’t feel the way I feel now”. This is probably where Spears‘ questionable co-writing credits come into play. The man even put his stank on “Work Bitch“, the honestly catchy yet vocally bland lead in to Britney Jean. I would like to see a show of hands agreeing this song showcases Spears at the top of her game. “Body Ache” and the Jamie Lynn-duet “Chillin’ With You” aren’t any better.
However, the array of producers aren’t the only ones responsible for the rushed sound of the new album. The artist herself comes off vocally lost and uninterested to the point where it may not even be Spears behind the microphone. On “Tik Tik Boom“, Spears’ monotone vocals are a tough listen to get through when the song is supposed to carry a erotic, carefree vibe. All the fun has been sucked out. T.I. thankfully saves the day with an impressive, explicit additional verse.
“Passenger”, praised by numerous critics, could have been a phenomenal pop masterpiece, but unfortunately we are tricked into thinking we really like the barely there, rock-sounding vocals of Spears on a track of finally giving into love. Somehow, the track sounds out of place, forced and like a leftover from one of Katy Perry’s past efforts, which it probably was. Next.
It’s extremely easy to highlight the negative components of the new release, but it is not a complete misstep. On occasion we are treated to glimpses into future possibilities for the beloved artist. “Alien“, going along with the recent intergalactic obsession among pop stars, is intriguing and showcases a vulnerable side of the artist, however, it sets the tone for the same Spears formula we have already come to expect. The album’s welcomed savior is the slightly-repetitive “Til It’s Gone”, which scoops up all the broken pieces from the preceding tracks and perfectly assembles them into a dance power hit. “You’ll never know what you’ve got till it’s gone”, the artist sings just before the slightly-dated dubstep breakdown bursts through.
“Perfume“, official second single, may have stalled on the charts (so far peaking at number 76 on the Billboard Hot 100), but it’s the closest we have gotten to a real ballad and real vocals from the artist since 2004. It is nice to see Spears dive into such a slow, somber number, however, it seems we all got our hopes up as the new offering just does not satisfy all our needs. The song unfortunately highlights the fact that her days of being a vocal powerhouse are long gone.
While we all desperately wanted to hear classic Britney or get a taste of the “Gimme More” crooner on Britney Jean. We do not. The artist, as well as her team of producers and songwriters, play it safe. The album is not horrible. “Til It’s Gone” needs to be a single. But, we can can take off our denial goggles and say this inconsistent, lackluster effort is Spears‘ weakest release to date. It’s a shame. There’s no fun or sassy attitude present as was in “Womanizer” or “3“, there’s no real vocal merit as found in the underrated “Unusual You” or “Everytime“, there’s not even the tongue-in-cheek, not-so-serious vibe of “If You Seek Amy” or an unnecessary cover of “My Prerogative” shoved in between filler. Just no true standouts.
I could easily state EQ supports Britney Spears, the team is filled with her fans, but when you review any album you must leave your obsessive nature with the idea of an artist at the door and focus solely on the content. Britney Jean, clocking in at 36 minutes, does absolutely nothing but highlight the fact that Britney Spears is far from the superstar we all grew to love. She is content with just releasing an album because she simply can. I mean, this record has had no promotion whatsoever. Her heart does not seem to be into music anymore and it shows with this throwaway, slightly boring, new album. Fans will love it, the ruling is still out on the rest of the world.