New Music Review: Britney Spears; ‘Femme Fatale’ (VIDEO)
Britney Spears doesn’t reinvent the wheel on Femme Fatale and doesn’t pretend to try, despite the fact that pop divas are reinventing themselves every other minute in 2011. Now seven albums in, Britney’s auto-tuned chirp is the same as it’s been for the last few records now (remember when she actually sang?) and the subject matter of the songs is exactly the same as it was ten years ago, when Oops…I Did It Again came out.
This is despite the fact that, at 29 with two kids, you’d think Britney had moved on from punny lines like “you feel like paradise and I need a vacation tonight” from “Hold It Against Me,” the album’s hit lead single. Lack of growth is really the only troubling thing about Femme Fatale, which is otherwise an incredibly entertaining album given that, believe it or not, Britney Spears is the underdog here. In the two years since 2008’s Circus, she’s been lounging in relative – well, anonymity is a strong word, but definitely in the shadow of Lady Gaga’s meat dress and Ke$ha’s Derelicte trash-pop for sure.
So it’s not entirely surprising that Femme Fatale begins with “Till the World Ends,” a techno-warp club banger co-written by…Ke$ha. In singing the lyrics, Britney does her best to echo Ke$ha’s sloshed, spoken-word delivery without lapsing into outright imitation or losing her own sound, and it works. Later in the album, Britney seems to acknowledge her peers on “How I Roll,” techno’d out, hangin’-with-my-girls anthem that manages to reference “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” “Disturbia,” and “Friday” (yes, that “Friday”) all in one fell swoop.
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Besides that, however, Femme Fatale is just Britney being Britney. That means big hooks and paper-thin verses, and dance-floor crushing beats to hold the whole thing together. The formula holds, better than you’d think 12 years into Britney’s career, though not always without hiccups (more on them later). The whole thing is light and enjoyable, always moving and with little throwaways or filler; it may be the same old song, but damn, she sure can sing it (not literally, though: as is her wont since 2007’s Blackout, Brit-Brit is still Auto-Tuned up to her eyeballs, although “Trip to Your Heart” thankfully dispatches with the effects to lovely effect).
As always with Britney Spears, the record finds its anchor in the production. The army of producers who put the album together (including ubiquitous hitmakers Dr. Luke, Max Martin and will.i.am) festoon Brit-Brit with dubstep (“Hold It Against Me”), techno (the goofy “Big Fat Bass”) and Eurotrash synth fuzz (“Trouble For Me”) to keep the album lively and exciting, so even when her singing falters, there’s plenty to keep things moving.
Britney gets a bit more simplistic and old-school (read: 1999) for the last two tracks, “Gasoline” and “Criminal.” They’re fairly underwhelming given the rest of the album, like Britney decided she would just shamelessly repeat herself and see what happens. No, outright recycling of material never did anyone any favors, even pop queens like Britney Spears. Some evolution is required, but not so much that the brand is tainted, and even in the Age of Gaga, Britney’s simplistic sex-pop still has a place in the music scene today.
Which, maybe, is the point of a song like “Till the World Ends,” where Britney acknowledges the changing times, proves she can still hang with the best, and then goes back to doing her damn thing. The message of “Till the World Ends,” then, is that Britney can evolve with the times if she so chooses. The message of Femme Fatale as a whole is that she doesn’t have to. She’s Britney, bitch. What else were you expecting?
MUSIC VIDEO: Britney Spears; “Till the World Ends” (live in San Francisco, Good Morning America):
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