The cover to Britney Spears’ eighth album Britney Jean
Britney Spears may be one of the few people to experience a resurgence later in her career that has nearly completely rewritten how we view her as a singer.
While …Baby, One More Time helped to reignite the teen pop era of the late 90s and early 2000s, it’s her dance hits and the perceivable attitude on her later hits that we think of when we hear her name. Songs like Womanizer, Till The World Ends and Toxic have rebranded her from teen pop starlet into full-grown diva.
Yet underneath the songs lie a sheltered girl. Britney rarely sings live, has done minimal interviews and seems to contribute little to her projects beyond the recording studio. The girl who had a much-too-public breakdown in 2007 became the woman everyone wanted to succeed – and she has.
Her eighth album has been dubbed her most personal yet, which is telling by its title, Britney Jean. But there’s something off-putting about an album with a lead single that instructs people to “work, bitch” when the singer of those lyrics doesn’t seem to be taking her own advice.
Of course, few people know what goes on behind the scenes at Britney Inc. and why she rarely does interviews or promotion for her albums and singles – she’s yet to do any performances for this album, likely due to her upcoming two-year residency in Las Vegas – but the evidence suggests that her involvement is minimal.
Each of the songs have multiple songwriters and producers, many of them even having “vocal producers”, something common for a big-voiced singer like Celine Dion, but unlike Celine, Britney’s vocals are never the primary aspect of her music.
The theme of the album is the life of a lonely pop star. In amidst that loneliness are a lot of collaborators. In addition to the twenty producers sharing the 10-track album, each of the tracks has anywhere from 4 to 9 songwriters, a lot for a “personal album”.
Even though Britney has lead-credit as songwriter for all of the songs, it’s suspect considering she didn’t co-write anything from her last album Femme Fatale, and only had two co-writes on both Circus and Blackout. She did, however, co-write 8 of the 12 tracks from 2004’s In The Zone so it’s not completely unbelievable, but it’s also not impossible that the credit could be present for legal reasons (ie. royalties) or to re-establish her image as an artist.
But Britney doesn’t need to pen a song to own it. Her comeback single Piece Of Me in 2007 wasn’t touched by her hand yet the song still stands as her most biographical yet – an epic chapter in her novel that was handed to her because it fit her so perfectly.
For Britney Jean, the songs themselves are repetitive and uninspired and the production is stale and uninteresting. will.i.am is the biggest limiting force on the album, which consists of replications of their hit from last year Scream & Shout, and a reliance on blips, thumps and syllable-repetition.
The only interesting tracks on the record are the two singles, Work Bitch and Perfume. The former a polarizing yet attitude-driven song that seemed to showcase a newly confident Spears while the latter shows a softer side that displays the album’s only real ounce of emotion – genuine or otherwise.
Britney Jean loses simply due to the complete lack of authenticity. There’s no heart. Britney got away with that on the singles from her last three albums because they were club bangers. Songs like Till The World End can kick off a mindless dance party. Songs like Alien and Don’t Cry feel desperately empty.
Pop music with little or no emotion is perfectly fine. The issue with Britney Jean is the attempt to pass it off as something that it isn’t and the failure to even do so convincingly.
2. Work Bitch
4. It Should Be Easy [featuring will.i.am]
5. Tik Tik Boom [featuring T.I.]
6. Body Ache
7. Til It’s Gone
9. Chillin’ With You [featuring Jamie Lynn]
10. Don’t Cry