Friday, 18 March 2011

Guest Review: The New Britney Album

James Christopher Sheppard reviews
Femme Fatale
by Britney Spears

It’s Britney Bitch. Yes, the former teen queen of pop is back with her seventh studio album Femme Fatale. Following the rather pointless Singles Collection from 2009 that was released only five years and seven singles later than Greatest Hits: My Prerogative, new album Femme Fatale shows a new side to Ms Spears; all out dub-dance diva. At least that is what first singles Hold it Against Me and ‘Till the World End would have you believe. Combining the sounds of Ke$ha, Britney’s own Blackout album and the current club crave of bass-heavy dub-step, this should be Britney’s edgiest album to date. Here’s the lowdown, track by track.

1. ‘Till the World Ends

Penned by Ke$ha of ‘Woke up in the morning feelin’ like P. Diddy’ fame, it’s easy to draw comparisons between this and Ke$ha’s last few singles, but this does somehow manage to take you slightly higher than any other Ke$ha song. The very simple chorus of ‘oh oh oh oh oh’ lacks any kind of lyrical input, but on a backdrop of euphoric dub-club orientated beats and layered with voices, lead by Britney’s joyful high pitched voice, you cannot help but move to this track and want to hear it loud, again and again.

2. Hold it Against Me

First single, and Britney’s fourth Billboard Hot 100 #1 in the USA, Hold it Against Me, really does pave the way for the rest of the album. Made for the clubs, it’s easy to see how this track was instantly successful before a music video was even filmed. Elements of trance, industrial and even grime, next to the Max Martin pop synth-fused chorus provide an unexpected crossover for Spears into a darker world than she has dared dance before.

3. Inside Out

First fresh track, Inside Out, has a slower tempo and has a dirty grime tinged bass line dominating the track. Lyrically, the song is as sexual as it’s slow groove of the thick beats. Britney sings for someone to ‘give me something to remember’. Not a club banger or a single, but maybe a song to get down and dirty to.

4. I Wanna Go

And we’re straight back in the club with I Wanna Go. Maybe slightly soon to have a song that strongly resembles ‘Till the World Ends, this track is by no means bad, just unremarkable compared to the first two club tracks.

5. How I Roll

Listening to this track a few times over is quite an experience. The tempo flits between verse and chorus and the track remains understated yet quirky and addictive. Like the baby of Showdown from In The Zone and Kylie Minogue’s Nudity from her X album, producer Bloodshy works his magic here. Very cool.

6. (Drop Dead) Beautiful (featuring Sabi)

Straight up dance track (Drop Dead) Beautiful with a rap thrown in for good measure recalls Gimme More from 07’s In The Zone, only it doesn’t have the same sordid appeal. Again, another track that is not bad, but not groundbreaking. Britney herself sings ‘I know you heard it before’… maybe something you shouldn’t so freely admit, Britney.

7. Seal it with a Kiss

Another bass heavy track, but with an unremarkable pop vocal that we have heard from Britney before. The lyrics are lazy and the whole song feels a bit like they had given up trying to be fresh and gone back to painting by numbers. Not exciting.

8. Big Fat Bass (featuring Will.i.am)

Will.i.am assisted track, Big Fat Bass, throws us back onto the dance-floor of a heaving Saturday night club. This will almost definitely appeal to the Black Eyed Peas market, not only for Will.i.am’s presence, but this whips the band’s recent hit The Time (Dirty Bit)’s butt. One of the best moments on Femme Fatale.

9. Trouble for Me

The beginning of this track sounds like it’s been ripped straight from a big club tune from around a year ago. Keeping us on the dance-floor, Britney sings about that ex that you should keep well away from, but the party just isn’t complete without them. We’ve all been there. I can already see the girls, and gay boys, strutting their way around the floor and singing to an imaginary ex-boyfriend.

10. Trip to Your Heart

The chorus does more than resemble Shakira’s She-Wolf, but this track provides a much softer side of Britney to the album. A mid-tempo, synth-heavy song with a gentle harmony.

11. Gasoline

This track starts off ok, but is then majorly let down by a lame chorus. It continues through its mid-tempo pop by numbers that we would have expected from Britney ten years ago. Unremarkable filler, definitely one to skip.

12. Criminal

Immediately unlike the rest of the album, Criminal begins with what sounds like a flute at the beginning. The sound and lyrics are so dramatically different from the rest of Femme Fatale that it sounds displaced. Britney’s vocals sound the most natural, which is refreshing, and the lyrics tell a story of irrational love. The closest thing to a ballad, it’s probably best there aren’t any more.

Femme Fatale is released in the UK on 28th March 2011 through Jive Records.


James Christopher Sheppard is a London based poet and writer of non-fiction, fiction and music journalism. James has almost completed his BA degree in Creative Writing and English Literature at Kingston University, blogs at http://jameschristophersheppard.blogspot.com, is an online contributor to NXG Magazine.  He is currently working on a book about Queer London before and after Clause 28. 
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