by Sarah A. Peterson
I grew up with Britney Spears–listening to her, that is.
Whether rocking it in tulle to “…Baby, One More Time” at prom or grooving to her breakdown-fueled Blackout album at a New Year’s house party, I watched her grow from precocious pop tart to head-shaving mental patient to music industry heavyweight over the years.
But what’s never changed is her music’s ability to light a spark under my feet, to get me out on that dance floor.
Britney Jean is Spears’ eighth studio album, the hotly anticipated follow-up to 2011’s explosive Femme Fatale, and while it can’t compete with Fatale’s earth-shakers, these songs solidly deliver on Brit’s brand of electro-enhanced pop.
The ethereal “Alien” is a synch-fueled trip through the cosmos as the singer ruminates on loneliness and the need to belong, taking the outsider metaphor to an otherworldly level over gorgeously layered beats by the appropriately named William Orbit.
Britney Jean’s follow-up track, the infectious “Work B–ch,” is a techno maelstrom reminiscent of Femme Fatale’s hardest hitters. And despite Britney’s adoption of an oddball British accent to belt out brainless instructions for being a high roller, nothing can rain on this song’s frenetic parade!
“Perfume” showcases Spears at her heartbreaking best, in a torch ballad that aches with the suspicion of infidelity, while “Tik Tik Boom” teams her up with rapper T.I. in a down-and-dirty electro romp.
The two weakest tracks lyrically are both collaborations. Particularly disappointing is “It Should Be Easy,” another Will.i.am venture (in which the R&B mogul croons through several vapid turns of phrase) that pales in comparison to 2011’s “Big Fat Bass.” But fortunately the inventive beats are more than enough to keep one’s fuse lit.
And “Chillin’ With You,” a duet with her sister Jamie Lynn that jumps between lovely harmonies and rap-style swagger, makes for a jarring listening experience.
The strongest lyrics come from the disc’s slower jams, like the aforementioned “Perfume” and “Passenger,” a dreamy carefree number co-written by fellow pop songstress, Katy Perry.
Britney Jean, coming in the wake of Spears’ high-profile breakup with her agent/fiancé, features just as many moody introspective melodies as it does club thumpers, allowing Brit just the right blend of naturally husky vocals and stardust-laced Auto-Tune textures.
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