Britney Spears
Femme Fatale


3.5
great

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
March 20th, 2011 | 200 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Ms. Spears embraces the bleep bloop.

Britney Spears occupies a weird, unique space in the pop spectrum. She’s been compared to past greats like Madonna and Kylie Minogue, but she lacks the latter’s self-aware creativity and mentioning her in the same breath as the former is, frankly, insulting. A common complaint with Spears is that she doesn’t write her own songs, which, the argument goes, somehow equates to a lack of talent, but the same can be said of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra… the list goes on. She isn’t blessed with the preternaturally skilled vocals of a Mariah Carey or a Tina Turner, but her music has never been about her voice so much as her personality. And her personality is just what has carried her this far, when contemporaries like Mandy Moore and Christina Aguilera are becoming Starbucks whores and public laughingstocks, respectively. Spears is the ultimate pop chameleon, transforming from sly school girl with enough sexual innuendo to inspire thousands of illegal fantasies to a robotic dance-floor dominatrix, confident enough to overcome tabloid dramas that have ruined lesser stars. In many ways, Spears needed that separation from her past self to become the four-on-the-floor mistress she is on Femme Fatale. Calling Britney a pop singer is doing the term a disservice; she is much more of a pop bellwether, subject to the whims of the Top 40 crowd and more than happy to adapt to environments that have cruelly undone lesser icons. There’s a reason Aguilera’s last album sold barely north of 110,000 copies and Spears’ single “Hold It Against Me” has the most aggressive beat on mainstream radio today. Spears shows a willingness to reinvent herself that belies her fragile personal life and, most importantly, keeps her on the cutting edge of pop music.

Sure, “Hold It Against Me” has the kind of dubstep breakdown that only the most naïve listener would consider representative of the genre, but the fact remains that Spears is the first to introduce such a rapidly rising phenomenon to the mainstream. She’s become a pop juggernaut not by being the most talented, or the most charismatic, or even the one with the best songs, but by simply listening to the people who know the pop pulse best: her stable of producers. Blackout became such a great modern pop album because Spears finally submitted entirely to her songwriting team, choosing to become the entirely sexualized instrument through which their massive hooks would be transmitted to neon dance floors worldwide. And for Spears, that is just what she needs: a Max Martin and a Dr. Luke to write a track like “Till The World Ends,” one that throbs with trance-y synths, a thumping electro beat that is pure sex and a chorus that goes and goes as only the best club hits can do, sensible lyrics be damned. Synths as dirty as the ones on “Trouble For Me” or as unashamedly Eurotrash as “Trip To Your Heart” are just what pop music needs right now, in a year when electronica is becoming bigger than ever and a pop song is not just about the hook but about how much it can make you move.

Yet while one can be assured that Spears’ lyrics remain as one-dimensional and cheesy as ever, it’s the sonically varied production work that prevents Femme Fatale from being a one-hit factory with a bunch of electro clones. It helps that Spears sounds much more involved than she did on the rather dispirited Circus, with even a by-the-numbers Dr. Luke jam like “Gasoline” showing some Spears vocal pizzazz, as much as a Auto-Tuned sexual android as she tends to sound. The real treat of the record lies in the more off-kilter tracks, like Bloodshy & Avant’s (better known as indie band Miike Snow) skeletal, vaguely African-flavored “How I Roll” and their rave day-glo specimen “Trip To Your Heart,” a track that would make Tiesto blush. For all its obvious chart-topping intent and single-minded dance directive, Femme Fatale is an eclectic record, and that’s why for every ill-advised will.i.am guest spot (“Big Fat Bass” – how the *** this isn’t a Black Eyed Peas song is beyond me) there’s an out-of-left field flute (!?!) solo that actually works (“Criminal”). It isn’t exactly the progressive stylings of a Janelle Monae, but damn if it’s not catchy and interesting.

So, Britney Spears: pop icon or pop puppet, someone with the genuine foresight to see where the winds are blowing or one lucky enough to have a team of handlers to decide which direction she should go in? It will always be hard to tell, even though I’m inclined to lean towards the former considering Blackout had her pushing the pop boundaries years before electronic music was truly a driving force in mainstream culture. Perhaps it’s easier to just say that Britney is Britney and nothing more – someone who is more a distinctive sound and a driving force of sex nowadays than a genuine musical talent. Femme Fatale, after all, is a flawed album, with lyrics that barely clear the level of a Ke$ha and a maturity level to match. But it’s a pop album that’s supposed to make you dance, and when it comes to that, there’s not a star out there that can match Ms. Spears.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2011


10498 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

do you feel me fucking your mind

Digging: Caribou - Our Love

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2011


31358 Comments


Tagging error in the second to last para

Digging: Objekt - Flatland

lamer
March 20th 2011


103 Comments


WIN

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2011


10498 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

got it thanks dev

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2011


31358 Comments


I find your view on Britney interesting. I don't count her constant change in style to be an indicator of intelligence, to me it's always been more of a "what can I do to make people like me now" deal. Just go and do what's hot, which in a way is somewhat intelligent given her pop status but to me it's more like she stumbles into things than plans them out in advance.

I also thought you were above using the word electronica in a review

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2011


10498 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

agreed, i kind of posit your counterpoint in that concluding paragraph. again, it's obviously an attempt to get more people to like her because that's the aim of a pop musician, but i just think she does it better than many of her contemporaries.

also its a POP REVIEW deviant, so simpleton genre tags must be used

Meatplow
March 20th 2011


5524 Comments


fuck yes i'm on this

lancebramsay
March 20th 2011


1585 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

what's with people hating on Brit so much?

Meatplow
March 20th 2011


5524 Comments


Blackout had her pushing the pop boundaries years before electronic music was truly a driving force in mainstream culture.


perhaps i'm missing something but could you explain this line for me klap

I thought Madonna's Ray of Light was one of the first big dance pop albums, followed by stuff like Kylie Minogue's Impossible Princess way back in 1997. electronic influences in pop music seems to have been a strong part of mainstream culture since then

FlawedPerfection
Emeritus
March 20th 2011


2806 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Exactly. Also, Ke$ha wrote some of "Till the World Ends", if it matters to your argument.

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2011


10498 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

yeah obviously electronics/synths have always been a massive part in pop but in the realm of american top 40 i feel like
blackout, particularly "piece of me" was sort of genre-bending. like you compare that song to a lot of the top 40 stuff
at the time which was heavily r&b influenced and you see a disparity, whereas nowadays pretty much any artist who
wants a chart hit has a much heavier electronic (read: dance) element to their music.

let me know if that makes sense

whoa fish didn't expect a staff member to rise up with me here. and yeah i know about the kesha credit but couldn't
figure out a way to work that into the review without it sounding like 'here's a song with lyrics that sound like kesha
lyrics who incidentally helped write them'

AgentYorkMorgan
March 20th 2011


173 Comments


SENSIBLE LYRICS BE DAMNED

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2011


10498 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it's called the magic of hooks

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2011


10498 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i mean i'd fuck britney spears circa 2004 but maybe that's just me

conradtao
Emeritus
March 20th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

ugh i hate this album

but i have to wait a couple of weeks before publishing my review

anyhow, great writeup rudy but i completely disagree with this:

"but the fact remains that Spears is the first to introduce such a rapidly rising phenomenon [dubstep] to the mainstream"

pretty sure Rihanna's "Wait Is Over" was a better example of that

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2011


10498 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

album comes out on tuesday i think conrad publish it then.

i didn't know "wait is over" went to #1 on the billboard charts last year?

iamthenightmare
March 20th 2011


754 Comments


she still looks pretty good for a 30-something with kids

Slum
March 20th 2011


2579 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

This is correct

klap
Staff Reviewer
March 20th 2011


10498 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

now you're just setting yourself up for a fall

Enotron
March 20th 2011


7695 Comments


saw the summary, saw the pop, knew rudy wrote it



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