Well to say I was excited about this an album would be a huge huge huge huge understatement. Despite many a flaw, from not singing live to questionable interest in her own music I'm constantly drawn into the perfect pop of Miss Britney Spears.
Sure some of it is driven by the heady Britney obsession of my teen years but it also helps that Britney has been serving up genuinely edgy pop cuts for the past decade. Blackout was the zenith, a swirling mash of thump-y beats, groaned vocals and a sense of danger that was enthralling. Follow up Circus sold better and attempted to re-establish Britney as a down to earth and healthy popstar but it wasn't as cohesive or thrilling.
Thankfully Femme Fatale stands somewhere between the two. It takes it's thumping, club ready cues from Blackout with a sprinkle of the brighter Britney sheen of Circus. It's a perfect mix of brave ideas and glossy, radio ready melodies. The cliche of modern pop albums is that "Every song could be a single" and generally speaking it's rarely true. But Femme Fatale is such a slick and polished affair that with the right push any song from this album could enjoy a healthy chart lifespan.
Britney sounds great, even if her voice is processed, analysed and torn apart by Dr. Luke, Max Martin and all involved. But that's part of the point. Britney has always been pop's most robust robot, her vocals and personality spliced, diced and delivered by a ruthlessly efficient. That in truth makes her out of step with today's current crop who display more agency, more control over their image and are reaping the chart rewards. Spears is struggling to compete right now. The first 2 singles not having the staying power needed to build buzz on an album truly deserving attention.
Still even the most casual pop fan will find plenty of moments to raise a smile on Femme Fatale. It's jumpy, thrilling and addictive and it just may be Britney's best album yet.
Track by Track
Hold It Against Me : Hasn't quite hit the chart home run all on Camp Britney clearly thought it would but this is still a stone cold Britney classic for me. Icy, pumping and melodic it's all that is right with pop in 2011.
'Till The World Ends: I've gone back and forth on this single. It's anthemic, likeable and lodges in your head for days on end. But it's a bit too anonymous for an artist like Britney whose strangled cat warbling is imprinted on to everything she does in the best possible way. Mind you if this is Britney at her less than stellar it's still a damn sight better than most popstars.
Inside Out : If this isn't a huge smash single than something is NOT RIGHT. Melancholic, downbeat but still possessing a sleek, dirty groove this is a gem. The chorus is undeniably impressive but those verses are clearly the real winner. Britney's syncopated delivery is on the button and this is a song that manages to both be slinky and seductive and still chug along at a mechanical pace. Brilliant.
I Wanna Go: Sort what 3 should have sounded like, this upbeat and cheeky number again has single stamped all over it. The jumpy beat, the infectious whistle and the vaugely raunchy lyrics make this a satisfying slice of Club Thumper Britney fun.
How I Roll: The quirkiest track on the entire album. Bloodshy and Avant prove their genius here on a jagged of robot electro pop. This one clicks and whirrs itself along in a very minimal but it's sleek melody is gold and although it's not as immediate as other songs on the set, it's also a real grower and one of the strongest.
(Drop Dead) Beautiful: A pleasing update on pure pop Britney. There's very little that's new about this one but it's so snappily written and dripping in sass that it's kept me coming back for more with every listen. It's hard to not love a song that contains the line "Yeah your body looks so sick/I think I caught the flu"
Seal It With A Kiss: Another ode to the early Britney with a naughty update. The lyrics may have Britney lining up illcit liasons over a dubstep pop beat but the melody is as light as air. She coos her way through this one and you'll find this is one of Femme Fatale's most earworm-y tracks.
Big Fat Bass: This should have been the album's stinker but Will.I.Am has rolled out something of a corker here. A house music piano riff, a huge huge beat and some brilliantly distorted vocals give this tune a menacing sound that offsets the vocal back and forth of Will and Britney perfectly.
Trouble For Me: UK producer du jour Fraser T Smith competes with the big guns to great effect on this tune. A grime inspired beat flickers underneath one of Britney's strongest vocals. This is a glittering gem and could be a fine single.
Trip To Your Heart: Britney's does her take on Madonna's Get Together (which she already tried on Circus bonus track Trouble) and it is pretty great. Sure the main hook is a tad cheesy but the trance-lite production and bubbly vocals make this hard to resist.
Gasoline: As close as this album gets to filler. Not a bad tune but stumbles in comparison to some of the corkers on display here.
Criminal: What. a. TUNE. Imagine if you will Madonna's Papa Don't Preach, Miles Away and Love Profusion in a Britney blender you're halfway there. This is lovely, rippling with melancholy but also with it's tongue firmly in cheek. It's completely not what you expect from Britney but brilliant for that very reason. If there's any justice in the pop world this will be a huge huge smash single.
There are numerous bonus tracks floating around too but we'll get to them later. Long story short: you need to get your hands on Femme Fatale right this minute.