Monday, September 16, 2013

Vegas, Vogueing and Bros Fist Pumping: Britney's Work Bitch reviewed

It's already something of a ridiculous time in pop with Katy Perry and Lady Gaga being pitted against each other and a "fourth quarter" schedule that sees everyone from Cher to Miley Cyrus unload a high profile pop album before the year is out.

But there's always going to be some space for whenever Miss Britney Spears decides to bring us some new stuff ahead of album number eight arriving before the end of 2013.

There's been a drip feed of collaborators mentioned all year and while some fans winced at the involvement of as executive producer  his touch seems to be bringing interesting people onboard, from Naughty Boy and Emeli Sandé (who could easily adapt the emotive pop-soul they've been huge with over here to Britney and take it to a new audience) and even possibly the likes of Charli XCX.

The general message seemed to be "this is going to get personal" and the dance side of Brit Brit might take a break.

But then comes along new single Work Bitch which is neither personal or as "urban" as we may have been lead to believe. But is this all part of a Vegas ready strategy behind Britney's next move?

Work Bitch is a hyped up dance tune (I can't bring myself to embrace the horrific term "EDM" when it comes to talking about commercial dance music) that riffs on the kind of giant, wall of sound electronica favoured by Swedish House Mafia et al. 

In fact it was thought that Sebastian Ingrosso, one third of SHM, had worked on the song but it's in fact one of the acts he handles, Otto Knows (whose Million Voices is one of the biggest crossover dance tunes of the last 12 months) who is responsible for the beat on the produced track (Which also features Irish pop songwriter Ruth Anne Cunningham on co-writing duties). 

Still, it's easy to see the DNA of tunes like Million Voices or Swedish House Mafia's Greyhound in the sense of build and frenzied, thumping bass that form most of Work Bitch's production. There's definitely a sense that melody has been sacrificed for raved-up excitement at times but thankfully there's enough sass and Britney talk-singing to elevate the enterprise. 

It's got a bit of a weird structure and while it rubs shoulders off  of every enormous dance-tinged pop single of the last few years it has a slightly more aggressive and demented swing that makes it feel like a bold move for her. And like the best Britney singles it manages to fit in with where pop is and feel slightly in it's own lane.

Basically we're talking Swedish House Mafia's Greyhound, the British-ney bits of Scream and Shout (and sadly of some of Britney's oddest run ins with the paparazzi making it something of a fan reference point), the energy and stomp of a track made for vogueing too (the rumours that it samples RuPaul are sadly false but Britney screaming "WORK BITCH" definitely channels the same kind of idea as Ru's signature hit Supermodel) and the kind of weird vocal delivery that summed up Blackout highlights like Toy Solider and Hot as Ice.

And it's obvious that Las Vegas has been factored into this single too. From the forthcoming confirmation of her long mooted Vegas residency to the cheeky Vegas sign in her single cover, it's obvious that this is a big part of the next phase of Britney (and probably a big money deal).

And Britney going to Vegas isn't just going to compete with the Cher, Celines and Bette Midlers of this world, she'll be expected to pull in a younger skewing audience. 

With Calvin Harris and co. packing out clubs along the Vegas strip, this new investment in dance music for young partiers heading towards Vegas is surely an influence on this new tune. One that will sound as good reswizzed in a Vegas superclub as it will opening her own headline show. Certainly what TMZ reported about the Vegas show and it's aimed audience today would confirm that. 

It's likely that we'll get a more "straightforward" second single before we get the album (As is now de riguer these days and likely a ballad) and it's still a bit of a jolt to hear Britney half singing / half talking over such an aggressive electronic-driven cut but it's got enough humour and camp thrills to suggest that Britney is going claw her way back to the top of the pop heap by fitting right in and doing her own thing all at once.