The relevancy of Britney Spears has been questioned since circa 2007 when her illustrious mental breakdown occurred (which was the exact moment when she should have been deemed her most relevant). After Blackout, the era during which she was committed to Cedars Sinai, Spears has released two albums, Circus and Femme Fatale, making Britney Jean her third release since “the insanity” began. If you were hoping that fears of her non-presentness were going to be assuaged with the Britney Jean album cover, you would be sorely disappointed, as it might be her creepiest, most illuminati-esque photo yet.
“Alien” addresses Britney’s transition from teen pop harlot to world’s most beloved sex kitten to somewhere in between. Acknowledging, “There was a time I was one of a kind/Was lonely then, like an alien,” it’s almost as though Britney has run out of fucks to give when it comes to admitting that there are plenty of carbon copy replacements in the works–Miley Cyrus chief among them. And now that she’s recognized it, she’s freer than ever to do whatever she wants.
“Work Bitch” is, of course, the anthemic first single that Behind the Hype previously noted was an impossible goal to achieve in the current American landscape, but is, nonetheless, one of Spears’ best singles to date. The following track, ”Perfume,” is easily the most relatable song on the album for any girl who has ever had to share a man with an ex-girlfriend or female “friend.” It is a song that establishes the fact that just when you think you’ve got Spears pegged as a creator of throwaway ballads, she’ll put you in your fucking place (e.g. In The Zone‘s “Everytime”–but not Baby… One More Time‘s “E-Mail My Heart”). Written by Sia, the lamenting vocals are surprisingly and distinctly Britney, expressing a yearning that only someone who’s actually been through this shit could express.
“It Should Be Easy” finds Britney embracing both her love of skewed vocals and will.i.am. Written and produced by David Guetta, the track embodies the style you would expect of such a collaboration–especially considering that Nicky Romero serves as a co-writer on the song. The exuberant, Minogue-esque backbeat finds Britney repeating, “Love, it should be easy/It shouldn’t be complicated.” Still showing her simple Louisiana ways with such romanticism, one wants to reach through the speakers, pat Britney on the back and assure, “There, there.”
“Tik Tik Boom” features, of all rappers, T.I. (which somewhat reveals Britney’s age), and, at first glance, conjures visions of In The Zone‘s “(I Got That) Boom Boom” featuring the Ying Yang Twins (also revealing Britney’s age), but could not be further from said track in terms of auditory comparisons. She expresses an urgency and intensity as she sings, “Not too slow and not too quick/Baby make me tik tik boom/No more games, no more of the same thing.” T.I.’s contribution is actually one of the highlights of the song, making you wish his segment was a bit longer as he raps, “Madonna might stay, drive you crazy.” Naturally, Britney’s Madonna fanaticism is no secret, which is, in part why she chose William Orbit (of Ray of Light fame) as one of the producers for the album.
“Body Ache,” another David Guetta collaboration, proves that Britney knows how to use the most current, sought after producers to coordinate with her own specific brand of style. Echoing the tone of her 2012 duet with will.i.am., “Scream & Shout,” Spears assertively admits, “I wanna dance till my body ache/Show you how I want ya/Till my body ache.” The sentiment of ”Til It’s Gone,” a song with obvious Janet/Joni Mitchell connotations, continues the dance background motif paired with emotional lyrics. No doubt drawing from the pain of her breakup with former manager, Jason Trawick, Spears sings, “I’m blind from the tears that fall like rain…/My heart’s never gonna be the same…/You never know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”
“Passenger,” produced by Mad Decent favorite Diplo, is one of the most unique tracks on the album for its distinct backbeat–paired with markedly passionate vocals on the part of Spears. She forms the revelation, “I can’t let go of control/There was a time without trust/There was a time without love/I’ll let you lead the way now/’Cause I want you to take the wheel/I’ve never been a passenger, though, I never knew how good it would feel.” With lyrics contributed by Sia and Katy Perry, the pop powerhouse nature of the song is undeniable.
“Chillin’ With You” featuring Jamie Lynn bears the country twang that Spears’ sister is fond of (on the coattails of Jamie Lynn releasing the single, “How Could I Want More”) and some of the lackluster balladry Britney has become notorious for–including lyrics like “I drank some red wine and now I’m walking on the sky.” Fortunately, the chorus, a bit awkward if you read too much into Britney and Jamie Lynn saying “wit” instead of “with,” salvages the song.
“Don’t Cry” is the most guitar-laden track on Britney Jean, complete with whistling to commence the song with a bittersweet, wanderlusting feel. Peppered with denial, Spears affirms, “If they told me it’s over I wouldn’t believe it…/Let’s move on and be stronger…/This is gonna be our last goodbye/Our love is gone but I’ll survive. Next up is “Brightest Morning Star,” produced by pop go-to Dr. Luke, and the first in a series of four bonus tracks. More than slightly maudlin (what would a Spears album be if it wasn’t a bit cheesy?), Spears croons, “I lift my hands and pray/’Cause life is tough some days/But I will not lose faith.” Somewhat akin to Ray of Light‘s second to last track, “Little Star,” “Brightest Morning Star” is, hopefully, about one of Spears’ children.
“Hold On Tight” finds Spears returning to her needier side, faltering toward a less empowering, independent aura so confidently exuded throughtou most of Britney Jean. ”Now That I Found You” ends the bonus track version of the album (sure, there’s a “Perfume” remix, but whateva) on a high note, with promises that Spears is never destined to be alone for very long–even though, it would seem, some of the best music of her career has resulted from breakups and the resultant loneliness.