Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Britney Jean | Britney Spears

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

This is a happy year for the Britney Army, but not such a good year for those expecting quality music from Britney Spears, because Britney Jean is here.

The album opens on a strong note with "Alien." The song carries a really relaxed sound that would be really great to listen to while driving at nightfall. "But the stars in the sky look like home / Take me home / And the light in your eyes lets me know / I'm not alone, not alone, not alone," sings a slightly-autotuned Spears. It's probably the best track off of the album, and has pushed its way onto my list of favorite Britney Spears songs.

The quality dips off with "Work Bitch," which acted as the lead single for Britney Jean. The Max Martin production series has ended its reign over Spears' career, making way for some electronic beats from different producers. I really don't have a problem with the instrumental track of "Work Bitch." I can actually say that it's pretty catchy, but Spears' vocals ruin it. This faux-British stunt she has tried to pull off with "Scream & Shout" and "Work Bitch" is not working. It's just annoying.

"Perfume" is Spears' attempt at a second single, but it has failed thus far. That could partly be to blamed on the complete lack of promotion, but could also be caused by the fact that it's just not a good song. The chorus seems off-tempo and shouted, with an annoying and repetitive cymbal crash underneath it all. It's like a middle school student just got his first pair of cymbals and wanted to try them out in Spears' recording studio before heading off to the school band try-outs.

The only song worth a listen on the album besides "Alien" is "Til It's Gone," a song that ripped a page out of the electronic dance handbook and managed to pull off the sound better than "Work Bitch." Perhaps most importantly, sleazy-sounding American Britney is back and her signature singing style (talking/moaning/singing/auto-tune) is revisited. It kicks some life and variety into the otherwise bland mix of Britney Jean, stuck between the somewhat strange "Body Ache" and the power-ballad "Passenger."

The one thing that is evident with this Britney Jean is that Britney just simply does not care about her career anymore. This album was just put out there to appease her fans. First of all, the standard version of the album clocks in at only 36 minutes... That's not an album; that's an extended play. 

To add salt to the wound, she's decided to totally ignore the album. Promotion? That must be a forgotten concept in Britney's little world, because there wasn't any outside of one appearance on Good Morning America and few Facebook posts. "Work Bitch" debuted at number twelve on the Billboard Hot 100, then sank to number forty-one before reviving to number thirteen (thanks to the streaming points from the music video). After that second peak, it fell back into oblivion. 

Meanwhile, "Perfume" has performed even worse: it's only managed to peak at number seventy-six. No, that is not a typo... A BRITNEY SPEARS SONG PEAKED AT NUMBER SEVENTY-SIX. That's pathetic for an artist of Britney's caliber. If she thinks she's going to move albums with those single sales, she's dead wrong. Furthermore, I'm not sure how she'll be able to fulfill that two-year residency deal at Planet Hollywood for Britney: Piece of Me. With her lazy, lip-synced performances and her lack of interest in her career, the show's run could end disastrously.

Britney Jean is obviously going to be seen as a misstep in Spears' career. If she's going to stick to music, she needs to stop thinking she's going to be indefinitely relevant. She's still got to go out and market, even if she is a mother (which is an excuse she's been using often lately, even though having two children never stopped her promotions and tours for Circus and Femme Fatale.) Believe it or not, Spears is still marketable, but she's going to have to put some work into it. 

Madonna and Cher are 55 and 70, respectively, and are still putting out material and selling-out tours; Britney is only 31... Her career is far from over if she wants to continue in the industry. But again, she's going to have to get off her high-horse and get her name back out there with each album cycle, and perhaps put a bit more work into her albums to have another solid piece of work like some of her previous albums. Sadly, Britney Jean just isn't going to make that cut.

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