Britney Jean. It’s been almost 3 years since Britney’s last album, Femme Fatale first hit the shelves. As with most Britney Spears albums, I disliked Britney Jean at first, however, slowly but surely, it grew on me. Sonically, Femme Fatale and Britney Jean are very different. Femme Fatale is essentially a high powered dance album from start to finish, while Britney Jean is more of a mixed bag of ballads, dance, hip-hop, and even 80’s throwback tracks. The presence of will.i.am as executive producer is very visible on the album, which can be good and bad at times. The entire standard edition of the album can currently be heard on an iTunes stream, but as I’m going to wait to listen to the additional deluxe edition tracks when the album is officially released in the U.S. (Dec. 3), I’m only going to be reviewing the first 7 out of 14 tracks now.
The album starts with Alien, a mystical dance-pop midtempo that reminds me a bit of 80’s video games. It’s a good precursor of what’s to come, because a lot of the album is comprised of midtempos and psuedo-ballads. Although it’s not a typical dance track, it’s instantly catchy and has a conga-like beat similar to the Femme Fatale fan-favorite He About To Lose Me. The first single Work Bitch follows, which my opinion of hasn’t really changed. It’s still underwhelming, but when paired with the album as a whole, it feels a bit displaced because it’s lyrically the least experimental track on the album. Perfume is the third track, which also serves as the album’s second single. It’s another song that sounds like it’s been a bit influenced by 80’s pop music, this time from an early Madonna ballad. Britney shines through with some of her strongest recorded vocals in years, and it’s a good track but leaves you wanting more. Although it clocks at four minutes, the song stops abruptly with only two verses in the entire song. A third verse would have helped to expand upon the song and give it a less sudden end. The fourth track is home to what many Britney fans feared: another will.i.am collaboration. After Big Fat Bass was a disappointment on Femme Fatale (an edited version I cut is the only one I listen to), another collaboration between the two, Scream and Shout, was a huge success in 2012. Unfortunately, this track, titled It Should Be Easy, is more like the former. Britney hardly sounds like herself with a completely robotized vocal that could have been sung by any mere session singer. It Should Be Easy could have easily been a will.i.am song rather than Britney’s, as a large portion of the song features his vocals which aren’t nearly as altered as Britney’s. Though the song is catchy and has it’s moments, Britney’s lack of a natural presence on the song as well as the silly lyrics (“If there was a scale from one to ten, my love for you is a million billion”) make this track a disappointment.
Track five, the second collaboration on the album (featuring rapper T.I.), is fortunately much better. Tik Tik Boom is a short track, clocking at only 3 minutes, but that doesn’t leave the song feeling at all unfulfilled. It’s one of the two songs on the album that really feature the hip-hop groove that so many fans wanted out of Britney Jean. It’s sexy, fun, and the vocals are classically Britney. Although I’m not always the biggest fan of rap features on Britney songs (even cutting them out in one case), T.I. is a welcome addition to the song. His verse is quick but controversial (referencing PETA), effectively providing an intriguing third verse to the track. Tik Tik Boom is the clear choice for a single off the album, and I’m surprised it wasn’t the first. Body Ache, the sixth track, is a drastic departure from the previous track. The posh dance track is more of a vogue-like art piece than any of her other tracks released, and the one that most resembles a recent Lady Gaga song. Filled with a sharp piano riff and overused dance beats, it’s a catchy track. Despite the catchiness, the track’s chorus and verses don’t really fit together which makes the track, which has great potential, falter as a whole. Til It’s Gone, the seventh track on the album, involves Britney once again reinventing the English language, having previously released Till The World Ends. It’s an interesting dance track with meaningful lyrics that are easily relatable – “In my mind the life we had replays, now every where I turn I see your face”. For me, it’s a standout on the album although it took a few listens for me to enjoy. It more successfully does what Body Ache tries to – it’s artistic and still catchy at the same time. Despite this, like many of the tracks on the album, it sounds a bit dated. The dubstep wubbs and whizzes in the chorus sound like they would’ve sounded better released three years ago on Femme Fatale when they were then featured on Britney’s Hold it Against Me, which was trendsetting at the time. Now they just sound overused and outdated.