If Britney can get through 2007, you can get through this album. Maybe.
Britney Spears’ new album Britney Jean is an unfocused mix of teenage boy drama and “head bitch in charge” girl power without much overlap. The album’s central sonic conceit seems to be experimentation with remix-style beats and pseudo-spoken word lyrics in borderline monotone. Britney has never been one to rely on for inspired lyrics, but where her previous work had some interesting production—or at the very least lyrics with entertainment value—Britney Jean is largely filled with cringe-worthy euphemisms and uninspired production that sounds like they came straight from a synthesizer piano.
It’s not fair to say that the album is a complete bust. There’s a song or two that are what they need to be: decent dance songs conducive to yelling lyrics in the club. “Work Bitch,” the album’s first single, has had moderate success in the charts since its release. It’s an updated version of Spears’ aggressive girl power, though with less emphasis on dominating boys and more emphasis on working to get what you want in all aspects of life. The production is just as aggressive, and it comes together for a solid dance single—exactly what listeners expect and want from a Britney Spears album.
The rest of the album is not nearly as strong. The more successful pieces are explorations of the changing pop/dance scene, exploring electronica, dubstep and certain elements of remixing. “It Should Be Easy” does this best, with a solid beat, tailor-made for dancing. However, there’s an overuse of AutoTune that does little to help Britney’s monotonous delivery. “Tik Tik Boom” has a decent chorus for dancing, but the rest of the song is so grating that T.I.’s stereotypical filler rap (mention a club, degrade females, use the word “ice” at some point) is almost a relief. It’s a shameless euphemism, more uncomfortable than clever. The song is only made better by the fact that “Body Ache,” the next song, is even more uncomfortable: “I wanna dance till my body ache / Show you how I want ya.” That’s certainly not a euphemism.
The rest of the album is comprised of extremely juvenile world views accompanied by random stings, drums and synthesizer noises. This is not to suggest that Britney is expected to present mature, eloquent world views. It’s simply a fair expectation that a woman in her 30s with two children has no place singing about boys not calling or marking territory (see “Perfume”). The attitudes expressed in “Chillin’ With Yo”’ and “Alien” will connect best with a 14-year-old who “loves her friends” and has a hard time “connecting.” Simply put, the lyrics are painful. The production on these tracks isn’t much better—it’s messy and unoriginal, pairing a range of instruments that don’t gel and never seem to make a cohesive song.
When a new Britney Spears album drops, the audience wants something to dance to, something to sing along with, something a little bit dirty and loud. There are elements of all these things on Britney Jean, but they’re hindered by the shamelessly sexual lyrics that are more revolting than clever. The exorbitant number of ballads on the album seems to suggest that Britney wants to revert to her teenage years as she grows older and older. There may be a successful single or two, but in the end, the album is a parody of the Britney brand: too sexual, too juvenile and too many sounds at once.
1.5 out of 5 stars