“There was a time that I was one of a kind,” Britney Spears sings in the opening lines of her new record.
Yeah, there was a time. It was 1999 and she was the reigning ruler of pop at the time. Madonna was fading, Christina couldn’t quite keep up and Katy, Gaga and Rihanna weren’t quite around yet.
On “Britney Jean,” Ms. Spears can’t capture her old magic or catch up with the new breed no matter how many Euro-electro beats she tries to inject into every song. (Seriously, even the ballads. It’s just too much thump-thump-thump and too many bass drops.)
Spears is ultimate empty suit of pop singers. She is whatever a pop producer needs her to be, and “Britney Jean” is the ultimate proof. Any singer could have made this record, and most that you hear on the radio more regularly than Spears would do a much better job. (The far-superior vocal performance of her sister Jamie Lynn on “Chillin’ With You” shows you just how much Britney is outpaced.)
In the hands of someone with some serious vocal power not masked by all those cranking beats, a song like “Tik Tik Boom” could have some real power. But Spears’ voice – stuck in its angelic high monotone – gives it no depth and the production just masks everything. At least T.I.’s verse shows some flair even if it can’t save the song.
Though Spears has promised her “most personal record yet,” there’s nothing here dealing with her very public struggle. She doesn’t create any new ground, but instead follows those that she once led. And all these songs designed to be club bangers are far too mid-tempo for anyone to dance to.
“Britney Jean’s” best effort is “Work B**ch” and that’s at the hands of the bumping beat and provocative title, not Britney’s vocals espousing the difficulty in attaining a Bugatti, Maserati, hot body, martinis and other things that end with a long “e” sound.
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