Likes: Perfume, Till It’s Gone, Passenger
Dislikes: Work B****,
Overall: Decent lyrics, less annoyingly repetitive techno, but nothing memorable
First off, the good things. “Britney Jean,” the 8th album from pop priestess Britney Spears, is not as much of a disaster as I thought it was going to be, especially in comparison to the previous “Femme Fatale.” There’s much less predictably-patterned techno-pop, the lyrics actually have some meaning and Spears gave us the thicker, deeper vocals that we heard on her debut album 14 years ago, which I consider to be her “true voice” (it’s so different from the squeaky baby tone most are familiar with, it makes you wonder if that style of singing was forced upon her or more strongly encouraged). Speaking of vocals, Spears’ younger sister and former Nickelodeon star, Jamie Lynn, makes such an inviting appearance on “Chillin’ with You,” I honestly wanted to hear more from her (it also temporarily distracted from the annoying trap chorus beat).
Let me get back and elaborate on the lyrics for a moment. Are “Jean’s” songs the best-written of all time? No, but there are a few that are conceptually interesting and have a certain sadness that amiably reminds me of 2008’s “Circus.” On “Perfume,” Spears wants to make sure that the woman she’s displeased to be sharing her man with knows she exists by blatantly leaving her fragrance in the mist. “Passenger” goes on a topical path rarely taken, as it discusses how tiresome it is to always back yourself and the relief that comes with feeling safe enough with someone to relinquish control. “Hold on Tight,” a deluxe track, is fantasy piece that rides a delicate balance between fairytale romance and erotica. The other 3 deluxe tracks (which include a remix of “Perfume”) aren’t the most danceable tunes, but they’re much needed to make the album feel more complete. Without them, “Britney Jean” would sound like a worthless EP. There are plenty of positives, but the 1 negative about this record is quite important. In my review for the 1st single, “Work B****,” I expressed my worry that there wouldn’t be anything definitively Britney or influential on the finished product, especially since the album was going to be self-titled. I had reason to be concerned. Although “Britney Jean” is stronger in content and musically falls more in line with Spears’ preceding work than “Femme Fatale,” there isn’t anything unforgettable about it. When reading song titles to make notes, I had to refresh my memory on what they sounded like. Nothing was stuck in my head afterward. Nothing struck me as the “next Britney classic.” There was nothing as infectious or reeking of pop-culture sap as “Baby One More Time,” “Oops, I Did it Again,” “Slave 4 U,” “Toxic,” “Gimme More” or “Womanizer.” Even as exasperating as “Till the World Ends” is, it’s embedded in my subconscious. “Passenger” may not be a commercial single, but because of its matter, it’s the best thing about “Britney Jean.”
Once again, the irony of a self-titled album post-debut rears its ugly head. If I wanted to make a statement about what the name “Britney Jean” means in the music-sphere, this wouldn’t be the album I’d form. The record is like a house in transition; the foundation is there and concrete, but the walls aren’t up yet. It’s missing those key things to make an overwhelmingly great impression.