Review: Britney Spears returns to the club with the gutsy and infectious 'Femme Fatale'
Dance fueled pop has made a huge comeback over the past two years and it's hard to remember when the quality of the material itself was so strong. Spears is no stranger to the dance floor, but has a lot of competition these days with Lady Gaga, Kesha (who contributes to "Femme Fatale" as a songwriter), Rihanna, a revitalized Jennifer Lopez and even remixed Katy Perry dominating the singles charts. Either taking a gamble or just a reflection of her own tastes, "Fatale" is the most club ready album from a major artist since Madonna's "Confessions on a Dance Floor."
Spears told Rolling Stone said she wanted all kinds of different sounds on her seventh studio album and to play with her voice and that's exactly what she's done with "Femme Fatale." Working with previous collaborators such as Dr. Luke ("Circus"), Max Martin ("If U Seek Amy") and Bloodshy ("Piece of Me") and new producers such as Will.I.Am and Stargate, Spears has selected songs (and let's make it clear, she decides what is on the album musically, not handlers) with pop-friendly lyrics, but allowed the music to take some gutsy electronic risks that will even surprise some of her sharpest artistic detractors.
Moreover, she told her fans she was back in "Blackout" and "Circus," but on "Femme Fatale" she's singing that now she's in control -- even if that means escaping to the dance floor. And who can blame her? No paparazzi, no managers, no media pressures, no business pressures. It's almost as freeing as the recording booth.
The album itself contains 12 tracks. There are four additional songs available on the Deluxe Edition. Strangely, every single one of the extras could easily make any Spears album (and in fact, they are arguably all better than a number of the weaker "Circus" and "Blackout" songs), but if you are going to look at the album thematically (don't laugh), they probably don't fit. Perhaps Spears will pull a Gaga and release them on a second album later this year with a few other new tracks? We can only speculate. With that in mind however, here's some thoughts on the individual "Femme Fatale" songs.
"Til the World Ends" and "Hold it Against Me"
"World" pretty much announces there won't be need for remixes on "Fatale" as Spears asks the DJ, "What you waiting for?" "Hold It Against Me" keeps the bass pounding -- something of a literal theme on "Fatale" -- and we're only two tracks in (and out in the world so far as releases).
Possibly the closest thing to a down tempo track on the entire album. Even with the autotune in full effect there is more emotion and passion in Spears' voice on this track than you've heard in years. When she belts "So come on" she's letting something out. There's also a nice call out to her breakout hit with lyric, "Hit me one more time it's amazing. You're the only one who ever drove me crazy because you know me inside out. "
"I Wanna Go"
Another almost pure club anthem with some memorable lyrics (""Shame on me. To need release. And control me please"). Doesn't hit the euphoric high you'd hope for, but seems ripe for prime remixes. Also shorter than you'd expect. Leaves you wanting more (Perhaps that's a good thing for radio?). Definitely the most Euro-sounding of all her tracks, just wish there was more of a payoff.
"How I Roll"
Bubbly in the best way possible. This is on of those songs you'd play again and again on a nice, long road trip. Listen here.
"(Drop Dead) Beautiful"
Mixed reaction. On paper the chorus should be killer ("Look at you, look at you, be my sweetie, be my honey tonight. Cause you're beautiful - drop dead - beautiful - drop dead - beautiful --- You're some kind of fine.") but the harmony isn't as compelling the rest of the lyrics are. Been a long time since she's vocalized this much boyfriend worship in one song, however.
"Seal it with a Kiss"
One of four Dr. Luke produced tracks, this one is forgettable even with its almost mid-80's harmony and catchy "ooh-e-ooh" in the chorus. This easily could have been an extra and not on the main album.
"Big Fat Bass"
This track seems like it could be pulled right off the Black Eyed Peas' "The E.N.D." (or "The Beginning'" for that matter, there isn't much difference) but Spears' angelic voice is less grating than the caricature Fergie has sadly turned into. Spears sounds great on the lyrics, but the robotic "The bass is getting bigger" won't age well. Neither will "I can be your trouble baby, you can be my bass" repeated again and again. Still, with Will.I.Am's cameo, it could easily be a hit in the mold of Madonna's "4 Minutes to Save the World" with Justin Timberlake. Huge, but no one talks about it six months later...just like most BEP songs. Listen here.
"Trouble For Me"
Electronic sounds that haven't been heard since hardcore dance songs from the late 90's. And it works.
"Trip To Your Heart
One of the most emotionally sweet dance tracks I've ever heard. "I'll fly away on a trip to your heart. Trip to your arms. Trip to your lips. Trip to your tongue. Trip to your dark. Trip to your heart. Trip to your chest. Trip to your skin. Trip to your sin. Trip to your touch. Trip to your tease. Trip to your heart. I'll fly away on a trip to your heart." Listen here
"Spark and it's like gasoline, I start playing like a machine. My heart only runs on supreme. So hot give me your gasoline." To be frank, is this about alcohol or cocaine (or does it matter)? Definitely a strong drug analogy here. This must be the dark side of hitting the club. Listen here.
Spears didn't write this of course, but no track sounds more personal than this one. It's as if she's telling her family with lyrics such as *As if back from the club and look what the cat has dragged in," "And this love isn't rational, it's physical." or "Mamma, please don't cry I will be all right. All reason aside, I just can't deny. Love the guy." that they aren't gonna change her questionable choice in men. "I hear people talk trying to keep us apart. I don't even hear. I don't care." Yep, that sounds pretty personal to us. Listen here.
"Up 'n Down"
This really feels like a mid-90's dance song. And the chorus is another
"I know you want me like kids want candy. So keep on watching me go up and down and up down."
"He About to Lose Me"
Closest thing to a sad song out of her new material. Strong track, just probably felt to out of place to be amongst the other selections.
This is Spears' first collaboration with Stargate who have helped fuel Rihanna and Katy Perry's careers. Why the infectious "Boom boom baby, pick you up in my Mercedies. I'm a be a little selfish" isn't on the main album is another puzzler. Listen here.
"Don't Keep Me Waiting"
I can't remember Britney ever belting out a chorus like the one "Don't Keep Me Waiting." It's akin to Janet Jackson breaking expectations with"Black Cat" on her "Janet" album. Hard to believe this is the same singer who tamely proclaimed "I Love Rock n'Roll" a decade ago. Must Listen Here.
All in all, it's a great collection of dance songs that pushes the needle and remind you that while she might not be a songwriter or multi-faceted musician, Spears is still a pop artist in her own right. That's right people, respect.
Are you looking forward to Britney Spears new "Femme Fatale"? Share your thoughts below.