Friday, April 1, 2011

Britney Spears - Femme Fatale

Britney Spears... so much to say.  She's been through her share of ups and downs, but somehow, she always ends up back on top.  Whether she's debuting a new track or shaving her head, her fans are always loyal and stick with the pop star through it all.  When her seventh album, Femme Fatale, was announced, the pop world exploded with anticipation.  Would this album be Britney's big return?  In reality, Britney was never gone.  During 2008 she released Circus, a massive success on the charts.  The year after Circus, she put out "3" as a promotion piece for her compilation album, The Singles Collection.  It's just that when you're Britney Spears, you don't have much room for error.

Femme Fatale is an interesting pop album that soars in places, but then falls short at times.  The lead single, "Hold It Against Me", completely dominated the radio waves upon its release.  Everyone was talking about the track's dubstep influences.  "Hold It Against Me" also had a classic Britney sound.  It was almost like an updated version of one of her signature hits.  The track is definitely one of the standout moments for Femme Fatale.

"Till The World Ends", the second single from the album, is the opening track.  The chorus is a perfect sing along moment for parties.  It never fails to get someone in the room to join in with Britney's chopped vocals.  These two singles alone prove that finding a catchy song with a hook is no problem for good ole Brit.

While the hooks are definitely plentiful on this album, the production is less than desirable.  Perfection has always been a major element in pop music.  Everybody wants a tight and clean vocal track.  However, Britney's vocals are altered to an extreme this time around.  The auto-tune is full on and her vocal lines are robotic.  This proves to be a problem when listeners are looking for a personal connection with the artist.  By twisting the vocals to that extent, it's hard to find any sign of personality or attitude in Britney's voice.  A producer can still do a good job without pulling the life out of the music.  There are some moments, such as Britney's opening vocals in "Big Fat Bass", where she sounds real and pure.

If you set aside the production elements of the music, you're left with a very danceable album.  Every track is synth heavy with small traces of dubstep, as heard in "Hold It Against Me".  Two guest artists are featured on the record.  Newcomer Sabi is on "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" and is on "Big Fat Bass". Neither of the cameos add much to the record, especially Sabi's.  They seem easily replaceable.  The male vocals on "How I Roll" outshine both performances.

Some tracks definitely perform better than others.  "Trouble For Me" has an amazing synth line intertwined within the song.  It's sounds exotic and dangerous, a definite head turner for first time listeners.  "How I Roll" uses samples of Britney's breathing and gasping on top of bubbling pops.  The electronic and uncredited male vocals are great.  "Trip To Your Heart" is whimsical, while "Inside Out" sounds like the next hit.

After Femme Fatale is over, Britney needs to be more than just a recording artist.  She also needs to be a performer and personality.  Her current female rivals, such as Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Ke$ha, and Katy Perry, either write or co-write most of their music.  For better or worse, they seem to push a part of themselves through the music to create something real.  While Britney manages this from time to time, the production holds her back.  I would prefer less than perfect vocals if that meant more emotion coming from Britney.

Femme Fatale will throw Britney back into the spotlight.  It will also provide listeners with a few great singles over the summer, and while it isn't an amazing album, it's still solid.  If you're a lover of glossy dance-pop music or a Britney fanatic from way back in the Hit Me Baby era, you should grab a copy of Femme Fatale, maybe even go for the deluxe edition.  Otherwise, there may not be much for you here.

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