For me, the apex of Britney’s career to date is Blackout, an album that should have been a complete train wreck, but defied all expectation by basically being brilliant. Recorded during her notorious meltdown, it somehow managed to rise above the horrendous artwork, dreadful videos and cheap wigs to give us Britney at her dark and sleazy best.
One year and a parental intervention later, Britney released Circus, which wasn’t exactly a bad album, but didn’t embody the same sense of bleary-eyed sluttyness that excited me about Blackout. Even vaguely provocative tracks like Phonography and If You Seek Amy seemed a bit weird and contrived when you knew she was actually under the conservatorship of her dad!
So is her latest opus, Femme Fatale a return to form? ALMOST!
Lead singles Hold It Against Me and Till The World Ends firmly establish the sound which is maintained throughout the rest of the album. This is Euro dance-pop, polished to within an inch of its life with an added smattering of dubstep wobble.
Sounds awful doesn’t it? But to Britney’s credit, she pretty much pulls it off!
The album has already been described by many as a ‘club record’, which might be overstating it a little (no amyl nitrates were inhaled during the course of this review). But make no mistake, this is most certainly an album to which you’ll be shimmying around your local Yate’s (*shudder*) whilst clutching an oversized glass of rosé.
Standouts tracks include: I Wanna Go, which borrows an exaggerated vocal inflection from The Pussycat Dolls, and shares the bounce-around-your-bedroom giddiness of Till The World Ends. And Big Fat Bass, a song which will initially irritate your tits off, until you surrender to its cheese-ball charms and realise it’s actually quite good fun.
The album does include a few stinkers however… naff lyrics and and an over-reliance on whizz-popping sound effects make How I Roll fall flat, and Trouble For Me and Trip To Your Heart fail to really make an impression beyond their dated dance leanings.
Closing track, Criminal is something of an oddity – not just for its deft use of a flute – but it’s the closest you’ll get to hearing Britney’s ‘natural’ voice (which isn’t rubbish to be fair). The rest of the album is firmly anchored in robot vocal territory, which is no bad thing as far as I’m concerned.
So has Femme Fatale replaced Blackout as my favourite Britney album? No, but it came dangerously close! And let’s be honest, it’s reassuring to know that Britney doesn’t need to be completely off her nut to produce a quality album.
Pop Specs rating: