I know, I know, too easy right? True, Mrs. Spears has accrued quite a bit of derision from music fans over the years, but, when you consider that she’s been in a public spotlight that Kanye could only dream of for more than a decade now, it’s a surprise that Britney hasn’t been in more controversies in the past couple years since her “return,” which has been going on for almost five years. Perhaps it’s a good sign that Britney’s declined from the public eye, preferring instead to release chart-topping jams and touring after them every couple years before continuing her life as a mother, but any trace of humility that may be derived from that description is unequivocally demolished on her newest album, Femme Fatale. It is clear that people loosening up their obsession with Britney has not given way to artistic freedom, but a laziness of epic proportions.
It’s a bit of a specious point to solely characterize Femme Fatale, but there is something to be said about the fact that the album has twenty-six writing credits, and not one of them is Britney Spears. Pop extraordinaire Dr. Luke and Canadian producer Billboard helm the project, the latter famous for writing “Since U Been Gone” and most of the pop songs you enjoyed last decade and the former a co-producer on the third installment of Robyn’s Body Talk series. The rest of the credits go to people who have worked with pop luminaries like Kylie Minogue and Robyn and four out of the five people who wrote “Dynamite” (the fifth one is Taio Cruz). While these people have worked on some pretty excellent recent pop releases, Femme Fatale just ends up sounding like a shameless rehash of Kylie, Robyn and “Dynamite.” “Hold It Against Me” and “I Wanna Go” are blatant in their copping of Taio Cruz’s flagship track and “Big Fat Bass” and “Trouble For Me” sound like tracks that Kylie would (deservedly) reject for Aphrodite. The only reason “How I Roll” is the solitary saving grace of Femme Fatale is because it sounds like a decent Body Talk B-side (How convenient that it’s the only song on the album written by Bloodshy & Avant, the Swedish duo who wrote “Toxic”). To Ke$ha’s credit, (Never thought I’d ever write those three words), her co-written “Till the World Ends” doesn’t sound like one of her own songs, but it sounds a Hell of a lot like “Dynamite” and is just as boring and generic as anything else on Femme Fatale.
You may have noticed that I have not referred to Britney Spears as an actual musician by this point. Well, this is because, while in the past, Spears has at least emoted in her songs (“Toxic”, “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman”), Femme Fatale features a voice so monotonous and synthetic, it’s debatable whether Britney showed up to the studio at all. Her voice is manipulated into such an artificial coo that it could be the vocal work of Colin Firth’s King George VI in The King’s Speech for all we know (heyoo!). Femme Fatale’s only two interesting vocal performances are that of the male vocalist in “How I Roll” (Which is admittedly intriguing) and Sabi, who has a guest verse on “(Drop Dead) Beautiful,” (“I don’t need your money / I just want your D.” Fucking poetry). Will.i.am is also on this thing, but he doesn’t view himself as a human at this point, so why should I?
Ultimately, I leave Femme Fatale with the same feeling I have when I learn about the in-depth workings of the movie industry: appalled and depressed about how many hands can mess with a project to make it far more disjointed and formless than anything the original makers could have intended. Do I think that Britney Spears is incapable of releasing (Not writing, don’t get ahead of yourself) a good song? Hey, anything’s possible. But I came into Femme Fatale expecting something processed and oversexed, and even I was surprised to find how uninspired the music industry can be. Remember when Britney was a trendsetter? Times change, I guess.