If we told you that one spin of Britney’s Femme Fatale would make you forget the complete creative misstep that was Circus (we’re still having nightmares about ‘Mmm Papi’), would you hold it against us?
Now that I have that woeful pun out of my system, I can, with great gusto, declare that Britney has delivered a dance tour de force with Femme Fatale. It must be said, ‘Hold It Against Me’ had me wary about the album project. I didn’t like it when it was first released, and I still don’t love it now. From the demo to the final released version, the only real difference was the dubstep breakdown, which made me think that the inclusion was just another ingredient in the Britney machine’s recipe to create a perfect pop song. This lead me to worry that the heavy dubstep, trance and electro influences could just be tacked onto the tracks through the album, but thankfully these influences are stitched through the entire work conceptually.
‘Till the World Ends’ opens the album well and is a great lead-in to the hard hitting ‘Hold It Against Me’ but the Ke$ha co-penned track feels just like a B-side from her most recent EP, Cannibal. Good song, but a completely wrong choice for second single, and kind of blends into the background of the rest of the work. ‘Hold It Against Me’ makes more sense placed in the context of the album, but once again, not the strongest of single choices.
‘Inside Out’, the album’s only slow jam, give’s ‘Breathe On Me’ a run for its money as the sexiest song Britney has ever recorded. The song, a clear sonic evolution from Circus’ ‘Blur’, while taking influence from some of William Orbit’s work on Madonna’s Ray of Light and Music, is the only narrative driven track on the album as Britney begs her boyfriend for one last amazing [rhymes with truck] before they break up. And with a chorus that opens with ‘So come on!/Won’t you give me something to remember/Baby shut your mouth and turn me inside out’, what straight (or gay) man would deny her?
‘I Wanna Go’ is easily Britney’s best song since ‘Toxic’, and I’d go so far as to say that it is probably the best song that she has ever recorded. Britney playfully apologises for her need for uncontrollable sexual release over a club ready track and obscenely infectious whistle. How the decision was made that ‘Hold It Against Me’ would be a better first single over this is baffling.
The first ubiquitous Bloodshy & Avant track on the album ‘How I Roll’ (sorry guys, no ‘Radar’ this time) is more in the vein of the work that the duo have done for Kylie and Madonna rather than their previous work with Britney. The most processed and affected track on the album will polarise many. ‘(Drop Dead) Beautiful’ borrows the backing track of Ke$ha’s ‘Blow’, with guest rapper Sabi wishing she was Nicki Minaj. Good baseline, but feels like filler, as does ‘Seal It With A Kiss’.
I won’t lie, once I heard will.i.am was set to produce a track for Femme Fatale, I was ready to declare ‘Big Fat Bass’ the worst track of the album. will.i.am’s narcissistic tendency to make every production about him had me mentally renaming the track ‘Big Fat Piece of Shit’, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the track is actually pretty awesome. will.i.am has managed to process Britney’s vocals fantastically (by Britney standards), and the robotic repetition of ‘I can be your treble baby, you can be my bass’ is oddly sexual. Definite single contender.
‘Trouble For Me’ sees Britney bringing Frasier T. Smith into the production fold as he manages to meld a heavy electro bridge with an unashamed pop chorus. ‘Trip To Your Heart’ is the song Kylie’s ‘Looking for an Angel’ wishes it was, with a production that is so sugary sweet; Britney’s light vocal delivery feels right at home, but unfortunately, ‘Gasoline’ completely misses the mark. Everything about the song just feels so dated compared to the freshness of the rest of the tracks.
After eleven tracks of bleeps, production tricks and absolutely nothing organic, it’s nice to see the album closes with a nice guitar driven mid tempo track, ‘Criminal’ with the entire song screaming American Life-era Madonna. Think a mix of ‘Love Profusion’ and ‘Intervention’ with better production and not half as preachy.
Femme Fatale comes ever close to reaching the highs of Blackout, but falls just short, but it is hard to compete with an album that was steeped in so much context. A highly recommended album, even if you aren’t a Britney fan.
Below: Britney’s epic video for Hold It Against Me.