Britney Spears Britney SpearsFemme Fatale
We didn’t expect anything from her. But all of a sudden, Britney restores our faith in pop for the masses, without the need for shaving off her hair, taking too many drugs or being on the front page of every dodgy magazine. When her life turned into a soap opera, back in 2006, Ms. Spears discovered the virtues of Auto Tune and embellishing over-production as the ideal way to palliate her dwindling talent. But every cloud has a silver lining, and from that nightmare came the urban masterpiece “Blackout” (Jive, 2007), born from the minds of Danja and Swedish producers Bloodshy & Avant and a cult object to this day. Now, popcorn pop moves through different waters. The American market has accepted the Euro-dance it so long resisted, the pop princesses stick less filler ballads on their album and David Guetta’s chavvy house beats are all over the place. Britney, who’s not stupid, took advantage of the situation and adapted “Blackout” to the spirit of these times. Yes, we have permission to keep “Unusual You” and throw the rest of “Circus” (Jive, 2009) in the garbage bin.
“Femme Fatale”, despite its title, is a rollercoaster of dance, a meticulously produced record that should be taken for what it is: a shot of entertainment in our veins. In order to talk about Britney, it’s essential to scrutinise her production team. Max Martin –who has been with her since the Lolita days of “…Baby One More Time”– and Dr. Luke –responsible for Ke$ha and Taio Cruz entering our lives– divide almost all the work between them, even introducing a bit of dubstep on “Hold It Against Me” and “Seal It With A Kiss”. In the end there’s no trace of Danja, William Orbit –we’re still waiting for you with open arms–, Rusko or Diplo, and they don’t need to be there, either. “Femme Fatale” is an orgy of potential singles on its own merits, in spite of the second choice of “Till The World Ends”, with its onomatopoeic vocoderised chorus, written by Ke$ha. We won’t bother with the messages in the songs, mostly because we wouldn’t know where to start. But a woman who writes a song about gasoline without using reggaeton –you guessed right, the thing is called “Gasoline”– and gets away with it deserves our respect.
Thanks to “I Wanna Go” and bonus track “Selfish” –the latter written by Stargate–, the sedentary would consider going to the gym for the first time. And, on his part, will.i.am, dedicated as he is to chavvy operettas, gets the best out of “Big Fat Bass”, destined to accompany us in the changing rooms of Mr. Amancio Ortega. And there’s more. Bloodshy & Avant once again raise the bar with the playful “How I Roll” and “Trip To Your Heart”, a lesson in art and tradition for the dancefloor –in this case even without using vocal tricks–. And when you’re already out of breath, having burned a couple of kilos, the album still holds a few more surprises: the mid-tempo tune with panpipes, “Criminal” –a redefinition of the acoustic vein explored by Madonna on “American Life”– and “Don’t Keep Me Waiting”, the perfect ending to the special edition, on which she goes absolutely crazy for electro-rock.
I’m sorry for all the talking, but a man gets emotional when he finds a worthy substitute for Robyn’s “Body Talk”. Yes, that’s right. Don’t stone me for this statement, but the woman who makes the vocoder make sense –or maybe I should say, her producers do– has returned to shut everybody up and to make it clear why she is a pop institution. Chris Crocker is crying again in his room. And this time he has good reason to do so.
Sergio del Amo