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It’s Britney bitch.
What a time to be alive. Britney is back, and she’s never sounded better! We’ve already reviewed her new album Glory, but where does it rank beside her previous offerings? Well, we’re about to tell you, and it’s place may shock some of you.
Let’s start at her poorest album thus far.
9. …Baby One More Time
Britney’s debut album is a concoction of bubblegum pop that sounded great back in 1999, but which has unfortunately dated extremely badly in the intervening 17 years. Sure, there are some tracks that are timeless, such as the titular song that blasted Britney into global stardom, but a lot of it is now terrible.
Just look at ‘Soda Pop’. It just doesn’t work nowadays. It’s an assault on the ears, and it’ll only ever now be appreciated by the die-hard fans. Imagine hearing that song for the first time ever on the radio right now – it would bomb. ‘Sometimes’ fares slightly better. Sure, it’s dated too, but Britney’s vocal here is on point. Again, it screams cheese, but at least it stands up more than most on this album.
‘(You Drive Me) Crazy’ still gets played at pretty much every party we ever go to, which suggests it’s a good track – and it is, deep down. ‘Born to Make You Happy’ is as great a Britney ballad as we’ll ever get – that song is timeless. Likewise, ‘The Beat Goes On’ is still somehow infectious. But that gives us a grand total of five great tracks. The rest can be disregarded. Britney is one of the greats, but her debut isn’t. It will never stand the test of time compared to Madonna’s eponymous debut, or Lady Gaga’s ‘The Fame’.
8. Britney Jean
Its fair to say that fan and critical reaction to Britney’s ‘most personal album ever’ was torrid. Does anyone really like this album? Let’s be fair; it’s not a bad album, but it’s not a good album either. There are only a handful of memorable tracks.
‘Work Bitch’ is remembered for being so out-there. Britney’s mock-English accent is a highlight of Britney Jean, and ‘Work Bitch’ still rocks the clubs, but ‘Chillin’ With You’ is just dire. ‘Body Ache’, ’Til It’s Gone’ and ‘Passenger’ are all decent enough, but if I asked you right now to list the songs off of Britney Jean without looking on Wiki, you’d be hard pressed to remember them, right? And that’s a shame. The beat on ‘Body Ache’ is addictive, the chorus on ‘Passenger’ is gorgeous. But for some reason they aren’t memorable enough to stand the test of time.
will.i.am overproduced the album. His turn on ‘It Should Be Easy’ is truly disastrous, more so than Femme Fatale’s ‘Big Fat Bass’. He isn’t needed. Britney doesn’t need him. Fair enough, Will’s ‘Scream and Shout’ only did so well because of Britney’s feature, but she didn’t need him to executively produce her most intimate album. She’s better than him.
That said, bonus track ‘Now That I Found You’ is perhaps one of Britney’s best songs to date. It’s definitely a grower, opening with subdued dance elements and a breathy, yet invigorated vocal from Britney. But when the drop hits, Britney demands her fans dance the perfect blend of euphoria and heartbreak. Listen to this song. You won’t regret it.
So why did Britney Jean ultimately bomb? Basically, it’s because most found Britney lacking any form of interest in her material. Her vocal, for the most part, is refined, and lacking any sense of individuality or poise. So it’s understandable that fans were worried about Glory.
7. Oops!… I Did It Again
Whilst Oops! contains a lot of bubblegum pop that dates almost as badly as Britney’s debut, there are some pure gems amongst the 15 tracks. ‘When Your Eyes Say It’ is gorgeous; ‘Stronger’ is dark and hedonistic, so much so that it wouldn’t sound of out of place on Glory; ‘Satisfaction’ is satisfyingly compelling in its simplistic beat and breathy vocals; and ‘What U See (Is What U Get)’ is rousing with a chorus that demands the listener belt it out alongside Brit.
‘Oops!… I Did It Again’ sounded dated even back in 2000, so miraculously it stands the test of time, just like ‘…Baby One More Time’ does. But the crowning glory of Oops! surely has to be ‘Lucky’. This is a song that simply cannot be reproduced. It’s a gem in its own right, and thankfully Britney hasn’t ever tried to recapture this magic. ‘Lucky’ tells a direct story layered over positive backing beats. It’s utterly captivating.
Britney’s sixth album is a great album overall; there’s not really a bad song on it. But it fails to match the heights of some of her earlier offerings. The thumping opening track ‘Womanizer’ is Britney down to a tee, with heavily distorted beats and an addictive chorus. THIS is the comeback that many sought, despite previous album Blackout doing exceptionally well. This was Britney back at her best, with a sound that many recognised.
‘Kill the Lights’ is another direct response to the paparazzi. ‘You don’t like me, I don’t like you, it don’t matter. Only difference is you still listen, I don’t have to,’ Britney belts over Danja backing beats. BURN. The press must’ve hated Britney during these two albums, but she was entirely within her right to knock them down a peg. ‘You can’t handle the truth,’ Britney says, and boy is it true.
Circus is essentially a sequel to Blackout, in that both albums address similar themes with similar beats. ‘Shattered Glass’ needs to be heard, if only for Britney’s distorted deliverance of the title; ‘Mmm Papi’ features a hand-clapping chorus that’ll have you imitating her immediately; and ‘Amnesia’, with its juddering backing beat, sounds like a direct follow-up to Blackout’s ‘Piece of Me’. Where Blackout excels, however, is in the production. Circus has a sense of theatricality about it (which certainly isn’t a bad thing), but Blackout is much more polished.
Britney’s first self-titled album is the first instance of the Pop Princess trying to rid the shackles of her youth. The music is harder, the lyrics darker. Case in point: ‘I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman’. She’s in limbo here, but limbo suits Britney, because it helped her to craft a pretty flawless album.
‘Bombastic Love’ is as addictive now as it was back in 2001. It’s a spiritual successor to ‘Lucky’, as it shows Britney looking for love ‘exactly like in a movie’. ‘I Love Rock ’n’ Roll’ is Britney’s first foray into rock, and it suits her surprisingly well. Sure, this song would bomb now, but it’s iconic Britney and one that the fans love. ‘Cinderella’, meanwhile, fails to live up to its name. Not in a bad way, though – but in a VERY good way. With a name like that, you’d expect twinkling beats and lyrics about a fairytale romance. But no. Britney doesn’t believe in fairytales – a stance she recently affirmed by saying she doesn’t think she’ll remarry. The chorus here is simply perfect.
‘I’m a Slave 4 U’ is an enigma. It shouldn’t work. R&B and Britney aren’t two terms that one would have originally thought would pair well, but they do, and the opening single exceeds on every level. Just look at her infamous MTV Video Music Awards as testament to that. This is a stunning album.
Most critics and fan would say In the Zone or Blackout as Britney’s greatest album to date, and both albums are incredible. But they aren’t her best work. Blackout, released following her wildly documented mental breakdown, is a dark album full of darker beats. The songs are incredible, but a lot of them sound quite similar.
Opening track ‘Gimme More’ introduced the world to the iconic ‘It’s Britney Bitch’; following tracks explore themes of sex, scrutiny, and fame. ‘Piece of Me’ perfectly sums Britney up so much that it’s surprising that she didn’t have a hand in crafting the lyrics. It can be read as a direct response to the media who trailed Britney constantly during her breakdown. It’s essentially a huge middle finger to them, and for that Britney has to be applauded.
Why Blackout excels is that Britney came back from the brink with didn’t outright address her problems. She didn’t have to. She didn’t even reference them. She just strutted back into the club and released jam after jam.
‘Toy Soldier’ is thumping, even if Britney is auto-tuned heavily; ‘Heaven on Earth’ incorporates trance elements as Britney delivers another breathy vocal; and ‘Ooh Ooh Baby’ shows Britney having FUN, something that was unfortunately lacking in her next three albums.
3. In the Zone
With an opening single like ‘Me Against the Music’, fans knew they were in for something special, and In the Zone is regarded by many as Britney’s crowning glory. Enlisting the help of Madonna was pure genius, not that Britney really needed the help. But it’s the next single that In the Zone is remembered for. ‘Toxic’ will go down in time as iconic much like Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’; it’s a song that EVERYBODY knows. It’s perhaps the first instance of Britney delving into the dance genre, and what a way to start.
But ‘Toxic’ isn’t even the greatest song from In the Zone. Next single ‘Everytime’ is utterly beautiful. It’s one of those songs that truly induces goosebumps. Unofficially regarded as a response to Justin Timberlake’s ‘Cry Me a River’, ‘Everytime’ is iconic in that its video mysteriously predicted the future struggles that Britney would face. It’s as compelling now as it was back then; I don’t think Britney will EVER produce such a song again.
‘Breathe on Me’ is easily the best song off of this album, though. Her vocal is just perfect, layered over a thumping, yet refined, backing beat. This is Britney at her best, and I truly mean it this time. This song HAS to be in her top five tracks ever.
2. Femme Fatale
Britney’s seventh studio album showed her fully embracing big beats, and it was a sound that suited her to a tee. From the heavy beats of the marmite track ‘Big Fat Bass’, to the euphoria of ‘Till the World Ends’, Femme Fatale explored pretty much every dance style under the sun. It’s an album that is criminally unappreciated. As great as Britney is at belting out a ballad, it was even greater to see an album truly sans that emotion; here we had Britney simply enjoying life, and it’s never shone brighter. As usual, her voice is auto-tuned to within an inch of its life but, if we’re honest, that’s a sound that has become synonymous with Britney. It’s just something that has to be accepted as inevitable.
‘Up ’N Down’ is jumpy with an infectious chorus; ‘Trip to Your Heart’ incorporates juddering, almost dub beats, over Britney’s stripped back vocal; ‘(Drop Dead) Beautiful’ is a blend of R&B and dance that works exceptionally well; and ‘Hold It Against Me’ is a fist-pumping rave that drags the listener to the dance floor and holds them captive. There isn’t really a poor song on this album. All should be praised.
And so we reach Glory and, dare I say it, Britney’s best album to date? It may just because it’s still fresh, or because Britney hasn’t sound so good in at least a decade, but Glory is, in a word, glorious.
It’s a sultry album, encapsulated by lyrics revolving around sex and fame, and beats that sound relevant and experimental, for Britney at least. Just look at opening single ‘Make Me…’ – it’s a grower, in the best possible way. I didn’t like it at first, but I love it now. ‘Clumsy’ is addictive in its rave-like beat, and ‘Do You Wanna Come Over?” is just the right side of cheese, with a finger-clicking, guitar-strumming, thumping beat, and a chorus that begs to be screamed aloud.
‘Slumber Party’ is synth-y and sexy, and ‘Invitation’ sees Britney return to the vocal style of ‘Breathe on Me’ to produce a spine-tingling opening. And then there’s ‘Just Like Me’. Britney Jean certainly wasn’t as personal as Britney had touted, but ‘Just Like Me’, the best song on the album (perhaps?) is heartbreaking. Acoustic guitar and heartfelt lyrics and a gasping chorus… just listen to it. Really listen to it.
‘Better’ is the most current track on the album, with its tropical-house vibes that instantly gel with Britney’s smooth vocal, and ‘Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortés)’ sees Britney delve into a Spanish vibe that is surprisingly amazing. The only duds are perhaps ‘Coupure Électrique’ (bravo for trying, Britney, but this song is just dire) and ‘Private Show’, that is as dated as some of Britney’s first ever songs. Other than that, Glory is stunning.
Its production is refined, and Britney truly sounds like she’s having fun. Just look at ‘What You Need’ in which Britney belts it out like the best divas, before declaring, ‘That was fun.’ And we truly believe her this time. Glory is more personal than Britney Jean because there’s a real sense that Britney has invested herself in the music, producing arguably her best material to date. This is the comeback that fans have been clamouring for. The bitch is back, and long may she reign.