Album review: ‘Britney Jean’ by Britney Spears
For fans of: Katy Perry, will.i.am, Ke$ha
In July, Britney Spears promised fans that her newest album would be her “most personal album ever.” Upon the release of the album’s title, “Britney Jean,” fans were convinced it would be her most personal as the title is the name her family and closest friends call her. She’s mentioned in interviews that to her, being called Britney Jean is a term of endearment, and she wanted to share that with her fans. Unfortunately, the album is not nearly as intimate as expected.
Spears’ lyrics cover her normal topics of love, lust, dancing and breakups. The detail within the lyrics is specific, mentioning her affinity for red wine and sister Jamie Lynn Spears’ like of white wine in “Chillin’ With You.” Still, the lyrics miss the personal connection and story that fans were hoping for from the album.
“Perfume,” the second single off the album and a piano-heavy pop ballad, seems to be the album’s most personal song. It expresses Britney Spears’ insecurities when her boyfriend met up with his ex-girlfriend and her desire to claim her territory by making sure her boyfriend smelled like her perfume. The song would be much sweeter if it didn’t feel like a reminder of the 12 or so scents within the Britney Spears perfume line.
As a change of pace, Spears joins the electronic dance music trend on the album’s first single, “Work B—-”, which was released on Sept. 17. It’s the most upbeat dance track on the album and features a strong beat and fun lyrics. The track is the closest to Spears’ previously successful tracks and gives fans a reason to still love the changing Britney.
After regaining creative control on the album, which she lacked on previous albums “Circus” and “Femme Fatale,” Spears intends for “Britney Jean” to be a concept album about “the loneliness of pop life.” The message was well-conveyed through the tracks on the album despite falling short on the personal aspect. But the concept of Spears’ loneliness isn’t new to her fans as it was introduced in “Lucky” from her 2000 album “Oops!… I Did It Again” and seems to explain her troubled breakdown at the end of the last decade.
As a whole, the album has a lot of variety in song style—likely due to the more than 20 producers who worked on the 10-track album—but it lacks the pop magic Britney normally gives us. The tracks feature more melodic vocals and have less of an electro-pop feeling than her previous albums. The progression toward somewhat softer songs and ballads seems to echo her movement away from being a fun party girl and sex symbol. Maybe motherhood is changing Spears, as evidenced by her selective editing of the music video for “Work B—-,” which she felt was too sexy for her as a mom.
Though Spears isn’t necessarily going for a wholesome image, she is changing and seems to want to solidify the connection she has with fans. The scheduled release of “Britney Jean” was to fall one day after her 32nd birthday, on Dec. 3, perhaps as a gift to her fans. However, the album had been streaming for a week already on iTunes and iTunes Radio by that date. The album release also comes at an interesting time, just weeks before the launch of her residency show, “Britney: Piece of Me,” at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Her “personal” album (though lacking in execution) and the title of her residency show play off of each other as she potentially wraps up her music career since her record deal with Jive (now Sony/RCA) only promised eight albums. Fans shouldn’t worry that Spears will disappear, though, as she will be performing through 2015. Record label executives also want a piece of her as they have already tried to court her to sign a new deal.