I have a huge problem with Britney Spears’ eighth studio album, Britney Jean, and its name is Will.i.am. The Black Eyed Peas frontman has taken over as executive producer, seemingly hijacking Brit’s emotions on half the record. The end result? An album of fillers that, despite the intimate title, is about as personal as a spot on the Home Shopping Network.
Mr. i.am’s love affair with Brit began when he produced and dueted with her on “Big Fat Bass,” the only misfire on Britney’s 2011 EDM masterpiece, Femme Fatale. The track came and went like Lindsay’s sobriety. In 2012, the duo appeared on Will’s dancefloor romp “Scream And Shout,” which went on to be a huge hit. The outcome was inevitable: Will.i.am announced that he was going to executive-produce Britney Jean, the album that marks Britney’s 15-year anniversary in the music biz. Think of the other divas that made huge comebacks after 15 years: Mariah (The Emancipation Of Mimi), Janet (All For You) and (all hail) Madonna’s game-changing musical masterpiece Ray of Light. In Britney’s case, unfortunately, the 15-year-marker does little to catapult the young singer down the musical runway, instead it furthers her growing reputation as a soulless pop bot.
This is especially baffling, considering Will.i.am claimed to have had many soul-searching lunches with Britney before making the album. Really, Will? Is that how you came up with deep lyrics like, "On a scale of 1 to 10/ My love for you is a million, billion," on "It Should Be Easy." Is that why your recycled beats ruined "Body Ache?" The track starts off like a sexier, modern version of one of Britney's sexiest dance records, "Breathe On Me," before losing ground and coming across like soggy music leftovers from the "Scream And Shout" sessions. Then there's "Til It's Gone," another EDM misfire that turns Britney into some sort of demented version of Ms. Pac Man.
Saving graces? The album's opening track, "Alien," brings Ray Of Light's William Orbit to the producer's chair and sets up a spaced-out groove that is perfect for Britney's light vocals. With lyrics like "There was a time/ I was one of a kind," it tricks you into thinking that you're being set up for a musical trip into the singer's life, but then comes the opening thumps of "Work Bitch" and that theory's out the door. There is also the tinged-out track "Passenger," which was written for Katy Perry's Prism. It sort of has this Britney-take-the-wheel vibe that is a nice fit for the singer's hit catalog. While I do love the track, Britney's vocals are twerked up a bit and I wonder, "Is that you really hittin' them high notes, girl?" (Of course it's not, but a boy can dream.) Brit-Brit linked up with Sia on current single, "Perfume." I will give Britney props on her vocals and the light production, however it's still not one of my favorites. To me, it sounds like a commercial spot for one of her fragrances (Circus Radiance, perhaps?.)
What's something all of these "good" tracks have in common? Will.i.am had nothing to do with them. Just saying ...
We all know that the machine that is Britney Spears will never give us a Ray Of Light, or even The Emancipation Of Mimi for that matter, but Britney Jean is an utter disappointment that leaves longtime fans like myself disappointed and wanting more. Thanks, Will.i.am!
Check out some tracks from Britney Jean, and let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.