No, this is not an April Fool’s Day prank, as much as J might like it to be. When I mentioned, in the course of conversation this afternoon, that I was thinking about posting on Britter’s follow-up single to the dubstep inspired but all round uninspiring ‘Hold It Against Me‘, he gave me the sort of eye-rolling, you-can’t-be-fucking-serious look that usually gets carted out when I mention that I might like to cover some Top 40 ish. And J had good reason to be weary. Not that I’ve been paying significant attention to the stirrings coming out of Louisiana for a while now but in the peripheral, it really has seemed that Britney has lost her swag. Fifth studio album ‘Circus’ spawned ‘Gimme More’ and ‘Piece of Me’ – both substandard bits of electronic fluff – and then she broke down and whatever and then she came back and released ‘Womanizer’ which was like her tour de force except it was also shit and now we have this.
In the meantime, from the look of the women’s magazines that are my last resort when it’s too wet to go and get the newspaper, she’s courted like umpteen security guards, a couple of her own managers, had some issues with her parents, gone fat, gone thin, gone fat again and is now ‘SUPER HOT!’ That the Britney Spears machine ground to a shuddering halt when she shaved her hair and has been so utterly concerned with reaffirming her star status since is hugely apparent in the fact that her two last releases – ‘Blackout’ and ‘Womanizer’ – carried three hit singles between them. In the world of pop, and certainly going by fellow former Mickey-Mouse-clubber Justin Timberlake’s standards (who was able to wring five out of ‘Future Sex/Love Sounds’), they were veritable flops. Sure, Britney was still there, humming along in the background with her kids and her weight issues and her breakdowns but so much more interesting was Lindsay Lohan’s alcohol problems, Kim Kardashian’s sex tape, Rihanna’s assault. As a musician she might have still been plugging away but as a superstar she was cruising through the twilight zone.
I haven’t heard the whole of her seventh LP. Released just last week State-side (haven’t seen any promo over here), I doubt that I ever will hear ‘Femme Fatale’ in totality. But if ‘How I Roll’ is anything to go by, I might hear a bit more of it than I did ‘Circus’ or ‘Blackout’. First thoughts: this track is craze. Britney still has a mammoth rolodex of the world’s most prolific pop producers on hand and is clearly not afraid to sing and dial. On FF she recruits 2/3 of Miike Snow, Max Martin, Dr Luke, Stargate, will.i.am and Benny Blanco to step behind the decks. Also on hand is up-and-coming producer Billboard who co-produced some of Robyn’s ‘Body Talk’. And that’s what strikes you immediately about ‘How I Roll’. It’s distinctly un-Britney. More a wild mix of Robyn, M.I.A and Lykke Li. The lyric that grabs you at first is ‘You can be my fuck tonight’ but for the first time in a while, it’s understated raunch. Britney is not relying purely on shock factor to get your attention. This is progressive pop, different to the dross that Taio Cruz, Enrique and Lopez are pumping out and altogether more engaging. I don’t know that I like it but at least it’s something new. Forget the ‘Leave Britney alone’ dude. Seems she can look after herself.
Britney Spears – How I Roll