Oops! Spears did it again: album all glitz, no substance

Lucy Tantum

Britney Spears’ catchy songs and bold personality have already given her fame, fortune, and a fair share of critics. Spears’ songs have sat on Billboard lists for months, her performances have scandalized the media, and, with each new album release, everyone wonders what she will do next.

POP ICON BRITNEY SPEARS performs songs from her new album, Britney Jean, for her show in Las Vegas this December. Spears excited fans by calling this album her most personal record to date, but many of the song lyrics are still superficial.
POP ICON BRITNEY SPEARS performs songs from her new album, Britney Jean, for her show in Las Vegas this December. Spears excited fans by calling this album her most personal record to date, but many of the song lyrics are still superficial.

Unfortunately, Spears’ new album Britney Jean is a letdown from her past successes. Most of the album is simply mediocre, with auto-tune and synthesized beats masking Spears’ usual bubblegum-pop style.

Britney Jean does have some promising moments, as it contains everything from danceable electronic songs to subdued love ballads. But if you seek Spears’ classic style and distinctive vocals, then most of this album will seem subpar. Already, it seems that her hopes of hitting the top charts one more time have mostly vanished.

Before Britney Jean was released, Spears stated that it would be her most personal album yet. Although a few songs have themes from Spears’ life, as is common with any artist, many of the lyrics are more shallow than introspective.

In her first albums, Spears proved to be a trendsetter. Her promiscuous style outraged critics, and her super-confident personality gave her plenty of tabloid coverage. This confidence was evident in Spears’ older albums—in Britney Jean, Spears’ style seems to be masked by efforts to keep up with popular trends. Only one song, “Work B**ch, exudes Spears’ trademark confidence—in the others, Spears sounds resigned and uninterested. It seems that Spears is no longer aiming for the top of the charts, and is instead trying to keep up with newer artists. Instead of keeping the style that made her famous, Spears has masked her personality with mediocre lyrics and copious auto-tune.

“Chillin with You” starts out with the personal tone that Spears promised. She collaborated on it with her sister, and its lyrics are optimistic if a bit repetitive. Suddenly, the slow rhythm of the song is broken by an electronic beat and an auto-tuned voice, before reverting to the acoustic guitar melody.

Spears’ voice is auto-tuned in many of her songs, and the electronic distortions sometimes detract from the vocals. The song “It Should Be Easy,” a collaboration with will.i.am, is so synthesized that it is difficult to listen to, and Spears’ vocal talent is masked.

The non-synthesized songs stand out as some of the best on the album. “Perfume,” which tells the story of a cheating boyfriend, is a reflection of Spears’ softer side. Without too much electronic distortion, Spears effectively conveys sadness worry in her voice. The same is true in “Passenger,” another song which highlights Spears’ vocal talent over auto-tuned effects.

So far, the most popular song on Britney Jean has been “Work B**ch,” which was released as a single before the rest of the album came out. The song typifies Spears’ sexy, assertive style, and its lyrics are instantly contagious. Unlike many of the other dance songs on the album, the electronic background in “Work B**ch” doesn’t detract from Spears’ singing.

Taken as a whole, the album felt somewhat disjointed. Spears sounds authoritative in the song “Work B**ch,” emotional in “Passenger”, and innocent in “Perfume.” This circus of song styles makes it difficult to discern exactly what kind of message Spears is trying to send, or what kind of “personal” identity she is trying to show.