There’s a danger of sounding pretentious when describing music as “post-Gaga,” but there’s no denying that since Miss Germanotta burst onto the scene over two years ago, a whole raft of female solo artists have had to sit up and take notice. Britney Spears is now something of a veteran at 29, and ‘Femme Fatale’ is her seventh album. The songs featured on the record follow the template Gaga set when she changed the game; they’re brash and they’re made for dancing. However, whereas Gaga gets her message across through force of personality, Spears just doesn’t seem to have one.
‘Femme Fatale’ is full of pulsing Balearic beats and clumsy euphemisms. In fact, Spears comes across as if she’s constantly on heat, though confusingly, her lines are delivered with an almost disinterested, robotic tone. While she may be aiming for the icy aloofness of Robyn, she gives the impression of someone completely devoid of character whatsoever. The sad fact is, it could be anyone fronting the majority of these songs.
She’s still got an impressive songwriting team behind her though. The first track, Till The World Ends, is by far the best track on show, and it’s no surprise that Max Martin (Baby One More Time co-writer) is involved. Spears coos “DJ, what you waiting for?” before a huge stuttering chorus explodes into life, making for perfect club music. The exhilarating bassline and heavy breakdown of Hold It Against Me are great too, but following that are just failed attempts to recreate a winning formula.
The longer the album goes on, the more desperate the attention-grabbing tactics become. On How I Roll, Spears sings, “you can be my fuck tonight,” but she sounds less convincing than even the most dead-eyed, drug-addled porn actress. Things really reach a nadir on the will.i.am-penned Big Fat Bass, where the Black Eyed Peas man demonstrates he’s got the exact opposite of the Midas Touch; everything he touches turns to trash. Big Fat Bass is a horrible song, with a facile melody and sexual metaphors a child would dismiss as unimaginative.
There are interesting things going on in the background from time to time, but the insistence on pushing Spears’ vocals (usually the worst component of a song) front and centre ruins any potential the album might have. Rather than doing the best for the track, the production makes it clear that this is the Britney Spears Show, and the music is there to serve her. Gaga has stolen her crown, and on the evidence of ‘Femme Fatale’, Britney Spears may be destined for the pop scrapheap.