By Matt Scotto
The whole idea of a "Britney comeback" has been buzzing around since 2007. After shaving her head and hitting cars with umbrellas, the queen of pop released one of her best albums, Blackout. The album was full of hard-hitting beats and incredible production values, all while Britney was hitting rock bottom. A year later, after a supposed turn-around and being placed under a conservatorship, Circus was released in 2008. Although tame compared to Blackout, Circus showcased a healthy, and once again reinvented, Spears, with a massively successful tour to follow. Everyone thought Circus was her comeback, until now.
After going through a two-year recording process, Femme Fatale was finally released on Tuesday, and it's the Britney Spears comeback we've all been waiting for. Filled to the brim with whirring synths, dub step breakdowns, and sexual innuendos, Femme Fatale is a dance-pop masterpiece only reserved for a pop star with a 13-year career.
The album opens with second single, "Till the World Ends," a Ke$ha-penned club anthem packing a soaring chorus reminiscent of "Zombie Nation." Never has a Britney album been this club ready, and the party continues with "Hold it Against Me," the album's lead single that debuted at #1 on Billboard charts across the world.
The rest of Femme Fatale, fortunately, contains no fillers and keeps up the party momentum throughout. "Inside Out" is a slow jam about breakup sex, but refers back to Britney's expansive catalog of hits for lyrical inspiration ("Hit me one more time/it's so amazing"). "I Wanna Go" is another single-worthy dance anthem with an infectious chorus and an even more infectious background whistle, while "How I Roll" snaps, pops, and hums its way into your head in the best way possible. This Robyn-tinged track may be the strangest track Britney has ever done, and it works out perfectly.
Will.i.am even makes an appearance on "Big Fat Bass," a repetitive club banger that may take a few listens to warm up to. Kick drums and galloping horses both make an appearance here, as does a heavy-handed bass line. "Trouble," "Gasoline," and "Trip to Your Heart" help round out the latter part of the album. Both "Trouble" and "Gasoline" give Femme Fatale the edgy pop it needs to make it Britney-certifiable, and "Trip to Your Heart" brightens things up a bit as a dreamy dance track. "Criminal," the album's closing track (if you were stupid and didn't get the deluxe edition), might possibly be one of the best songs on the album. Mysterious flute interludes and espionage smoke up the track about falling in love with a bad boy ("Mama, I'm in love with a criminal/and this type of love isn't rational, it's physical").
Femme Fatale does not deal with subject matter such as being yourself, and Britney certainly does not need to make an entrance hiding in an egg to get attention. She hasn't drastically changed her image in a handful of years, and Femme Fatale is the proof that there's no need to. It's an incredibly produced album that matures leaps and bounds over the reckless teenager that was Blackout, and takes more musical risks than the decidedly safe Circus. Britney may not have the vocal prowess of her growing list of competitors, and she never said she did, but she certainly packs the professionalism and creative process needed to make a fantastic dance album. If 2009's Circus tour wasn't proof enough, Britney's tour this summer is sure to be one hell of a show.