One thing that is not hard to forget however, is the formula. Each of the last six Spears albums delivered a slightly different sound from the one before, always setting the bar for where radio play was trending. Along with compilations of radio-ready tracks came a heaping amount of tabloid fodder, which seemed to play out wonderfully for her label and handlers who celebrated the success of her early career. Then in 2007, the world watched as the, once girl-next door, empire crumbled and a slew of public breakdowns, failed marriages, court dramas, and a still unclear to the public psychotic break landed her in the hospital placed on psychiatric hold and under a court-ordered conservatorship. While it seemed like the worst time for the pop star to return the to music scene, she did. And it was, if you judge the project based solely on the disastrous MTV Video Music Awards performance that will go down in pop music history or the embarrassingly under-produced video for the album's lead single "Gimme More". However, if you strip away the promotional elements of Blackout, the singers fifth full length record, and judge it based on the product alone, it's the most authentic and critically accepted album delivered to date. Rolling Stone called it "possibly the most influential pop album of the last five years."
Rihanna, Ke$ha, Katy Perry) is that it proves once again Britney does it best. While it lacks in content (sorry tabloids, there's no Taylor Swift-written breakup songs here to post on your covers), it over delivers in energy.
Executive produced by the Spears power-duo Max Martin and Dr. Luke, who have written and produced a slew of Britney's most memorable hits, this album will undoubtedly be the singers smartest and most relevant to date. While the comparisons to Blackout are obvious, it's clear the singer was more focused this time around. The tracks, which are led by heavy beats and memorable melodies, showcase a more authentic sound vocally rather than the over processed, almost unrecognizable, vocal performance heard on some of her previous efforts. Even in the midst of the heaviest beats, Britney emerges sounding more like the girl we first met, who delivered a sultry, and now infamous, "Oh baby, baby" like we'd never heard before.
Mariah Carey, to achieve that feat. And with more of that formula compiled on this compilation, this project could easily go five or six singles deep. The infectious "I Wanna Go" follows suit to the current singles, while the will.i.am produced "Big Fat Bass" offers a cleverly written hook ("I can be your trouble baby, you can be my bass") and an appearance from the The Black Eyed Peas star. "Drop Dead Beautiful" and the techno-inspired "How I Roll" are also highlights, but it's consistency that seems to be the star. The closest thing to a ballad is the mid-tempo final track, "Criminal" that is moody, edgy and still cleverly upbeat. Showcasing what Britney, or rather her songwriters and producers, does best is what makes this album worthy of high praise. Sticking to dance-floor jams that will keep fans engaged at a live show and delivering anthem-like hooks to keep people singing along in their cars is the key to Britney's success. Yes, I remember the successful "Everytime" that showcased a more tender Spears, but I contribute most of its success to the tabloid-fueled rumors that the track was about the singer's tumultuous breakup with Justin Timberlake.
If you're a true Britney fan you will definitely want to splurge on the Deluxe Version of Femme Fatale, as it includes four tracks that easily could have had a place on radio should they have been included in the package, but thematically it is clear why they were left off. "Don't Keep Me Waiting" includes an appearance by Travis Barker on drums and the Stargate produced "Selfish" is a club-banger sure to satisfy all of Britney's most loyal fans. If you are looking for that more tender Spears, the Rodney Jerkins produced "He About To Lose Me" is custom ordered just for you.
The bottom line is that this album is exactly what the doctor ordered - which might be more literal than I intend - for Britney. Fun, hooky, energetic and right on track to move her a step closer to reclaiming her career. To pre-order your copy of Femme Fatale, click here and don't forget to catch Spears when she takes over Good Morning America on March 29th, the day the album hits stores.