Britney … Britney Jean Spears – okay world, you can open your ears now… Femme Fatale has arrived. The long-awaited seventh studio release from Gen My’s pre-eminent pop figure officially dropped today and it, if nothing else, solidifies Spears’ place in the Pop pantheon. Femme Fatale hearkens to Madonna, the pre-eminent Pop matriarch‘s sonic evolution, but moreover finds depth and its own identity in context of Spears’ own progression. In this electric world life self-context is key, when you can build a socio-sonic identity referencing only yourself and those above you – legitimately – you’re a pretty lethal lady. Let’s delve.
Blackout in a lot of ways was like Ray of Light – it was that great artistic breakthrough; the moment when void, and result, of external influence and entire legacy, the artist transcended into a new arena sonically and personally. Whereas Madonna ventured East and attained enlightenment, Britney went Westward heaux. She dug deep and harnessed the most visceral, innate, and immediate elements of herself, contained them on disc for display and the collective dismay of a mainstream who couldn’t help but see its own deferred dream within that deafening sound. Blackout, in more ways, is like American Life – a telling snapshot of, well, American life as it is, instead of as it is promoted to be.
Both albums stood as stark takes on the stylized and, moreover, realistic perspectives on the ideal – mirror images of the dream from the eyes of the American schemers. While American Life and Blackout were widely-scoffed conventional failures to the mainstream, to the fans these works are seen as masked masterpieces.
Femme Fatale in this sense, is the proverbial Hard Candy: “now” heavy-hitters on production (J. Timbo, Pharrell, Kanye … Rusko, Dr. Luke, Max Martin, #yourmansandem) to maintain the momentum of a previous massive attack (Confessions on a Dancefloor … Circus) with a sound that isn’t necessarily bubblegum nor blasé, but nonetheless a far cry from groundbreaking. Thematically, Femme Fatale brings Hard Candy‘s high-hyped appeal, momentary sense of authenticity, and rationalized innovation of sound – beneath the reality of a sound-du-jour.
However, despite the warm reception – namely from Rolling Stone – one can’t help but figure the final product will inevitably falter to the island of formidable forgettables – along with namely: Rolling Stone. The sound is the identity, and here we have light, hollow, massive, but empty beats, passably punchy, but by-and-large equally hollow lyrics, and a collective sense of loud, sterile, pseudo… pseudo… something – instead of somewhat anything. What Femme Fatale is missing is the shadow, the shadow of the preceding eclipse that made this light possible – it’s missing Britney as the executive producer.
So, here we have a piece of work that is set to undo the perceived perils of “Crazy Jean Spears,” Britney “Weave Me Up, Scotty” Spears-Federline. Track-by-Track – from “Gimme More” through “Freakshow” and “Perfect Lover” to “Why Should I Be Sad,” from “Till the World Ends” through “Inside Out” and “(Drop Dead) Beautiful” to “Criminal” – we go twelve-for-twelve Blackout versus Femme Fatale: the Herculean trials and Olympian triumphs of Pop’s Probationary Grace; as if the covers weren’t enough.
Just as Ray of Light was Madonna’s rebirth and the reinvention; so Blackout was, for Britney – for better or worse… Then came the break, the solid – and safe – Music/Circus… Then came the reminder, the more mainstream-friendly revamp – retouched, repolished, and reconditioned for mass appeal Femme Fatale; yet another parallel universe play to Confessions, where Madonna began in light and faded to black – from divine rays to the confessional dancefloor. Britney’s soul, however, is blacklit baptized; her elevation is an acquired existence, both Femme Fatale and Blackout – the light and the dark – equal parts of her …. and you wouldn’t have one without the other… everything without context is a lie…
It’s weird, like, you can see the cruelest part of the world… the *cruelest* part… but then, on other side, you see the most beautiful part… do you know? It’s like you go from one extreme to the next – and they’re both worth it – because you wouldn’t see the other without the other one… but that cruel part: is *damn* cruel – and you’ll never forget it – but that heaven… is heaven; so it’s like, I’ve been to both places… you know?
This is not a critique, rather just a moment and sentiment captured… Femme Fatale is no more a cheese sandwich than GaGa’s livelihood… it is an album and a piece of artistic expression; it is not good or bad in a conventional sense, it is good because it exists and within that existence remains the necessity of its presence. Britney’s career, if nothing else, has been the rawest example of Pop’s perpetual epic living poem… nothing is quite perfect until it comes to fruition… and when it does, it is unsettling but somehow familiar and comforting within its imperfection… it’s so literal, and flawed within some standard capacity, but so sincerely human, even behind the technological veneer and auto-tuned pseudo-perfection it is the human aspect that this is a revelation of an actual life lived… every Britney release is the product of forced assumed perfection, the continuous attempt to turn up the light in hopes of blinding out the enveloping shadow below… all the while the silhouette manifests in tandem becoming the beautifully eclipsed alterego, equally grand and prominent in its failure to ever be that assumed ideal…
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