MusicMarch 24, 2011 at 3:15 am

Review: Femme Fatale by Britney Spears

Pop diva returns to femme form.

It’s not uncommon for a Britney Spears album to arrive with a boatload of hype. Smash lead singles and provocative music videos inevitably set the stage for full–length letdowns, uneven sets with as much pop perfection as forgettable filler. Only 2007’s Blackout, released amidst obvious personal tumult, broke the mold. The record, typically regarded at Britney’s best work, married her breathy vocals with pulsating beats and killer production.

Following a detour back into mediocrity with Circus, Britney returns to her winning formula with Femme Fatale, exceeding both the hype machine and any of her previous work. She has teamed up once again with pop uber–producers Dr. Luke and Max Martin, the masterminds behind Ke$ha and Katy Perry’s recent efforts, and produced her most adventurous work to date.

But don’t worry, this is not an album full of 2010 leftovers; if anything, the producers have saved their best work for the legendary Miss Spears. If the massive first two singles, the dubstep–influenced “Hold It Against Me” and the anthemic “Till the World Ends,” weren’t convincing enough, just keep listening.

Lyrically, the set isn’t breaking any new ground — there are frequent trips to the club and plenty of sex — but sonically, it’s stunning. From the whistle on “I Wanna Go” to the whizzes and pops on “How I Roll,” the unexpectedly thrilling effects conjure images of Britney as some sort of soundboard savant. Her vocals have never been her calling card, and here she seems to embrace that ­— since they are pulled, shredded and yes, frequently Auto–Tuned, into perfection.

Every song sounds exciting, modern and totally fresh. Each collaborator, even the typically intolerable, whose “Big Fat Bass” brings the kick drum and then some, comes with his A–game. The album is cohesive in its slick production and hard–driving beats, making for a set that is as arresting as it is addictive.

Britney Spears, Femme Fatale
RATING: 4/5 Stars
Sounds Like: Old Britney on steroids
99–cent download: “I Wanna Go”
Good For: Anyone who appreciates pop music.

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