After the lackluster quality of “Blackout” and the failed attempt at 2008’s “Circus” comeback, Britney Spears’ latest release, “Femme Fatale,” meets expectations of a dance-pop album, especially with the new electronic craze pervading the Top 40 chart.
The album’s strong point is its groundbreaking production, laid down by Spears’ go-to team: Max Martin, Dr. Luke and Bloodshy & Avant. Together, they create a lofty soundscape filled with otherworldly percussion and crushing synths that form a cohesive canvas. Most notable is the postmodern love song, “Trip To Your Heart,” whose roaring chorus dusted with wind chimes and the echo of an ambient xylophone stand out.
Spears amassed a bevy of 27 songwriters to contribute to the lyrics of “Fatale,” but her distinct ability to engage listeners is what makes every song a success. In full voice — with the help of a vocoder — Spears begs a lover on the reggae-infused new wave torch song “Gasoline” to “set me on fire.”
Despite her non-credited tracks, the pop star tries to make the best of what her songwriters provide. But poor lyrics, like “Your body looks so sick I think I caught the flu” in her on-the-floor confession, “(Drop Dead) Beautiful,” suggest Spears is idly complacent with her songs’ promiscuous messages of club hopping and hooking up.
However, the album’s standout track is “Criminal,” which closely resembles a ballad. With the return of acoustic guitar, which Spears has not featured on a record in years, a choir of panpipes and heartfelt lyrics, this track is the dark horse of the compilation.
Spears’ panache for turning a phrase on an album filled with eclectic dance-pop is proof that the former Mouseketeer can hold her own amid younger, fresh-faced starlets.
3 out of 4 stars