Has it really been over 12 years since Britney Spears released her first album, "...Baby One More Time"? Though it seems only like yesterday to some, in that dozen years, she's released six studio albums -- not to mention two greatest hits compilations.
Fast-forward to the present, and the now 29-year old pop diva has brought us her seventh studio effort, "Femme Fatale." Largely produced by the inescapable hitmakers Dr. Luke and Max Martin, the album is chock full of uptempo dance numbers charged with lyrics about first looks, second glances and stolen moments.
Dr. Luke and Martin aren't the only pop masterminds behind the boards for "Femme." Spears also enlisted will.i.am, Henrik Jonback and Bloodshy, among others, to craft the 12 song set. (16 if including the four bonus tracks available on the deluxe edition.)
Here's a look at the album, song by song. What do you think of it? Be sure to tell us in the comment section at the bottom of the page.
| ||1. "Till the World Ends" |
"Till the World Ends'" message is simple -- and one that's been echoed incessantly over the past year in countless Hot 100 top ten hits: dance until you drop from exhaustion. With its roof-shaking chant-chorus, "Femme Fatale's" opening track comes on hard like its the sexy spawn of Usher's "OMG" and Baltimora's "Tarzan Boy."
Rush-released to digital retailers in early March after it leaked, the song immediately debuted at No. 20 on the Hot 100 before vaulting to No. 9 the following week -- marking Spears' 10th top 10 single.
| ||2. "Hold It Against Me" |
It shouldn't surprise anyone that the anticipation for the set's first single, "Hold It Against Me," was so great that the song immediately debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It marked Spears' second chart-topping debut and her fourth No. 1 overall.
From the opening thumpy-thumps of its bassline and Spears' come-hither "hey, over there" -- it's clear whose in the driver's seat in "Femme Fatale's" kick-off number. The verses are rhythmically mechanical, while its punny choruses are dreamy with layered vocals -- in a way giving us both sides of Spears as siren-on-the-dance-floor. On the one hand she's a no-nonsense "gimme what I want" girl, while on the other a delicate dancer on the floor batting her eyes at her target. By the time the daring dubstep bridge appears around the 2:15 mark, the song has hit a homerun. The stuttery stop-start beats simply beg for a massive dance breakdown during the diva's upcoming tour.
| ||3. "Inside Out" |
Easily a natural pick for "Femme's" third single, the oh-so-saucy "Inside Out" begins demurely enough, with Spears singing over a grinding beat about "sittin' in the mirror gettin' pretty." But things take a seriously scandalous turn when her perhaps soon-to-be-ex shows up at the door. Next thing we know, Spears is crying out "So come on! Won't you give me something to remember? Baby shut your mouth and turn me inside out." Whoah! Did it get hot in here, or is it just us? Spears even goes as far to (intentionally?) reference two of her earlier hits in "Inside's" chorus: "...hit me one more time, it's so amazing.../...you're the only one who drove me crazy..." (riffing on "...Baby One More Time" and "(You Drive Me) Crazy"). Finally, with a beat reminiscent of Ginuwine's "Pony," we await the inevitable mash-up of the two singles.
| ||4. "I Wanna Go" |
"I Wanna Go" is the sister track to "Till the World Ends" in that both are driving, throbbing, Spears-commands-you-to-dance tracks about letting go. "Wanna" is vague in specific intentions, wrapping its message in generalities about "going all the way" over a pulsing beat. "Wanna" was one of the tracks initially teased to fans by Dr. Luke well before the album dropped, a good sign that it may be a candidate for a proper single release.
| ||5. "How I Roll" |
Put your hand up if you thought Spears sang "You could be my f*** tonight" on "How I Roll"... before you realized she was actually singing the much tamer "You could be my thug tonight?" OK, maybe that's only our hand we see in the air. "How I Roll" lets listeners take a break from the disco inferno of "Femme's" first four tracks, as it pop-pops along like a bubble machine with a perky little summery beat.
| ||6. "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" featuring Sabi |
With giggly lyrical couplings like "your body looks so sick, I think I caught the flu" and "you must be B.I.G. because you got me hypnotized" -- "Beautiful" doesn't take itself too seriously. Halfway through the number, the luckiest rapper in the world, Sabi, appears, inexplicably rhyming "sweatin' you" with "vegtables" (pronounced as "veg-ta-bulls"). (Truly, you didn't know who Sabi was either until she appeared on "Femme," right? She thus finds herself in a most fortunate position -- as one of only two guest stars on "Femme." And the only one that's unknown.)
| ||7. "Seal It With a Kiss" |
In the way that "I Wanna Go" is a sibling to "Till the World Ends," here we find another kissin' cousin: "Seal It With a Kiss" is clearly the companion piece to "Inside Out." In our minds, we hear "Seal" -- which describes a (wished for?) secret affair -- as the prelude to what ultimately ends with "Inside Out." On "Femme Fatale," Spears is at her best when working her sex-kitten smolder, excelling on the tracks -- like "Seal" -- where the listener is pushed to the emotional edge of either a feverish meeting on the dancefloor, or a sexy romp in a bedroom or backroom.
| ||8. "Big Fat Bass" featuring will.i.am |
After seven nearly-sterling tracks, "Femme Fatale" hits a slight bump in the road with this will.i.am-produced thumper. The sparse tune clocks in at a too-long 4:45 minutes and is "Femme's" lengthiest track. Like the Black Eyed Peas' "The Time (Dirty Bit)," also produced by will.i.am, "Big Fat Bass" comes across as a pastiche of interesting moments and sounds instead of a fully realized song. That said, we can completely hear this track blasting in a club, with Spears cooing "I can be your treble" while the crowd screams back "you can be my bass!"
| ||9. "Trouble For Me" |
Think of "Trouble For Me" as a high-concept tale: a man who is toxic in a relationship, but is also the life of the party. Again, the emotional thread of "you're bad, yet good" (heard earlier on "Inside Out") rears its head here -- but with lesser effect. It's bouncy and springy enough, but it's definitely one of "Femme's" lesser tracks. (Though we are now pontificating who inspired this song in real life…)
| ||10. "Trip To Your Heart" |
We're in the home stretch of the album and we're getting to the tunes that are either going to be loved or hated. This particular track, "Trip To Your Heart," with lyrics like "spread my wings out into the dark / I'll fly away on a trip to your heart," divided many fans on Twitter. While some admire its tender, lovey-dovey sentiment, others have suggested it's quite out of place on another otherwise aggressively button-pushing feet-on-the-floor set.
| ||11. "Gasoline" |
"Gasoline" works every possible pun involving fuel. Take your pick: "my heart runs only on supreme," "you're setting me on fire," "your touch burning me," "you burn up everything," etc. If one can get past the lyrical silliness, there's a rather pedestrian pop tune underneath. Again, "Gasoline" is buried towards the end of "Femme" for a reason.
| ||12. "Criminal" |
Spears channels her best "Madonna-with-acoustic-guitar" here on "Criminal," the only true ballad on the album. A skittery, "Don't Tell Me"-like beat is accompanied by a sad strummy guitar whilst Spears sings "Mama I'm in love with a criminal / and this type of love isn't rational, it's physical." (Weirdly, during the singsongy chorus couplings, where all the words end with "als," we kept hearing -- clearly an unintentional nod -- Supertramp's "The Logical Song.") "Criminal" -- while some of the lyrics are a teensy clunky at times -- is a fitting closer to a nearly-completely excellent album.
Bonus Tracks on Deluxe Version:
13. "Up N' Down"
The first of "Femme Fatale's" bonus tracks heads back to the dance floor, where we find ourselves picturing an aggressive Spears going "Up N' Down." (Now, we can only assume she's doing deep knee bends, funking to her favorite song.) In "Up," Spears does one of the things she does best: play the part of club queen. In this mode, she plays super vixen: eyeing men in the club, sizing them up and taunting them with her "Up N' Down."
14. "He About to Lose Me"
A song about a relationship that's perhaps about to go awry, "He About To Lose Me" packs a serious emotional punch. Spears sings about being at the club, entranced by a new man she's made contact with -- all the while thinking of her current beau, who's at home. Will she leave the club with the new guy? Or will she go home to her man -- a guy she's not even all that sure loves her anymore? There's more drama in this 3:49 track than in most soaps! (One incredible flaw to the song? We're not positive Spears is singing on the chorus -- unless her voice has been processed beyond recognition.)
"Be my prisoner of love tonight." Ahem. In "Selfish," Spears' boy-turned-man conquest for the evening is virtually tied up by the diva and ordered to do her bidding. It's a fun number and would have totally worked as a proper inclusion on "Femme" instead of being relegated to bonus track status.
16. "Don't Keep Me Waiting"
A new wavey rock moment for Spears, where fuzzzed-out guitars are paired with what sound like live drums on the ready-for-the-arena track. If your head isn't thrashing about during the chorus, there's something seriously wrong. It barrels through like a locomotive: "don't keep me waiting / i'm goin' crazy / got me waitin' come and take it from me!." (Whatever could she possibly mean by "it?")