Current listening: Britney Spears “Piece Of Me”

As usual, I am late to the party. But there are only so many parties you can attend at any one time. Thankyou Andrew for dragging me into this one by the scruff of my neck only for me to realise that it is the best party ever.

Britney has always had her moments.  I have always had her down as a great singles artist. I thought her first single “Baby One More Time” was a work of genius. A genuinely wonderful pop record which stood head and shoulders above those being released by her contemporaries. She then continued to release some great singles – You Drive Me Crazy, Stronger, Oops .. I Did It Again. Listen to “The Ghost Of Myself” by Pet Shop Boys and try and tell me that it isn’t their take on an early era Max Martin Britney track. I liked both “I’m A Slave For You” and “Toxic” when they came out. They were both brave moves, very left of field and not typical pop princess fodder – she was clearly stretching her wings as she went from Disney teenager to successful sexually aware young woman. Some of the album tracks which I heard from her first four albums were not as interesting or consistent and in particular some of the ballads so saccharine as to be indigestible.

That has all changed with “Blackout” which is both brilliant and consistent, despite using different songwriters across the various tracks. It reminds me of Stuart Price’s productions for Madonna and Seal in that it sounds ultra modern but with a clear debt to the past. It sounds very now but you can see where all the components of that now have come from. It is shiny, powerful music. It’s great pop music and it’s great dance music.

“Piece Of Me” is probably the best use of bad publicity to make brilliant  music since George Michael’s “Outside”. On both those records I think the great selling point as well as the fantastic sound of both tracks is the fact that, hey, these people have a sense of humour.  When I hear her on this track I hear a angry strong and scared young woman who is wondering what the fuck has happened.

The vocals (“I’m Mrs lifestyles of the rich and famous, I’m Mrs Oh my god that Britney’s shameless, I’m Mrs extra extra, this Just In, I’m Mrs she’s too big now she’s too thin …. genius”) are backed by a scrunching synth beat which connects directly with  the internal organs while listening to it. It’s a song which is funny and sad and makes you think that there is much more to this woman than the press would have us believe.

If Michael Jackson had made “Blackout” I am sure that the world would be worshipping him as a god as it did in 1983.  Of course he hasn’t.

I am very glad that Britney made it instead.


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