Britney Spears’ upcoming eighth studio album has been touted by whoever runs her Twitter account as her “most personal album ever,” which is a pretty big call to make if you’ve ever heard Circus.
Released back in 2008 as Britney’s first post-breakdown album, Circus bravely addressed all the drama we’d seen play out in the tabloids over two relentless years. We got to hear from Britney the mother, the performer, the scorned lover, the paparazzi magnet, the troubled party animal, the emotionally-unavailable damaged goods, the emotionally-available damaged goods, the commanding sex kitten, and I’m not even going to try and figure out what she was trying to tell us with “Mmm Papi.”
But people don’t really care about Britney the human unless it’s a characterization in Us Weekly, so on her last album, Femme Fatale, we got the version of Britney that the majority deems acceptable: The no mess, no fuss Britney — the hot blonde with the sexy songs and little else. Femme Fatale was a collection of catchy come-ons and party anthems set to safe but still cutting-edge EDM. On the surface, Blackout –arguably one of the best pop albums of the past decade– can be described the same way, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find the devil lurking beneath the Danja beats. Blackout murdered Britney Spears, dumped the body in an old railroad car, and replaced her with Laura Palmer. The one-dimensional Femme Fatale is more like a beautiful fuck buddy who gives great head but offers little in the way of interesting conversation.
So, it’s a shame to see that the soulless spirit of Femme Fatale is still very much alive on Britney’s new single, “Work Bitch.” The EDM thumper was produced by will.i.am and the same guy who did Nicole Scherzinger’s “Boomerang”: the good news is that it doesn’t sound like “Boomerang”; but the bad news is that it does sound like will.i.am.
Let me explain this a bit better with a few different examples of what kind of song “Work Bitch” is.
Imagine Madonna’s abysmal MDNA album, but not total crap. Like, a really hot version that you actually want to put on your gym playlist and run on the treadmill to.
If 2NE1 ever ends up releasing that English-language album with will.i.am that they’ve been talking about for the past ten years, the first single will probably sound like “Work Bitch,” except with an actual chorus — because if there’s one thing K-pop acts are good at, it’s hooks upon hooks upon hooks.
Paris Hilton & Heidi Montag
If you’re objective, gay, a lil’ trashy, and under the age of 35, then you’ll probably agree that Heidi Montag and Paris Hilton’s debut albums are great pop records. (Most people prefer Paris, but Superficial is king for me because I view it as accidental art and an unintentional concept record on modern youth culture, but now isn’t the time to get into all that.) Because Paris and Heidi are reality TV stars and not pop stars, we don’t hold them to the same standards as the likes of Katy, Gaga, and Rihanna, so it’s much easier to be impressed when they release music. If either Paris or Heidi released “Work Bitch,” it’d be a 5/5 triumph in manufactured dance-pop and we’d all say things like, “Paris’ new single is better than Katy’s!” (Especially considering just how much “Work Bitch” sounds like it belongs on Paris’ upcoming EDM-driven sophomore album.)
But when it comes to someone like Britney –who has given us some of the greatest pop music ever made– the bar is set much higher. What’s excellent for Paris Hilton isn’t necessarily excellent for Britney Spears, because Britney is supposed to give you that extra something that just any bitch with a reality show cannot. “Hold It Against Me” wasn’t “Bohemian Rhapsody” or even “Umbrella,” but it did at least introduce the concept of the intrusive brostep breakdown into popular music. How many songs can you say started an entire trend like that? Not many! As for “Work Bitch,” it doesn’t deliver anything beyond something for queens and their drunken fag hags to lip sync to at the club — which would be perfectly acceptable for a second or third single, but as a lead single from the legendary Ms. Britney Spears, it’s a let down.
“Work Bitch” is the kind of thing that Luciana might release, except she’d shout every word. The whole thing feels very “for the clubs.” Considering how innovative –or at least, right on trend– Britney’s past music has been, it’s sad to hear her doing such an EDM-heavy record at a time when the sound is dying out in America. That brings me back to the Paris and Heidi point above: ‘Work Bitch” is perfect for any professional dance artist, reality TV star-turned-singer, or washed-up pop diva banking on her gay fanbase to sell a few records (Madonna, Cher), but Britney’s still too big and relevant to be singing something like this. At least, I thought she was.
Scream & Shout
“Work Bitch” obviously has differences to “Scream & Shout,” but they’re still both will.i.am-sounding dance records with mindless lyrics sung in British accents. On the bright side, “Scream & Shout” was only good during Britney’s parts, and since “Work Bitch” is all Britney’s parts, that makes it pretty damn good. Right?
Femme Fatale: The Complete Contraption
If Femme Fatale was re-released in 2012, “Work Bitch” would be the lead single. It would also fit the role of the “Do Somethin'” on Godney’s next greatest hits compilation.
Overall, “Work Bitch” feels like the final nail in the coffin of “old Britney,” who probably would’ve put out a timeless EDM record like “And Then We Kiss” instead. That’s okay because it seems to be what most people want from her these days, but it’s disappointing that nobody really has any faith that Britney’s actually better than this. The Holy Spearit’s now like the corpse of a once fascinating pop star who gets dolled up by a mortification and then wheeled out for show and tell with a “fierce” song playing in the background, before being taken back to her dank tomb until it’s time for the next public performance. It’s both sad and boring.
Still, “Work Bitch” is one hell of a club banger, isn’t it?
P.S. Sweet and charming “Ooh La La” recorded for Britney’s beautiful kids >>>> “Work Bitch” recorded for trashy drunk bitches.