Regardless of the emotional turmoil undergone and extreme media exposure, Britney Spears has yet failed to disappoint delivering musically. Whatever has Spears name attached is certified to be quality; even at her worse, she managed to put out one of her bests, Blackout, while in the process managing to introduce the next level in pop music.

After revisiting her classic approach to pop in Circus, Spears has dusted off the quirky synthesized bells and whistles for Femme Fatale. The title is most appropriate, for the record is indulging, daring and fierce; she doesn’t hold back on a single beat.

Dub-step breakdowns, explosive melodies and a predominantly thumping bass fill the electric shock Femme Fatale is, her most consistent release thus far, and her most experimental, composed with alternate lyrical structure, and unconventional choruses developed in massive sounding tempo.

Opening with ‘Till The World Ends’, a Ke$ha penned cut, one is thrown into a high. The track is gripping and the chants serving as temporary choruses are highly euphoric. The smash ‘Hold It Against Me’, explains itself clearly, its an innovative approach to electro pop, its edgier and experimental in the vein of Blackout‘s ‘Mannequin’ but less auto-tuned and more vibrant; it builds itself upon a very sexed structure; it lets the beat run and tease, until it implodes into the merging of synthesized bangs at the end.

Spears raises a notch in tempo in ‘I Wanna Go’, a coy double entendre, hinting at losing  inhibitions through self-serviced release; the whistle underlaid in the bridge is magnificent, and infectiously catchy, the ‘Shame on me, to need release, uncontrollably’ lyric during the breakdown couldn’t be any more defining. ‘Inside Out’ offers a contortion of beats, addressesing regret while withstanding an under-the-sheets naughtiness at the same time; it is a farewell sex anthem. It sounds as if were an extension of the orgasmic breakdown in ‘Hold It Against Me’; the way it was written intended to allude to her work in …Baby One More Time is really worth a nod.

‘How I Roll’ is probably the most different song Britney has ever recorded, it is poppy at best, and chilled to the core, with a somber-clapped soft electronic beat assisted by occasional piano chords; its a Friday night drive head bopper. ‘(Drop Dead) Beautiful’ is a phallic celebration just like Katy Perry’s ‘Peacock’, but less in-your-face, while covering the entire male architecture, other than the last four letters in Perry’s song; the Sabi feature is short and too Ke$ha-esque; the song could’ve done without, what saves the song is Britney’s unashamed verbal tease.

‘Seal It With A Kiss’ sounds like something off Oops I Did It Again, but quite hard to place, its hardcore pop but has that ‘Unusual You’ vibe from Circus, is controlled and dreamy as well but it with much more tempo. ‘Big Fat Bass’ is half a letdown, and half an interesting listen. It features Will.i.am, and just like all the recent Black Eyed Peas music, is off and not really up there with what Britney is, she does deliver and sounds great, but all the random panel-button pushing and schizophrenic structure of the song doesn’t sound right, its like trying to experiment with many things at once without having an aimed direction, consequently leading it nowhere. It doesn’t find where to stay sonically-speaking; it tries to be too much at once, it was apparently intended to be so different, it missed its mark.

‘Trouble for Me’ has beat backlashes and backdrops, its pretty much two songs in one, even though dual with different channeling, it is a much better handled approach to merging different sounds other than the previous track, its dancey and trancey and still tackles on major pop ground; the verses are almost an 80’s throwback; Britney hadn’t sounded this determined in a while.

‘Trip To Your Heart’ is really something, its like ‘Unusual You’ meets ‘Heaven On Earth’ from Blackout, taken to a less chilled ground, instead gifted with a more engaging beat format and diverse lyrical content. It is an instant favorite, its melancholic, it has some moodiness to it but it remains arousing and it becomes an interesting listen. Its probably one of the best songs Britney Spears has crafted along this whole body of work. It is synthesized and mildly auto-tuned but it works for the mood it provokes. Even though emotionally driven, it is something one can easily dance to, its trippy and hypnotic.

‘Gasoline’ is a toned, slowed version of ‘Toxic’, Spears turns into a dark vixen and sings about leather boots and motorcycling suggestive maneuvering; it is a Britney classic with the way she speaks in the breakdown, and how she oh’s. It brings amazing Britney Spears memories throughout her career, one gets her quirkier, sexy side on the surface again. Spears closes the album with a shocker, ‘Criminal’ a flute interluded ballad reminiscent to Madonna’s American Life‘s ‘Love Profusion’ fused with Hard Candy‘s ‘Miles Away’; similarities attributed probably due to the acoustic feel the song carries throughout. It almost has the same concept as Rihanna’s ‘Man Down’ from Loud, minus the shooting in Central Station; Spears instead embraces the man’s wrong doings.

Blackout was daringly edgy, Circus was polished and controlled (even though it had its here-and-there edgy moments with its risqué lyrics and furthering of sound in a couple tracks), but Femme Fatale holds the balance between the two, its the needed transition to find the balance in Spears’ music; not too out there and not too calculated either.

In contrast to the general detachment present in some tracks in her preceding LP, which focused more on the theatrics of the album concept, these songs sound more vivacious, her attitude and mood are much more perceptible. Perhaps is the nature of the new songs, but something definitely brings about that refreshing vibe everyone had been missing when they first heard a Britney Spears song. Britney sounds confident and seems to be genuinely having fun when one hears her chuckling in the back of the beats, or when she doesn’t take herself seriously concerning her diction.

Britney doesn’t follow trends, she does her own, she may not write her own music, but she can certainly put it down without a doubt. She is not trying to change the world or rewrite history, she only wants to have a good time and Femme Fatale reflects it. Post her meltdown and the release of Circus, Britney has been improving at her own pace, if this album proves anything other than her incredible artistry to execute pop music in diverse ways, it certifies nearly twelve years into her career and proves she is still going strong.

★★★★★

C.Perez