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Britney Spears | Femme Fatale

Jive (2011)
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  March 30, 2011
3.5 3.5 Stars

Brit main
To fans and detractors alike, Britney Spears is less a flesh-and-blood human being than an abstraction, an ideal, a pagan icon, a symbol of innocent temptation and not-quite-articulated desires. She's also, secretly, a daring experimentalist, increasingly facing the strange as she's transitioned from not-a-girl to not-yet-a-woman to whatever tenured post-adolescence her music now represents. After the marginal auto-bio of 2008's Circus, the end product of a failed marriage and head-shaving insanity, Femme Fatale finds Brit-Brit ready to dance again à la the underrated Blackout and Britney albums of yore. Brit's earlier hits used "dancing" metaphors to avoid direct sexual reference, but at this point, consider the pretense dropped. First single "Hold It Against Me" might lead one to believe that the whole album is going to be coy innuendo, but elsewhere on Femme, Britney, emboldened by the current pop-diva climate, seems more straight-up than ever. Her what-the-hell attitude seeps into the production, as well, as her polymorphous perversity extends to track after track of more-out-there-than-the-last tunes packed with literal bells and whistles designed to get whole stadiums of weekend sex warriors into a simultaneous tizzy. There are still occasional nods to classic Brit, especially the way she pronounces "hazy" in "Hold It" to rhyme with "Hamid Karzai." But for the most part, Femme finds Ms. Spears more game than ever. Whether this adventurousness is due to her own laziness and/or her limited vocal range is immaterial when the results are this weird and awesome. The disorienting volley of Brit-sighs that make up the opening 30 seconds of Bloodshy-produced "How I Roll" is way more genius than any Burial or James Blake track. As long as Brit keeps the ballads to a minimum and plays to her strength as a willing pop renegade (which she does here more than on any of her previous albums), she will continue to make exciting, groundbreaking modern music.
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