LOS ANGELES— Britney
Spears went back to basics Thursday (November 21) with an intimate listening party for her new album, Britney Jean.
Decked in black and white, Spears, executive producer will.i.am and panel moderator Andy Cohen blended right in with the futuristic and minimalist West Hollywood venue — complete with white walls and black lights. Classic Spears hits, including "...Baby One More Time" and "Womanizer," put the crowd of about 100 journalists and industry insiders in the mood for some new fare, and appropriately prepped the group for Spears' new-yet-delightfully familiar sound.
Time and time again, Spears has said that Britney Jean is "one of my most personal albums to date"
— a sentiment she reiterated once more, confessing that "a lot" of the material was influenced by her breakup from ex-fiance Jason Trawick. But fans might be surprised to hear what actually fueled the new album. Asked by Cohen about her recording studio snack of choice, Spears didn't have to hesitate. "I like sushi," she said. "Sushi and Skittles."
Her superstar work ethic certainly didn't hurt, either. Without naming names, will.i.am recalled working with countless hard-partying artists who hang around the studio for hours, often with an entourage, without recording anything of value. "Britney's the total opposite," he said.
Spears played four never-heard tracks for the room, plus her latest single "Perfume," which she described as a "vulnerable song." Looking past the lyrics, "Perfume" is a rare gem in Spears' repertoire. With her vocals front and center, the song is synthesizer free and chock full of emotion. "We wanted to treat her vocal as the main character of the song," said Will.i.am.
But for fans eager to hear more club-ready bangers from the pop princess, fear not: "It Should Be Easy," featuring vocals from will.i.am, delivers with thumping beats, synthesized vocals and a dance-ready groove. As does the smash "Tick Tick Boom," featuring T.I., which —much like the title
—sneaks its way towards a supersonic climax in the chorus. Both tracks demonstrate Spears' ability to truly excel on her uptempo material, and will have longtime Britney fans dancing like it's 2003.
But it's not all party jams on Britney Jean. "Alien" is a midtempo but powerfull follow-up to 2007's "Piece of Me" that chronicles Spears' life in the spotlight. "We all have moments in our life where we feel a little alienated," Spears said of her fame. On the chorus, the singer assures listeners that they're "not alone." And on the breakup anthem "Don't Cry," the 31-year-old tells the story of saying goodbye to a lost love. "I'll survive," she sings, but "you don't need to see me cry."
Overall, Spears hopes that her eighth studio album is an inspirational listen. "I want people to listen to it and be inspired," she said, "to work out and have a good day." For his part, will.i.am promises that Spears "brought her supreme best" to the project, contributing heartfelt lyrics and delivering "beautiful melodies." "Take the time and listen to this album," he urged fans. "It's a beautiful piece of work."