Even though Britney Spears has sold over 100 million albums worldwide over the course of her decade-plus career, she still seems like something of an underdog every time she releases a new project. Perhaps it's because of the fickle nature of pop music, or perhaps it's because nobody can believe that Spears continues to top herself over and over again. Her eighth album Femme Fatale hits stores today (Tuesday, March 29) and is the follow-up to her ultra-successful and boundary-pushing 2008 release Circus. Is this yet another home run for Spears?
According to the critics, she has done it again. "On Femme Fatale, her seventh studio album and plainly one of her best, the erstwhile teen-pop princess is less the center of sonic attention than the occasion and enabler for a dozen of the age's most accomplished record producers to show off their wildest moves from behind a plastic Britney mask," wrote the Los Angeles Times' Carl Wilson in a three-star review. "The star serves mainly to illuminate their eccentric orbits with her considerable glow. She's been shamed, stalked, bullied, rehabbed and ruled a bad mother by a court of law. There's something glorious about answering with a victory dance, but it's on the grave of any figment of innocence."
In fact, many critics seem to be zeroing in on how Spears is able to transcend her limitations on Femme Fatale. "Britney always brings one undervalued asset to the table: her reedy, preshrunk voice — probably the single most maligned instrument in music this side of the vuvuzela," wrote Entertainment Weekly's Adam Markovitz. "Spears is no technical singer, that's for sure. But backed by Martin and Dr. Luke's wall of pound, her vocals melt into a mix of babytalk coo and coital panting that is, in its own overprocessed way, just as iconic and propulsive as Michael Jackson's yips or Eminem's snarls."
Rolling Stone gave Femme Fatale four stars, and critic Jody Rosen was thoroughly impressed with Spears' ability to subvert pop tropes while still using them to her advantage. "Femme Fatale may be Britney's best album; certainly it's her strangest. Conceptually it's straightforward: a party record packed with sex and sadness," Rosen wrote. "On nearly every track, Britney's voice is twisted, shredded, processed, roboticized. Maybe this is because she doesn't have much of a voice; it's certainly because she, more than almost any other pop diva, is simply game."
Even indie stalwart Spin had positive vibes to send Spears' way. "A few adventurous loops and gauzy midtempo moments stand out — the dubstep meltdown on 'Hold It Against Me,' will.i.am's wackadoo beatfest 'Big Fat Bass,'" wrote critic Caryn Ganz in a seven-dot review.
What do you think about the new Britney Spears album? Let us know in the comments!