Home Read Classic Album Review: Britney Spears | Britney

Classic Album Review: Britney Spears | Britney

The teen-pop queen displays the first sings of musical maturity on her second disc.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


Britney Spears is all grown up. As if you hadn’t noticed. Hell, you can hardly miss it. It’s all in your face everytime you see her. And it’s on full display once again in the many belly-baring cheesecake pictures that adorn her new self-titled CD. (Doubtless, Dad will want to inspect this one closely before letting the kids have it — just to make sure every one of those pictures is, you know, appropriate for young eyes.)

No, what I’m talking about isn’t nearly so visible. But it is a new example of Britney’s growth, and one that she flaunts frequently on this 12-song disc: The first signs of musical maturity. No, really. It’s true. After two albums of generic, interchangable teen-pop in as many years, Britney Spears — now 19 going on, oh, about 39 — may finally be figuring out who she wants to be when she grows up.

Turns out it’s Prince — or at least Vanity — judging by a couple of the slinky electro-funk grooves that populate this 39-minute album. The most obvious example is also the most familiar: I’m A Slave 4 U, the first single off the album (and the song Britney snake-danced to on the MTV awards a while back). If the Prince-ly spelling of that track doesn’t give it away, the spare, chilly techno vibe and bad-girl lyrics sure do. And they’re hardly the most obvious reference point: On the similarly robofunky come-on Boys, a panting Britney sounds like she’s wearing purple undies as she coos, “You’re a sexy guy / I’m a nice girl / Let’s turn this dance floor into our own little nasty world.” U go, girl.

Too bad this is the one time in her life Britney doesn’t go far enough. Had she stuck to her guns, this album might have been a quantum leap beyond the predictable fluff of her first two albums. Instead, she decided to play it safe and stuffed the rest of the disc with the usual Max Martin glam-slam beats, glistening arpeggios and cheesy ballads. There are a few other bright spots — Britney’s slow-grinding, reasonably faithful cover of Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ’n’ Roll isn’t nearly as annoying as her reworking of The Rolling StonesSatisfaction last year; Anticipation plays with the sweeping strings and twangy guitars of classic ’70s disco; What It’s Like to Be Me (penned by beau Justin Timberlake of ’N Sync) is a stabbing jab of Jackson-style pop.

As for the rest of Britney, well, Spears says it best herself with another song title: I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet A Woman.