Former "X Factor" U.S. judge Britney Spears is getting mixed reviews for her eighth studio album, "Britney Jean," which was released in the U.S. and Canada on Dec. 3, 2013 and in other countries on Dec. 2, 2013. Most of the positive reviews are saying that "Britney Jean" is a very good dance/pop album, while most of the negative reviews are saying that "Britney Jean" is musically stale and lacking in any real personality. (See a sampling of reviews at the end of this article.)
Earlier this year, Spears went on the Internet to say that "Britney Jean" is her "most personal" album so far. And in an interview with E! News that was published on Nov. 2, 2013, Spears says of "Perfume," the album's second single: "'Perfume' is incredibly special to me because it hits close to home, and I think the story is relatable to everyone. Everyone's been through an insecure moment in a relationship that's left them vulnerable and I think this song captures that."
In a hand-written open letter posted on her official Internet outlets, Spears made this statement about her "Britney Jean" album:
"I haven't sat down to write you guys in SUCH a long time. Long overdue! We're all so used to getting our thoughts out in 140 characters, but sometimes its nice to take time to sit down and write something a little longer and more personal. I am putting the finishing touches on my new album, "Britney Jean" over the next few days and I am so excited for you to hear it. I poured my heart and soul into this album and it's been an incredible journey. I've learned a lot about myself, and as I am finishing, I am reminded of the incredible foundation that has supported me for the last 15 years. Thank you all for continuing to follow me on this journey and for allowing me to do what I love to do. I can’t believe this is my eighth studio album and I know I keep telling you that it is my most personal record yet, but its true and I’m really proud of that.
"I have been through a lot in the past few years and it has really inspired me to dig deeper and write songs that I think everyone can relate to. Working with people like Sia, William Orbit, and of course Will.i.am has been an amazing experience. They have listened to all of my ideas and helped me bring them to life. There are a lot of really fun, upbeat dance songs, but it was important to me that I show my strength, and my attitude, and my vulnerability. Of course, I also have some surprises for you guys ;)
"I want to show you the different sides of Britney Spears. I am a performer. I am a Mom. I am funny. I am your friend! I am Britney Jean.
"Hope you love my labor of love!"
"Work Bitch" is the first single from "Britney Jean." As previously reported, the music video for "Work Bitch" premiered and got very polarizing reactions from viewers. While many of her fans say that they love the video, other people have expressed disgust over the video.
The video, which has an S&M theme, features a scantily clad Spears as a dominatrix who at times is shown whipping other scantily clad women. In one scene in the video, Spears is in an S&M swinger club, where she is also shown whipping someone.
"Work Bitch" was released on Sept. 17, 2013, the same day that she officially announced on "Good Morning America" that she is headlining a two-year concert residency titled "Britney: Piece of Me" at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Tickets for the residency (which has initially announced 50 shows, beginning on Dec. 27, 2013) have been selling at a brisk pace.
"Work Bitch" has become a Top 20 hit in several countries. In the U.S., "Work Bitch" debuted at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but the song plummeted to No. 41 in its second week.
"Perfume," the second single from "Britney Jean," was released on Nov. 5, 2013, but it flopped in the U.S. and most other countries, where the song didn't make it into the Top 40. In the U.S., "Perfume" peaked at No. 76 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
As previously reported, Spears revealed a few details about her eighth studio album, which she recorded with Will.i.am and other producers. On July 3, 2013, she tweeted: "Really excited 2 give u a taste of my new album... can't wait 2 share what I've been working on. Going to be my most personal album ever :)."
"Britney Jean" is reportedly the last album that she owes on her Sony Music contract. There will no doubt be a bidding war among major labels to sign Spears after her Sony Music contract ends. We'll have to see if she renews her contract with Sony or if she signs with a competing record company. Spears' previous album of new material was 2011's "Femme Fatale."
Spears' song "Ooh La La" from "The Smurfs 2" soundtrack bombed when it was released in July 2013. The song peaked at No. 54 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and the song failed to crack the Top 40 in most other countries. Spears had much more success as a featured artist on the Will.i.am song "Scream & Shout," which was a Top 10 hit in many countries in 2012.
In other news, Spears' songs are being used in two very different ventures. The Guardian reports that her songs are being used by the British navy to scare off Somali pirates. Meanwhile, several of Spears' hit songs are the basis for a proposed musical/opera called "Jesus Spears Superstar," which is currently seeking investors. According to Spin, "Jesus Spears Superstar" will tell the story of Jesus Christ through Spears' songs.
Spears lasted just one season on "The X Factor" U.S in 2012, when the show lost millions of viewers after she joined the judging panel. (According to the Nielsen Company, "The X Factor" U.S. had an average of 12 million U.S. viewers per episode in 2011. In 2012, after Spears joined the show, that number dropped to 8 million U.S viewers per episode.)
She left "The X Factor" after getting a lot of criticism from viewers, who often called her a "dull" or "robotic" judge. In 2012, she was No. 6 on Forbes magazine's list of the World's Most Powerful Celebrities. In 2013, Spears didn't even rank on the list.
Spears' salary for the Las Vegas residency is $15 million a year, according to TMZ. She was also reportedly paid $15 million to be a judge on "The X Factor" U.S.
Here is a sampling of reviews of the "Britney Jean" album:
Britney Spears’s last hit was an ostensible collaboration with will.i.am where her most audible contribution was two words (one of which was just her name) that simply referenced something she’d already done. “Scream & Shout” turns out to have been a fitting setup for “Britney Jean,” where Spears barely registers on the product with her name on it (twice). With 20 or so producers elbowing each other for focus on 10 tracks (two songs have six listed producers each), it’s no wonder there’s barely room for the singer in the swirl of swerving Ibiza keyboards (“It Should Be Easy”), dubstep bumpers (“Til It’s Gone”) and Selena Gomez castoffs (“Alien”).
The hype about her most "personal" album yet begins with the album title, "Britney Jean" (RCA), which promotes a sense of intimacy that the songs never quite deliver. Though Spears gets a songwriting credit on all 10 songs, the lyrics aren't particularly revealing. That's because most of them are committee efforts in keeping with the franchise-like feel of all Spears albums. Nine songwriters alone are credited on "Body Ache," an embarrassment of cliches. (2 out of 5 stars)
Given everything she's been through, Britney Spears labelling her eighth album as her "most personal" yet is an exciting prospect. After 14 years in the biz she's certainly got a lot to draw on; from being catapulted to worldwide fame to divorce, a breakdown, rehab, court orders and more recently the end of her engagement with her former agent and co-conservator Jason Trawick. By all accounts, Britney Jean has the potential to be seriously juicy. Despite claiming a co-write for every song on the album, its lead single 'Work Bitch' - a slice of throbbing EDM-pop co-produced by Swedish House Mafia's Sebastian Ingrosso - doesn't offer much hope of Spears living up to her promise; though that doesn't detract from its other qualities as an exhilarating and undeniably 'Britney'-sounding pop song.That said, the big (and ironic) surprise on Britney Jean is just how un-Britney it sounds. (3 out of 5 stars)
Britney's tradition of messing with pop forms goes back at least 10 years, to the genre-splicing ''Toxic.'' As often as she might withhold tabloid fodder from her lyrics, she puts a lot of trust in her producers. That translates to the weird and wonderful intimacy of ''Alien,'' a gently pulsing track in which an actual extraterrestrial finally realizes she's ''not alone,'' and repeats the phrase until it is pitchshifted up like a departing space ship. It also gives rise to less subtle pleasures, like the first single, ''Work Bitch,'' a fabulous if campy dance track, and the bass bomb ''Tik Tik Boom,'' in which Brit tells a lewd T.I., ''you got a sex siren in your face.'' Alienation lurks in those songs, too — which naturally gives Brit's duet with her younger sister Jamie Lynn, the morphing ballad ''Chillin' With You,'' a special poignancy. All we really learn is that Britney prefers red wine, and Jamie Lynn, white. But we share their warm, tipsy feeling all the same. (Grade: B+)
When Britney Spears sings, she practically coos. Airy in texture and pliant in tone, her voice is the classic sound of a coquette — perfect for a pop singer of about 17 beginning a run as the Lolita of her generation. But as she struggles to use that voice and squeeze herself back into a teen persona on her new CD, the now-32-year-old woman just ends up sounding like she’s living her own private “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” hell. It gets even stranger when you consider that the title of the new disc, “Britney Jean,” is an attempt to advertise this as a more personal, and adult, album than the star’s usual dance parties ... If nothing else, Britney timed the sound right. (3 out of 5 stars)
Britney Spears has been promising that her new album, “Britney Jean,” is her “most personal album ever” since July, when she first tweeted the phrase. Fans might have hoped for a candid look at a turbulent life: child stardom as a Mouseketeer, reinvention as a teenage tease and then a trashy sex symbol, marriages, motherhood, public meltdowns, stints in rehab and her rebound as a hitmaker, a judge on “The X Factor” and, at the end of December, a performer starting a two-year residency in Las Vegas. This week, Ms. Spears unveiled “Britney Jean” as an official iTunes stream ahead of its planned release date on Tuesday. And it turns out that “Britney Jean” is about as personal as an airline preboarding announcement ... While “Britney Jean” doesn’t make good on its “personal” promise, that’s not its main failing. The bigger letdown is that the music has lost its snap.
Her high, sensuous voice has weathered into its own thing, a rock-star way of singing, talking and posing that is as distinctive in its own way as Mick Jagger or Donna Summer. Spears isn't the world's greatest vocalist -- she began as the Janet Jackson to Christina Aguilera's Mariah Carey -- but nobody in pop music can mesh more effectively with the futuristic dance-music clinks and clanks created by the best state-of-the-art producers ... As with her last few albums, particularly 2011's "Femme Fatale," buzzing effects permeate the album; Spears winds up essentially duetting with video games on "Passenger," produced by Diplo, who helped rapper M.I.A. rise to stardom with a similar mix of dense electronics and soaring melodies.
Britney's back in the game, brushing all the riffraff away from her pop throne. Even though we're in the middle of a pop-princess pileup this winter, with Miley, Katy, Gaga and more elbowing for room on the dance floor, Britney remains the queen who out-bangs, out-booms, out-bizarres them all. Britney Jean continues the roll she's been on in recent years – her 2007 glitch-disco manifesto, "Blackout," is one of the most influential albums in modern pop, and 2008's "Circus" and 2011's "Femme Fatale" are in the same league. In fact, you can split Britney's career into pre-Blackout and post-Blackout halves, and you've got two of the all-time great pop careers. And she's still way weirder than she might seem on the surface – "Britney Jean" makes "Yeezus" sound like a positive-affirmations workshop. (3.5 stars out of 5)
Perhaps the best thing that can be said for Spears' latest album, in fact, is that it doesn't seem obsessed with provocation. "Britney Jean" ... aims to present this modestly talented young woman who has somehow managed to sustain our interest for 15 years as a cool but accessible dance-pop diva — willing to dangle the occasional profanity to keep us alert, but ultimately more into the groove than anything else. (3 out of 4 stars)
She has always been an empty vessel — a likable, lovely blank onto which fans could project whatever they wished. To trust in any pop star requires a suspension of disbelief: that they really write and sing their own songs, that they are really in charge of their own careers. The in-control pop diva is too often a fiction of female empowerment created and sold mainly by men (see: Rihanna) to fans who want to believe, because the alternative is too depressing.