The Good: Good message of empowerment, Duration (for a c.d. single)
The Bad: Duration (poor use of c.d.'s capacity), Utterly lame remixes, Overproduced
The Basics: Despite a good social message, the inane nature of the many remixes of Stronger makes the c.d. single impossible to recommend.
Last night, I made an important discovery while out waiting for my wife: I cannot write reviews using Safari on my iPod Touch (reviewed here!). For some reason, the iPod Touch recognizes the "Title" in review writing as a legitimate field, but none of the fields that follow. Go figure. This was especially distressing to me because it meant that I could not whip off my review of the Britney Spears maxi-single Stronger while on the fly as I was forced to listen to it over and over and over again while waiting for my wife. She was out with a friend, I went out for a reviewer's night listening to new (to me) music, reading books, etc. I think she had a better time consoling her friend in a lethally smoky apartment.
That said, Stronger is one of the few Britney Spears singles that actually came close enough for me to justify rating the single with a cointoss. It's not an especially glamorous choice, between one and two stars, but essentially, Stronger is a solid three out of ten in my reviewing scale, so there was reason to let the coin decide. Most of this comes down to the strength of the original mix of Stronger which, despite any of the other faults with the song or the career of Britney Spears does have the benefit of being a song that encourages young women to stand up, grow up and get through their obstacles. Social benefit and the flip of a coin win out today. Unfortunately, the five remixes of Stronger that populate the c.d. "single" afterward are so trite, obvious and banal as to make the disc not worth picking up at all.
With six tracks occupying almost thirty-seven minutes, Stronger is a fair example of the talents of Britney Spears, but a far better example of how her works were assembled by a production team. Spears provides the lead vocals for the song, but nothing more. She was not involved in the writing, any of the instrumental accompaniment, nor the production of the song. She was not involved in any of the five remixes of the song, either.
Stronger is very much a Britney Spears song from her dance-pop tradition that came out of her second album, Oops!... I Did It Again. As a result, the song is produced more than it is played and the instrumental accompaniment is keyboards and drum machines. The song has a dance-pop anthem sound with sweeping crescendos and abrupt stops to accent the lines and (presumably) dance movements. The tune is entirely unmemorable, a statement made easier by listening to the mind-numbing remixes.
The five remixes take the original 3:23 song Stronger and add innumerable repetitions of lines (as in the "Pimp Juice's 'Ain't No Shame In This Vocal Game' Mix") and downplay the lyric in favor of generic dance beats (as in the "Mac Quayle Club Mix"). The results are longer versions of the song, combined with less emphasis on meaning and a numbing sense that comes with listening to this single on heavy replay. This was never Britney Spears' most original track and it was pretty much dance pop to begin with, so making it more electric, pop and generically dancable just seems pointless. And yet, five DJs and producers felt the need to remix this song.
Vocally, Stronger is atrocious. Britney Spears is nasal and whiny on the track and it would be easy to be down on her for it, save for the fact that the vocals are so overproduced that it is hard to find an actual human voice in them in this case. Spears' vocals are so altered with reverb and other production elements that she sounds more mechanized than usual and not at all like a real person.
But lyrically, Stronger - the versions where the lyrics can be heard and they focus on lines outside just the refrain - is actually not bad. The song encourages listeners to continue struggling through life and overcoming obstacles with lines like "Stronger than yesterday / Now it's nothing but my way / My loneliness ain't killing me no more / I'm stronger / Than I ever thought that I could be, baby / I used to go with the flow / Didn't really care ‘bout me / You might think that I can't take it, but you're wrong." Given how teens, tweens, twentysomethings and parents were the ones listening to Spears' works at that time, a message of encouragement is not the worst thing to come out of the performer's mouth.
Still, there's not enough here to justify purchasing the single (much less its creation). The song is not a rip-roaring example of youthful talent and the remixes take an already musically dubious product and make it feel mass-produced, stripped of worth and cheap. Insert your own Britney Spears joke: Stronger's inane remixes are a joke in and of themselves.
For other Britney Spears works, please visit my reviews of:
. . . Baby One More Time (single)
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© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.