The Good: One or two recognizable or relevant singles
The Bad: Short, Repeated tracks, Mostly inane pop songs
The Basics: Five years after the release of her first "Greatest Hits" album, Britney Spears returns with an inane follow-up, The Singles Collection.
When my musical exploration of The Rolling Stones came to a premature end (Forty Licks was reviewed here!), I found it strangely ironic that I continued with the music of . . . sigh, Britney Spears. I could not resist the urge to wail on the career of the pretentious pop diva when she released her second “Greatest Hits” album. Only five short years after the release of her works from her peak years, My Prerogative, Britney Spears returned with The Singles Collection. And, if you’re like me, you’ve been asking yourself, what has Spears been up to musically enough to warrant a second collection of her alleged hits?
The answer, as The Singles Collection makes ridiculously and abundantly clear is “not much.” Featuring ten songs that appeared on My Prerogative, The Singles Collection extends the idea that the career of Britney Spears is winding down. Indeed, as one who has not listened to much in the way of pop radio since “My Prerogative” was a radio single, I quickly discovered that the latter tracks on this compilation were almost entirely unmemorable and lacked even the hooks of her early works.
With only eighteen tracks clocking out at a somewhat anemic 60:49, The Singles Collection has early Britney Spears recordings, like “…Baby One More Time” and “Oops, I Did It Again” alongside newer, equally inane pop tracks like “Circus,” “Womanizer,” and “Gimme More.” As is the case with most of Britney Spears’ works, Spears has very little creative influence over the work on this album. Spears is credited as a co-writer on a grand total of two of the songs. As well, she plays no musical instruments. The lead vocals on each song belong to Spears, though they are so overproduced with reverb and other techniques as to be almost entirely unrecognizable as her natural, human voice. Spears co-produces some of the songs on this compilation, but largely, The Singles Collection illustrates just how much of a creation of music studios Spears and her career are.
For those who might not have heard of any of the songs of Britney Spears, Spears sings pop-dance numbers . . . as much as she sings anything. As previously mentioned, her high-pitched voice is presented in a nasal way with her songs being sneered out as much as sung. After her voice makes it out of her body, it is put through so much computer and mixing-board enhancement as to be barely feminine (she sounds downright robotic on songs like “Gimme More” and “Circus”). Instead, her singing is almost amelodic production of her going through lyrics others wrote for her. This becomes painful when one listens to songs like “Me Against The Music” where Spears performs a duet with Madonna and Madonna actually carries a tune in a voice that sounds, well, like that of a person.
As for the musical accompaniment (I hesitate to call it instrumental), Spears is very much the product of the studios and the visions of those who produce her singles. The songs on The Singles Collection are monolithically keyboard-driven pop numbers with throbbing baselines designed to get the listener to dance and not truly think about what they are doing or listening to. The Singles Collection is a dance-pop album and outside the early works, there is not even a hook among the songs. Indeed, it was only when listening to this compilation that I heard how close “Oops I Did It Again” and “Circus” are to one another musically! The monotonal quality of the songs on this album make it lack emotional resonance.
But what sinks the album entirely are the lyrics. Britney Spears and her handlers are not at all great lyricists. Instead, they have Spears sing about love, sex, and relationships – as well as being a pop star in the public eye – with little sense of flair or articulation. Her new song for The Singles Collection, “3” illustrates the inane rhymes of her handlers when they have Spears suggestively sing about threesomes with lines like “Babe, pick a night / To come out and play / If it's alright / What do you say? / Merrier the more / Triple fun that way / Twister on the floor / What do you say? / Are- you in? / Livin' in sin is the new thing (yeah) / Are- you in? / I am countin'! / 1, 2, 3 / Not only you and me / Got 1-eighty degrees / And I'm caught in between / Countin' / 1, 2, 3.” The rhymes are tired and droll and there is no sense of emotional consequence to the actions in the song (unlike the more mature Melissa Etheridge’s “Threesome”).
I suppose that one ought not to be surprised by how inane the lines are on the new song; the singles that preceded it were never lyrical masterpieces. Britney Spears follows the ridiculous tendency of repeating the same lines over and over again and rhyming the same words with itself. Take, for example, “Circus,” where she uncreatively sings All the eyes on me in the center of the ring / Just like a circus (ah, ah, ahaha-hah) / When I crack that whip, everybody gonna trip / Just like a circus (ah, ah, ahaha-hah) / Don't stand there watching me, follow me / Show me what you can do / Everybody let go, we can make a dancefloor / Just like a circus.” There is nothing terribly alluring or clever about the lines her.
In fact, whenever Spears approaches anything remotely like an emotional or intelligent line, she sings it without any regard to the potency of the lyrics. For example, poetically, “My loneliness is killing me / I must confess, I still believe / When I'm not with you I lose my mind / Give me a sign / Hit me baby one more time” is filled with appropriate anguish and is actually quite compelling. Unfortunately, Spears presents it as an upbeat dance number instead of a tortured ballad.
Either way, The Singles Collection is pretty much a lemon and anyone who likes sugarpop would do better to seek out My Prerogative by Britney Spears. And for those who can’t stand the Blonde Revolution, this is not the album to get one to change their mind.
The best track is “. . . Baby One More Time,” the low point is “Radar.”
For other Britney Spears reviews, please check out my reviews of:
. . . Baby One More Time (single)
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© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.