Music

Britney Spears: Britney

Nikki Tranter

Britney Spears

Britney

Label: Jive
US Release Date: 2001-11-06
Amazon
iTunes

Britney. Yeah, Britney.

"All I need is time," sings Britney Spears on Britney, her third album in as many years, and while three years really isn't much time to evolve as an artist, it's just enough for Britney to pass muster in the ever-changing world of pop.

Britney's first album, . . . Baby One More Time was about her innocence and seeming naïveté regarding her blossoming sexuality. Her second, Oops! I Did It Again, used that blossoming sexuality as a shock gimmick with Britney all of a sudden proclaiming her "not-so-innocence". This time around, it all takes a turn and while there is still a lot of warbling about boys-and-love-and-stuff, and, of course, the obligatory booby shots on the CD sleeve, what Britney has going for it is the singer's obvious desire to develop musically. Be it her choice or not, Britney is about the most scrutinized, teased and tossed-off-to pop star of the last decade stepping out of the mall to discover herself.

And what a discovery it is. Britney loudly declares she wants to be free and no longer requires a chaperone, and she certainly doesn't need a guy to make her happy. Of course, it's nothing we haven't heard before from such Britney-predecessors such as Debbie Gibson and Janet Jackson, but it is reassuring to see Britney attempting, at least, to test her musical diversity.

The album kicks off with the sultry "I'm a Slave 4 U" in which Britney begs her guy of choice to "dance upon her" amid breathy, emotive noises slapping her listeners in the face with her new found womanhood. As the accompanying soft-porn music video will attest, "Slave" is the perfect beginning to the sounds of a freshly legal Britney, in which she attempts a bit of Madonna's "Justify My Love" and Janet's "All For You" with reasonable success.

Also different from the average run-of-the-mill pop offering, is Britney's cover of The Blackhearts' "I Love Rock and Roll". It's more than a little obvious that Britney herself had nothing to do with the choice of song, after all, she did refer to Joan Jett as Pat Benatar in a recent interview. Even so, she does strange justice to the tune vamping up her vocals and turning out something, that while silly and camp, is actually a fun listen.

Britney continues her growing-up theme in "Let Me Be" and reveals that she is learning more about herself as she enters her 20s having discovered that alone time is important for personal growth. And "Anticipating" offers Britney's fans something a little different with a simple tune beautifully underlined by a well-executed '70s disco sound.

Britney continues to break free in "Overprotected" and "Lonely". "Overprotected", Britney's second single, is an absolute belter reminiscent of Britney's previous big-bang singles, "Oops! I Did It Again" and "You Drive Me Crazy". Britney sings about ridding herself of the girlie chains around her, gripes about her need for space in the whirlwind that is her life, and lets us know she don't need nobody telling her what to do. "Lonely" again shows a progression for Britney, this time from sappy romantic tunes to something a bit more realistic. "Lonely" is a teenage version of Janet's "What About?" and screams to an (imaginary) unlucky guy who has screwed Britney over. It's a song about strength in heartbreak and Britney's vocal experimentation -- fusing her jellybean voice with lyrics a little more caustic -- again succeeds in giving her audience something new to admire.

Britney's experimentation pretty much ends there with tried and tested dance-pop filling out the remainder of the album. Both "Boys" and "Cinderella" revisit old Britney territory exploring predictable issues including her love being irreplaceable, her use of the dance floor as an appropriate courting place, and her much-loved girl-ness (primping for a big date, etc). "That's Where You Take Me" talks about her lucky guy finding the key to her soul, while on "When I Found You" Britney tells us she has found her "deepest love" in her soul mate who is essentially a reflection of herself. And then "Before the Goodbye" details Britney missing her "love" before he even leaves. It's all very strange and ignore-able.

Britney's own lucky lad, Justin Timberlake adds some flavor to Britney having co-written "What It's Like to Be Me" again sounding a lot like the new (and bitter) Janet Jackson. The song comes very close to being a duet with Timberlake as he harmonizes along with Britney as she explains to the world that for her to love a man, he must have walked a mile in her shoes.

Britney's standout statement on the album is undoubtedly "I'm a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" which is a slightly sappy Diane Warren-inspired power ballad that allows Britney to showcase her expert vocals while still adhering to the rules of safe pop. Sadly, not enough is revealed about Britney's transformation into adulthood, as it seems the tune's writer, Dido, has kept all her mysterious and engaging songs for herself.

And there you have it: a, might I say, very open-minded and forgiving look at the new, adult Britney Spears. Many of the tunes are good for a romp around the kitchen (or the dance floor, if you prefer) but the girl is right when she says she is yet to come into her own both as a woman and a recording artist. But, again, just like she says, all she needs is time.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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