Run­ning out of steam

Why isn’t brit­ney Spears’ lat­est al­bum a hit?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MUSIC - By Ger­rick D. kenneDy

When Brit­ney Spears re­leases an al­bum, it’s an event pow­ered by dizzy­ing promo plugs and more hype than even Gaga’s been able to muster.

All this usu­ally means a de­but at the top of the Bill­board 200 and im­pres­sive sales stats to tack onto the al­ready lengthy footnotes for one of pop’s big­gest stars.

But Spears’ lat­est al­bum, Brit­ney Jean, may be the dis­ap­point­ing ex­cep­tion to her plat­inum-lined rule­book.

A week af­ter its re­lease, the al­bum isn’t sit­ting on top of the charts. In­stead, a box set from Garth Brooks snagged the pole po­si­tion, and the pop singer landed at no. 4.

Open­ing within the top 10 is note­wor­thy in an age of fickle record buy­ing, but Spears is ex­pected to per­form bet­ter than this.

It’s the sort of de­but that mu­sic pun­dits would de­clare a flop, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing how a slew of the post-Y2K pop di­vas Spears once laid the blue­print for – Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Mi­ley Cyrus – all fared much bet­ter with their al­bums this year.

even more dif­fi­cult to ig­nore: Brit­ney Jean had the low­est-sell­ing first week of any al­bum in Spears’ ca­reer. her last al­bum, 2011’s Femme Fatale, opened at no. 1 af­ter sell­ing 276,000 copies, more than dou­ble the 107,000 copies that Brit­ney Jean tal­lied.

Granted, Team Spears is pri­mar­ily fo­cused on her up­com­ing Las Ve­gas res­i­dency, and un­der­stand­ably so. The am­bi­tious gig – an­chored at the Planet hol­ly­wood Re­sort & Casino – will see the singer per­form­ing amid a flashy, high-con­cept spec­ta­cle (50 shows a year through 2015 are ex­pected). Brit­ney Jean could get a boom when Spears opens in Ve­gas this week – but that’s in­cred­i­bly un­likely. So what hap­pened? The al­bum’s lead sin­gle, the cheek­ily ti­tled Work Bitch, has the DnA of a Spears hit. It is a throb­bing jam tai­lor-made for weekend club­bing and vogu­ing, with a punchy cho­rus and a sexy mu­sic video. It heated up the dance charts pretty nicely, peak­ing at no. 2, but it failed to crack the top 10 on the pop chart as au­di­ences grav­i­tated to­ward come­back sin­gles from Gaga and Perry.

Its fol­low-up, the breakup slow­burner Per­fume, fared even worse. The song is cur­rently lan­guish­ing at no.76 on the hot 100, and fans, dis­sat­is­fied with the sin­gle’s video, have launched a pe­ti­tion for the di­rec­tor’s ver­sion of the clip.

Also not help­ing mat­ters was Spears largely be­ing MIA. She’s done a slew of in­ter­views filled with soft­ball ques­tions, but her bread and but­ter has been live spec­ta­cle, and she hasn’t done any­thing by way of live shows to keep that in­ter­est go­ing.

Imag­ine how much more fun the MTV Video Mu­sic Awards or the Amer­i­can Mu­sic Awards could have been with a splashy num­ber from her? This, too, is likely another ca­su­alty of the pres­sures of prep­ping for an in­tense Ve­gas run.

Worse, how­ever, was Brit­ney Jean’s lack of Brit­ney Jean.

In news ma­te­ri­als an­nounc­ing the al­bum, and sub­se­quent in­ter­views from Spears, the al­bum was touted as her most per­sonal and re­veal­ing to date, af­ter a highly pub­li­cised breakup with her fi­ance.

It’s a rou­tine prom­ise from per­form­ers ped­dling a new record, but she kicked it up with a hand­writ­ten let­ter to her fans, and the al­bum’s ti­tle is her nick­name used by her fam­ily and friends (she’s al­ready had a self-ti­tled record).

Spears co-wrote most of the record — the last time she was credited with co-writ­ing the bulk of an al­bum was her sem­i­nal 2003 ef­fort In The Zone — and she called on elec­tronic dance kings like Will.i.am, David Guetta, Wil­liam Or­bit and Di­plo to build beats.

But not much was re­vealed on an al­bum touted as a stripped-back look into the life of one of pop’s big­gest names.

Los An­ge­les Times pop mu­sic critic Ran­dall Roberts wrote in his re­view: “... if this is Brit­ney in rev­e­la­tion mode, there’s very lit­tle be­neath the al­bum’s many cliches to sug­gest insight, let alone the un­fil­tered hon­esty of au­to­bi­og­ra­phy,” adding that much of the al­bum “de­volves into an abyss of elec­tro-neu­tral bangers.” And that’s one of the nicer re­views.

In a year when pop di­vas are truly open­ing up in their work, it’s a shame that Spears chooses to play it so safe. Maybe Ve­gas is her way of flirt­ing with a chal­lenge.

Will the dis­ap­point­ment of Brit­ney Jean stop any­one from buy­ing a ticket to her Ve­gas show? Ab­so­lutely not, and Team Spears can safely bet that bod­ies will pack what­ever venue she plays, just on the strength of her star wattage.

It would have been nice, though, to have an al­bum to blast on that road trip to Ve­gas. Guess Black­out will have to do. – Los An­ge­les Times/McClatchy-Tri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

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