the top 10 most underrated britney tracks
With a new single featuring Iggy Azealea out today, we delve deep into Britney’s back catalogue and unearth a series of long-forgotten gems…
To many of her fans, Britney Spears is considered a deity, often nicknamed The Holy Spearit. But to most, she's never really recovered from that highly documented public breakdown. But it hasn't all been bad for Britterz. She's recently resurrected herself as the Queen of Las Vegas, with a residency in Sin City proving a huge hit. And over the past few years, she's also claimed her biggest radio hits in America with I Wanna Go and dancefloor filler Till The World Ends. However, her latest album, 2013's Britney Jean, was met with a barrage of criticism, fans and critics alike complaining that Britney had lost that unique pop edge, stumbling instead onto awful EDM terrain. It's no surprise, then, that in a recent interview with Billboard, Britney's long time manager, Larry Rudolph, claimed that a new album was low on the singer's priorities. Instead she would be "concentrating on putting out a few great singles", the first of which, entitled Pretty Girls is a duet with Iggy Azalea.
However, it's Britney's album tracks, especially those post-Britney era, that have found their way on to our most played and Spotify playlists. They're what make Britney singularly interesting as a musician, showcasing how she can be ahead of the curve with pop trends. We've put together a celebration of some of Godney's best album tracks, bonus songs and demos because, well, it's Britney… bitch!
(I Got That) Boom Boom
Taken from In The Zone, (I Got That) Boom Boom is perhaps the most "urban" that Britney has gone. Teaming up with The Ying Yang Twins on this Southern hip hop inspired track, the song has a timeless quality and is the sort of thing Britney could release now. The opening call of "Shorty, we're gonna go to the club and get crunk with Britney" is a statement call, not only foreshadowing the star's own time in the clubs, but her move from bubblegum princess to dance floor diva. Also, that banjo is pretty incredible.
Produced by Moby, Early Mornin' showed a new side to Britney both sonically and lyrically, and, like a lot of In The Zone, the song is honest about promiscuity and late-night antics. "Where d'ya live, does your mama live there? We could hook up at the hotel," Brit coos over downtempo electronica and hypersexual moans, mirroring many conversations people have in their twenties (minus the hotel.) And while it could never have been a single, there's maturity to the sexualized sound that many have failed to capture, as well as a bold experimentation with pop that, at the time, nobody but Madonna had even attempted.
Touch Of My Hand
Probably the best song about masturbation ever recorded by a female artist, Touch of My Hand is equal parts self-discovery and empowerment. It's no secret that Britney felt constrained by the teen image that was imprinted on her early in her career, so it's fitting that on her most personal album, she covered that special moment only a person and their hand could understand. Vocally, Britney's breathy, low tone suits the William Orbit style electronics and frank lyrics, as she moans "I've entered myself in the most precious way." It's unlike anything Brit's recorded since, but it perfectly encapsulates those moments in your twenties when you discover more about your body and what makes you tick.
Maybe more than any other big artist out there, Britney has a plethora of unreleased demos online. Most of these were recorded between 2003 and 2007, the most tumultuous time in her personal life. One such song is Baby Boy, a very rough demo rumored to be from the Blackout sessions. In a rare moment of clarity you can actually hear Britney's real voice in its natural octave and, to the surprise of some, it's decent. Again, it's a scarce look into the real Britney - not surrounded by studio trickery, double entendre and impersonal lyrics. The rawness of the demo only adds to the personal nature of the song, showcasing Britney's songwriting ability as well as her malleability as a popstar.
State Of Grace
Another demo taken from the Blackout era, State Of Grace expands on In The Zone's "Etherealney" vibe. Indian strings and tapping beats play under Britney's sultry vocal, a simple synth riff adding texture to the track. The lyrics, dripping in mysticism, avoid easy clichés, instead giving it a "spearitual" vibe. It's the sort of song that only Britney, Janet or late 90s Madonna could get away with, expertly blurring the line between commercial pop and sonic experimentation.
Get Naked (I Got A Plan)
To both fans and critics, Blackout is considered Britney's best work - an album created out of darkness, depression and depravity, with dirty beats, forward thinking production and icy cold, detached vocals. Get Naked (I Got A Plan) sees Britney become a sexy bot as she almost whispers, "My body is calling out for you bad boy, I get the feeling that I just want to be with ya." There are layers of desire built up in the production, the synths and percussion creating a fire-like heat, close and hot and edging you to strip off. Or maybe that's just me.
A Japanese and iTunes only bonus track, Get Back was allegedly meant to be the lead single from Blackout, and it's no surprise why. The song captures the album well - Britney's processed vocals, producer Danja's interjections, dirty fizzing synths and mushed beats almost forcing your feet to move. Like a few songs the album, there's an unfinished quality to the mastering, and it's clear they didn't have many vocal takes to work from, yet that's what makes the songs so raw and of the moment. Like much of Britney's work, it may seem detached and soulless, but as her A&R LaBarbera-Whites said: "It's her [Britney's] magic that turns these songs into what they are."
Mere months after the breakdown, rumors of a new album surfaced online. Working with producers who had helped shaped Brit's career over the years (including Max Martin and Dr Luke), Circus is probably her least cohesive album, mixing bubblegum, forward thinking pop and R&B groves. Teaming up again with Danja, Blur sees Britney suffering a hangover, waking up next to an unknown man. Urban beats and scattering synths play havoc with the senses as Brit sings in her naturally low voice, "Can't remember what I did last night, everything is still a blur." It's a simple yet universal message, and one that, no doubt, Britney herself experienced when she was out partying. It's a slower paced ode to the morning after, that unlike that experience you'll want to live all over again.
Produced by the now defunct Bloodshy and Avant, Unusual You is a fan favorite. Taken from Circus, the song is the strangest thing on the album. Soft electronics and a pronounced beat sit atop in the mix, while Britney's heavily processed vocal form the backing. The song's message of unexpected love stands apart from the sexed up songs on the album, a moment of true emotion. For some, it was a glimmer that Brit might drop the club beats in favor of a subdued album of electro-ballads. Alas, that wasn't the case, but Unusual You will always make up some of "Etherealney's" best work - mysterious, melancholic and wonderful.
While 2011's Femme Fatale was a (semi)return to form, its messy singles and lack of promo left fans feeling dejected. However, the album contained some innovative pop music, like Inside Out a track that explores desire, lust and the fragility of relationships. The lyrical nods to …Baby One More Time and (You Drive Me) Crazy give you a pinch of nostalgia, while Britney moans over the track. "Tell me how we got in this position, guess I better get you out my system," she sings of that moment when your heart takes over you head, before launching into that chorus, a filthy cacophonous bass driven monster that's all consuming. Before dubstep was all over pop music like a bad rash, Britney was serving it to the masses, graciously staking her claim as pop's most underrated innovator - just another sign that the Legendary Ms. Britney Spears deserves more credit than she's given.
Text Alim Kheraj