Voyou Désœuvré

Damn, the new Girls Aloud record is out, and I still have a post to write about Britney’s album. With “What You Crying For” and “I’m Falling,” Tangled Up gives Blackout some unexpected competition for “Best early-90s hardcore record of 2007.” Well, I suppose it’s not totally unexpected from Girls Aloud, but I wasn’t anticipating the bassline from Britney’s “Freakshow” (well, it’s more a bass noise than a base line), or “Get Back,” ignominously relegated to being a bonus track.

These are both Danja tracks, of course, and, great though they are, I wonder if it wasn’t maybe a mistake for Britney to use Danja so heavily on the album. It invites comparison with FutureSex/LoveSounds, which I’m not sure does Britney any favors. Perhaps this is just because Danja, Timbaland’s understudy, isn’t quite up to scratch when Tim is out of the building. But I think there might be a more interesting reason why the Timbaland/Danja style which is so perfect for JT doesn’t quite work for Britney. What’s interesting about the beats on FutureSex/LoveSounds is the way they focus in on a kind of minor point of dance music, it’s sense of grandeur. This might tie in with k-punk’s description of the album as “re-invent[ing] r and b heterosexuality from the male point of view” (it’s surely not unimportant that JT has been wearing some very nice suits in all his recent promotional material). The best example might be “What Goes Around…/…Comes Back Around,” from the absurd punctuation of the title, to the spectacularly expensive video (which conjures up an impossible world of elegant decadence), to the rumbling strings at 6:51 (which my subconscious had extended to the whole of the track).

Danja’s tracks on Blackout attempt to do the same for Britney (check out particularly the last 30 seconds of “Break the Ice”). But I don’t think Britney, for all her talents, really does grandeur. Well, that’s not quite right; Britney does do a certain sort of faded grandeur, as in this great set of slightly Sally-Bowles-esque photos. This has been an almost constant feature of her œuvre. Already on her second album, with “Lucky,” Britney was beginning to pick at her own celebrity status, and it’s a theme she seems unable to get free of, with perhaps its most bizarre manifestation in her reality TV series. “Lucky” is so great because it navigates the pathos of this obsession. The Danja/Timbaland style doesn’t work so well, as for instance on “Gimme More,” which seems to strive for the kind of weightlessness of “My Love” or “Lovestoned,” but is continually dragged back down by Britney’s need to react to her own media image.

So the best tracks on the album are the non-Danja ones, although I don’t really have anything to say about them. “Hot as Ice” is pretty good, and “Ooh Ooh Baby” is fantastic.

Elsewhere on the internet: Jane Dark on Britney’s sadomasochism, and Leila on Britney and Foucault.

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