Britney Jean’s lead single “Work Bitch” – a preposterous banger produced by will.i.am in which Britney Spears commands credulous listeners to work their assets (emphasis on the first syllable) in order to live like modern-day Marie Antoinettes – turns out to be a red herring.
The rest of the album is calmer, more mature and, oh dear, duller. EDM production tics (booming bass, wild synthesisers) are shoehorned into mid-tempo plodders such as “Til It’s Gone” which have no real interest in the dancefloor.
Meanwhile an over-preponderance of ballads makes good on Spears’ promise, or threat, to deliver her most “personal” record yet. Her vocals sound less artificial than usual, which may of course be a particularly sophisticated piece of computer trickery, but it would be a stretch to describe them as convincingly emotional.
“I try to act natural,” she sings in “Perfume”, which finds her wanting to mark a faithless mate with perfume in order to ward off other women. The self-identification with a synthetic product is typical of the singer’s cybernautic style; what’s untypical is the lack of drive with which Britney Jean animates it.