Femme Fatale casts Britney Spears as the diva for a post-human world. Every note of her voice has been computer processed, from the exaggeratedly seductive flutters and sighs at the end of each word in “Hold It Against Me” to the distorted cascade of bytes at the beginning of “How I Roll”.
Executive-produced by longtime Britney collaborators Max Martin and Dr Luke, the songs are designed for the dancefloor yet their attention to detail cries out for headphones, as with “How I Roll”’s intricately captivating mix of accelerated handclap effects, cut-up 1980s synths and looped basslines. While the music is full of disembodied computer trickery, the lyrics are about the body – well, sex actually – with the tone varying in an all too human way between smart one-liners (“Whoever said that beauty is on the inside told a lie”) and thoroughly daft ones (“Your body looks so sick I think I caught the flu”).
Amalgamating technology and humanity in the catchiest language of chart-pop isn’t new for Spears – she did the same on the defiant Blackout, made during her public meltdown a few years ago – but Femme Fatale takes it to the next level. In person she’s a 29-year-old mother of two with a history of mental health and addiction problems. On record she’s indestructible, like the cyborg in Terminator.