Britney Spears - Greatest Hits
So, Britney is taking a career break, but before she does, here's a Greatest Hits record. Britney's story has followed something of a familiar pattern. We've seen it before with Kylie, and Madonna, of course, starting off as a pop singer, striving for crediblity, and constant re-invenion with the help of a revolving cast of songwriters. The question is whether it will lead to the kind of longer term payoff in iconic status that has happened to both Madge and Kylie, with even their earliest tracks still being performed to rapturous receptions from sell out arena audiences.
Presented out of chronological order, and beginning with what is one of the weaker tracks - her cover of Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative", which is presumably meant as a statement of intent for what follows, but is really just limp Best Of filler. In fact, covers are clearly not her forte, as shown by her godawful cover of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll", which is bereft of any rock whatsoever, preferring tinny drum beats.
The reality of it is that there's a few really great bubblegum pop songs here - particularly (You Drive Me) Crazy, which is perhaps one of the most infuriatingly catchy songs in recent memory, even though it's very close to ... Baby One More Time musically, and yes, all the other ones that you try to avoid humming along to - they're all here. On the ballad front, Everytime (while not being an actual word) is a surprisingly good example of the genre.
The problems arise when Britney started to look at more 'mature' sounding tracks like the breathy I'm A Slave 4 U and the triumph of production over musicianship that is Me Against The Music, with only Toxic offering a glimmer of hope. As a collection, it's inconsistent, patchy, and hard to tell whether this is a mid-point for her, or the point at which the wheels start to fall off. For every exceptional example of a genre (covers excepted), there's a mediocre one to balance in out. The new tracks which bookend this collection really don't give any indication either way, as all three fall heavily into the category of mediocre.