Britney Spears - The Singles Collection

Considering that Britney Spears has spent over a decade now as one of the world's biggest pop stars, it's surprising how little of her output fits the general definition of the genre as most people would understand it - if the tracklisting for this second greatest hits compilation is a true barometer of her oeuvre, that is.

Right from '....Baby One More Time', Spears' biggest hits have been heavy on the urban beats and bass, sassy slices of heavily processed club fodder, reaching some kind of apex with the Cathy Dennis-penned 'Toxic' from 2003 - and perhaps the closest she's come to matching the likes of Sugababes and Girls Aloud for uber-crossover appeal. If you read the hipper American music blogs, you'd think everyone Stateside was getting off on Annie and Alphabeat, but out in the real world it's booty-shaking, vocodored-to-the-nth degree stuff like the amusingly self-aware 'Piece of Me' ("I'm 'Mrs. Most Likely To Get on the TV for Strippin' on the Streets' / When getting the groceries, no, for real") that sells. Spears doesn't have anything as frothy as 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun' or 'True Blue' in her back catalogue (at least not here), just a lot of - not entirely convincing and faintly dispiriting - tease and raunch. She talks a good show ("Get nasty!") but at the end of the night would she spit or swallow? You do have to wonder. Performance issues aside, what saves her from mediocrity are the tracks themselves, often sourced from the world's best producers and studios, happy to see their work picked up by an artist who's been Yahoo's most searched-for term over seven different calendar years. Even recent, seemingly minor, tracks like the sneakily-risque - and tweener unfriendly - 'If U Seek Amy' is about as zeitgeist as you can hope for.

Aside from the odd cringe-fest ('I'm Not A Girl...'), The Singles Collection seeks to position Britney at the cutting edge of modern r'n'b-influenced pop, discarding nonsense like 'I Love Rock 'n' Roll' from her previous hits collection. 'Everytime' may not be the first track that comes to mind when thinking about Britney Jean, but it remains one of her finest efforts, a gothic ballad that dares peek behind the fantasies to the rather sad young woman who's lived out our dreams and found them terribly wanting. It's no surprise then to find another defining track ('Lucky') has gone from the running order:

She's so lucky, she's a star
But she cries cries cries in her lonely heart
Thinking 'If there's nothing missing in my heart
Why do these tears come at night?'

If you took most of these tracks at face value, you'd be well within your rights to think all that Britney wanted was to get fucked. Well, glad we could oblige.



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