Since her glorious return to music with Circus in 2008, Britney Spears has served up three strong albums filled with hits that were simply made for radio play. Some of them such as Britney’s feminist anthem “Womanizer,” her cutting edge “Hold It Against Me,” which introduced dubstep to popular radio (Britney Spears, innovator extraordinaire), and her most recent dance cut “Work Bitch” have received the attention that they so desperately deserved. Britney kept fans dancing till the world ended, soaked a lover in perfume, and commanded attention like a ringleader, but she could have done so much more. Other songs, and sadly more tracks fall into this category, remain on albums and have only been heard by Brit’s biggest fans—a true travesty.
Now Britney Spears is gearing up to release her newest single “Pretty Girls,” a duet with Aussie rapper Iggy Azalea, and she’ll be making an appearance on dance pop genius Giorgio Moroder’s upcoming 74 is the New 24. Pretty girls Iggy and Britney have been seen on set for the a music video in recent days, and Spears is obviously preparing to hit the scene with a vengeance. Fans will be getting new Britney Spears music on the radio (a true gift), but it feels like there have been so many wasted opportunities even on her last three albums. As such, I wanted to highlight ten unreleased tracks from Circus, Femme Fatale, and Britney Jean that deserved the single treatment!
Number Ten: “Tik Tik Boom” from Britney Jean. On an album that was promoted as being a little more urban and a lot more personal, “Tik Tik Boom” was one of the few tracks that delivered a truly urban experience. Featuring a guest verse from T.I. (there’s some talk about PEETA and eating, beating, etc. but we all know who the real star is), Brit delivered one of her sexiest tracks to date. On the scandalous track Britney is begging for a man to give her some loving so good that it would make her explode. Take of that what you will, but the track is fiery hot with production that builds to an explosive fever pitch on the chorus. Britney’s vocals are on point, as she frantically demands something a little more up close and personal from a lover. Her improvisation on the second half of the track may have been responsible for bringing tears to fans eyes (she sounds great, don’t judge me).
Number Nine: “Passenger” from Britney Jean. Although Britney Spears is one of the most powerful female musician’s of our time and has been considered as a sex symbol since she put on that school girl uniform in the late 90s, she doesn’t have much control of her life. In the past, she’s sang about feeling overprotected, but on the Sia co-penned “Passenger” B-Girl reveals that she is entirely all right with handing over the keys every now and then. Featuring production from Diplo the track kicks off with an extended electronic intro before Spears’s vocals come in. Lyrically, the song is about giving up control and putting your trust in someone else to make decisions for a change. The song progresses nicely and features one of Britney’s best vocal performances in recent memory. Keep an eye out for the bridge, because Britney sings the absolute hell out of it, rising in triumphant joy as she kicks back and enjoys the view.
Number Eight: “Brightest Morning Star” from Britney Jean. Time to dig into the bonus material on Britney Jean, and our first offering happens to be one of the brightest and most personal tracks that Britney Spears has ever recorded. Why it was relegated to the land of bonus tracks, I will never even be able to hazard a guess. “Brightest Morning Star” is an uplifting stunner from start to finish, and seems to be sung to a lover, her sons, or the good lord with the utmost passion and emotion. We’ll never know exactly who the performance is dedicated to, but whoever the lucky person is has guided Britney through particularly difficult times in her life. They’ve been her guiding light to peace and happiness. Britney’s vocals are frankly angelic as she triumphantly soars on the song’s exultant chorus. With brilliant production, the song takes an anthemic approach to sharing a tale of pride and adoration. The pop, gospel, bright sound resonates with joy and purity, and is easily one of the most lightest tracks Britney has recorded in quite some time. With such an uplifting message and striding instrumental, the track could have easily dominated radio and brought a new dimension to Britney’s legacy.
Number Seven: “Hold On Tight” from Britney Jean. As an artist, Britney constantly receives criticism for her vocals. She doesn’t belt out tracks like most of her contemporaries, instead preferring to deliver a softer vocal styling. As a result, many critics tend to sell Britney short when it comes to her ballads, claiming that her voice can’t stand on its own without production. They’re sadly mistaken (and need to be served some truth tea). Instead of excessively belting to display emotion, Britney tends to inject every word that she sings with a well thought out vocal caress. This is the case on “Hold On Tight,” one of my favorite Britney Spears songs and another bonus track on Britney Jean, a true waste of a wonderful track. Britney vocals are at their most earnest and open, and it feels like a very personal effort about holding tight to her inner peace. It may be religious, it may be a love song, it may fall somewhere in between, but regardless it is a beautifully fragile and honest song. The track’s production is simple; a dazzling synth on the chorus, a crackly tone on the verses, and a driving beat that continues throughout with a gentle bassline throughout. Production picks up a bit on the chorus, but it is again the bridge that stands out as exceptional.
Number Six: “Inside Out” from Femme Fatale. Any song that references Britney’s earliest pop classics is bound to be a hit, but on “Inside Out” we learned that it can get even hotter when the references are set to a frosty dubstep infused romp. The track is an icy breakup track about having one last roll around the sack before calling it quits with a passionate lover. Britney’s delivery is slightly distant in deference to the mood of the track, but that all changes once she hits the chorus. As she accepts that she and her lover are really going to do the deed, she becomes a demanding queen. She wants something to remember from the man who knows her inside out, and she isn’t referring to a stuffed animal as a memento of their messy relationship. She wants him to remind her one more time of the chemistry that they had. The track resonates with frustration and need, and it is vastly different from the typical breakup track. Britney shook things up, and served something innovative and experimental that immediately became a fan favorite. When you add all the ingredients together, “Inside Out” has everything you could ever desire from Britney Spears.
Number Five: “How I Roll” from Femme Fatale. On every Britney Spears album, there is at least one track where Britney tends to push the boundaries of pop music a little further than generally comfortable. Sometimes the push is a little too far (I’m talking to you “Mmm Papi”), but other times, Britney stuns with her creativity. “How I Roll” is one of the times that B-Girl gets it all right. With production from Bloodshy (one half of the creative genius responsible for “Toxic”) the track was promising before anyone had even heard it. After one listen, your first response may be utter confusion. That’s ok. Give it another listen. The track is a summery mid-tempo with a frenzied production that includes everything from snaps, craps, pops, and a bit of this and that. B’s voice seamlessly integrates into the production, and her vocal is appropriately sassy. Tracks like this prove that Britney knows how to ride a beat and become a part of the song. Producers have called her a dream to work with, and that is because she knows how to fit into the production around her without being overpowered or overpowering. This is one of the times when her talent is most evident, and the final result is a little crazy but entirely enjoyable.
Number Four: “Don’t Keep Me Waiting” from Femme Fatale. You never would have guessed that Britney Spears would sound at home on a rock inspired track, but “Don’t Keep Me Waiting” proves that she may have a backup career if she ever gets tired of crafting pop beats. With a live drum performance from Travis Barker of Blink-182 and production from Darkchild, the song stood out from the majority of the electronic dance music on Femme Fatale. Making things even better, Britney’s vocals on the track were largely unprocessed and incredibly brazen. Britney owns the track from the moment she enters the scene, demanding that they turn her microphone up so that her voice could be even more easily heard. She’s got a message, and she’ll be damned if you miss out on what she has to say. Her voice is outright demanding as she growls over the instrumentation, commanding respect from her lover. Britney prowls over the song, improvising and singing in an English accent on the bridge (she calls the shots), and generally rocking out in an entirely unexpected manner. “Don’t Keep Me Waiting” is Britney at her most daring, and it is all the more powerful as a result.
Number Three: “Unusual You” from Circus. Britney’s electro-ballad “Unusual You” is one of the greatest mysteries of her career. Here is another ballad that Britney injects with her unique vocal aesthetic, and it hasn’t received an iota of the acclaim it deserves. The song was an instant fan favorite from the moment thatCircus hit the shelves, yet it never got recognition from Brit or her team. “Unusual You” is another collaboration between Britney Spears and production team Bloodshy & Avant, and it serves as more evidence that the threesome are capable of incredible things. The track is a slow burning electro ballad that travels on the support of a fuzzy bassline and a kicking beat. Glimmering synths soar over the production, but they don’t sparkle at full shine. Instead, they seem to be fading out, adding a moody tinge to the mix. The track is beautifully written, dedicated to a mysterious and difficult to understand lover, and Britney’s vocals are filled with longing on the moody slow burner. There is production over top of her voice that provides a level of distortion, but the addition only adds to the emotion. Britney feels distant as she sings the dreamy but melancholic track. She’s separate from the world because of her cloudy emotional climate.
Number Two: “Kill the Lights” from Circus. Britney Spears reunited with Danja, the hit-maker largely responsible for crafting her critically acclaimed but grossly underrated Blackout, for two songs on Circus. Oddly enough, both of them have made their way to this list. “Kill the Lights” is the first of his offerings, and in its first few moments Britney graciously accepts the title of “Queen of Pop.” One listen to her furious vocal on the song, and it evident that she earned it (and that you probably wouldn’t want to tell her otherwise if you value your current appearance). The song is a continuation of Britney’s kiss off on Blackout’s paparazzi bashing “Piece of Me,” with a different beat and an even sassier vocal take. Britney is unabashedly bratty on the track, so much so that her first lines are “you don’t like me / I don’t like you / it don’t matter.” Things only get more serious as she calls out the pesky paps on the chorus, questioning if there is money in the photographer’s pocket or if they are simply happy to see her. I’m still dying, because that is pure genius. The song is a wonderful commentary on the public consumption of Britney Spears as a celebrity, with the pop superstar finally taking a stand and demanding some respect. You tell ‘em B!
Number One: “Blur” from Circus. After coming back from the dark days of 2007, Britney kept things pretty lighthearted on Circus. The album was pretty much pristine pop from start to finish, a little experimental at times but mostly uplifting. Britney was like a phoenix, rising from the ashes more glorious than ever before. She didn’t drink, smoke or hit the streets without her panties. Strictly forbidden. The pristine new image was furthered on the new album. One exception was the darkly whirling “Blur,” which is more likely than not a better representation of the hard partying Britney of 2007. The cut is a moody slow burner about the morning after a night on the town. Britney’s vocals are at their lowest and raspiest as she ponders how she had spent the previous night. Her performance is entirely believable and mysteriously sexy, and the track is oddly alluring for its semi-biographical sound. At a time when everyone was desperate to know what had happened in the popstar’s life, Britney wasn’t talking about her mistakes, but she may have been singing about them. Although it went against her image at the time the public would have devoured the track for its darker delivery.