Tidal Catalog #20: Britney Spears

Introduction: For those of you that have stumbled across this website and are interested in reading about my trek through the universe of the Tidal streaming service, let me tell you a bit about what I did. Back in 2016 I thought it would be kind of cool to listen to artist’s catalog from start to finish and rank them from best to worst. After all, who doesn’t like a good list? I thought I might do a few of them and see what happened, hoping it would introduce me to records that were foreign to me in the arsenal of an artist I was familiar with. I also though that it would be pretty cool to get out of the “one off” mode of listening to a new record, years after the previous one, in order to get a true sense of how the artist matured over time. Flash forward to June of 2019 and 250 catalogs later, I have ended the trek. I posted these all on Facebook over the years as they were completed but I’m going to move them all over here, starting with #1, in order to expand them out a bit more. Facebook doesn’t exactly allow for great formatting, you know?

As with all my catalogs, to be considered in the ranking, an album has to meet certain criteria:

  • The artist must actually perform on 80% of the tracks (soundtrack and rap provision)
  • No compilations of previous released material will be included.
  • The album must have been released officially and within the realm of the label that the artist would have been on at the time or official releases posthumously (normally applies to a slew of live records)
  • Any EPs must contain new new music and be relevant to the catalog, not be more like a single with a b-side or two.
  • Compilations of previously recorded material will be included if they are remixes, bonus tracks, outtakes… mostly music that hasn’t been part of a main release before)

Entrance point: Yeah, I listen to 80s music and lots of metal. But I also have a soft spot for over-the-top pop hooks. I don’t know that I had ever heard a full Britney Spears record coming into this catalog but I knew all the singles. And let’s be honest here. I was 23 when Britney hit on the scene and she was smoking hot. Frankly, still is. I mean, look at the picture above. Yeah.

All albums ranked on a 10 point scale.

  • Femme Fatale (8)

It’s not all that often that I would go back and listen to music from a particular artist when their top album gets an 8/10 but let’s face it – someone like Britney Spears and many other boy pop / girl pop artists from the 2000s lived off singles, not albums. People bought up the albums because they were all bound to have 5-6 singles off them anyway but in full album form, these types of musicians can be hard to listen to. Miss Britney is no exception to that. A compilation of hits is really all you need but here I am listening to all her albums. And this was still early when I figuring these catalogs out and how I really wanted to approach them. Britney Spears helped me realized that every catalog has to stand on its own and be compared to itself, not to other artists. I also decided to take an artist like this and just rank the records on pure enjoyment factor, because if I dug deep into this the sheer number of bad pickup lines on this disc would knock it down to a 1. Take “Your body’s so sick / I think I caught the flu” on “(Drop Dead) Beautiful” or “If I said I want your body now / would you hold it against me?” on “Hold It Against Me” as prime examples. Or if I quickly realized that I’m not sure I know what Britney Spears actually sounds like because her vocals are so processed that I have no idea if I’m listening to a person or a machine, all her albums would drop significantly. But I listened to it trying just to enjoy the discs and at points I did but the rankings are still pretty low overall.

Femme Fatale gets the top spot because of how the disc ends. It begins with a bunch of tunes ready for the club that were usually left for the remixes, and in the middle you have “Big Fat Bass” with Will.I.Am. which is as dumb as they fucking come. But somehow I found some of the more unique tracks on the record, like “Gasoline” and “He About To Lose Me” to push this one to the top of the pile. I think my younger self would have been really into the sex songs like “Inside Out” and “Up N’ Down” but my older self doesn’t really find the same excitement with the content as I might in the past. The glut of club tracks makes this a bit of a tough listen in the end but there has to be a best one in every bunch, right?

  • Glory (7.5)

Britney’s most recent album (2006) is probably the second best of her career or maybe I just like it a little bit more because it’s a bit different from her previous records. It’s still Britney but it’s got a much more laid back R&B vibe than previous dance records. “Slumber Party” has a bit of a Caribbean vibe to it that she hasn’t worked with before and “Do You Wanna Come Over?” is a bit different from everything else she’s done. After listening to so many Britney Spears records in a row, what I was looking for were individual tracks to make one album stand apart from others and the ballad “Just Like Me” is one of those that stands out. A mix of a slow dance beat and acoustic guitars, it’s the best song on the disc by a long shot. What Glory shows is that given decent material, Britney can still put together at least a handful of good songs, even this late into her career.

“Just Like Me”
  • In the Zone (7)

In the Zone seems to be the first album in the Britney Spears is no longer a kid movement. This album is the bridge between the pop songs she created as a kid and the dance songs that would follow. And while it’s not very consistent, it’s got its moments. One of them is not the lead single with Madonna, “Me Against the Music.” I mean, I understood the pairing at the time but this is one of those tracks in an overall timeframe where Madonna just seems to be trying too hard and Britney seems to want to be Madonna. If you listen to “Breathe On Me” you get a vaguely Erotica vibe from it, which really wasn’t the sound Britney was best at. Despite having a legit good single in “Toxic” the album as a whole tries way too hard to be mature. I like the Moby written “Early Morning” but it feels forced on Britney and the R. Kelly written “Outrageous” doesn’t really work for her. While it was nice for her to move past the teen pop sound a bit, the album is just too busy overall and paired back a bit, it had the potential to be one of her best.

“Early Morning”
  • Britney Jean (7)
  • Britney (6)
  • Blackout (5)
  • Circus (5)
  • Oops…I Did It Again (4)

Britney’s first two albums sold a combined 20 million copies in the US alone – a cute Britney Spears and a Max Martin project right in the middle of boy pop mania certainly struck a chord with girls and they ate it up (okay, I did too). But those two albums are a perfect example of why she’s a singles artist. The Max Martin singles “Oops…I Did It Again” “Stronger” and “Lucky” are legitimately good songs for the time. But her cover of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was a train-wreck and the entire back side of the album is a mess of filler tunes. And I remember there being a controversy that a pair of songwriters sued Britney and the label for plagarism when they thought that two of her songs sounded like one of theirs that they originally offered her and was rejected. Think about that a second, two songs on the same album are so similar that they might have plagiarized a single tune. Granted, I don’t really hear it but I’ve chosen to not care enough to listen to them side by side.

“Oops!…I Did It Again”
  • …Baby One More Time (4)
  • B in the Mix: The Remixes (3)
  • B in the Mix: The Remixes Vol. 2 (2)

Summary: 11 albums, average 5.3

One thought on “Tidal Catalog #20: Britney Spears

  1. I’ve been a fan of Britney for as long as I can remember, and my top three would be Circus, Blackout and In The Zone. Although I can understand why you might think ITZ is her trying too hard to be mature, I find it relatable, well produced and outside of the realm of pop music that she was known for previously. Femme Fatale is an absolute wonderful record though, as is Glory. Both of those contain some of the best tracks in her entire discography.


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