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

New Music 10/18/19

It’s week 43 of 2019 and I’m downloading music from the Tidal streaming service exclusively. Each week I sample the first 2 track of every new release on the service. If those 2 tracks are good I listen to the full record and then most of what I listen to you’ll see a review on below. If those 2 tracks don’t interest me then I move on.

Editor’s note: Got a couple questions where my reviews for 10/11/19 were and the answer is, there aren’t any. The releases on 10/11 were simply the shittiest set of albums of the year, so I didn’t waste any time. But this week surely made up for it.

Song of the Week: Jimmy Eat World, “Congratulations”
  • Album: Stone Temple Pilots – Purple (Remastered Deluxe Edition)
  • Previous knowledge: Everything (Tidal Catalog #64)
  • Review: I don’t normally review deluxe editions of records but since Stone Temple Pilots are my third favorite artist of all time and this is my favorite album from them, I was stoked for this baby to come out and it doesn’t let down at all.

In terms of the regular record, I thought Brendan O’Brien did a great job producing it originally but even so, with new technology, the music sounds so dynamic. “Vasoline” is one of my favorite tracks of all time and those unique opening riffs really blow the house down now. Eric Kretz’s fantastic drumming is really dynamic on “Lounge Fly” and twin rock attack of “Unglued” and “Army Ants” are truly brought alive with the new mastering. If you’re thinking about buying the disc just for it though, you’d have to know the album really well to have it make that much of a difference to you. But if you’re buying it for the extras, well, okay then….

The second disc is comprised of demo recordings of the songs on the record, showing how raw the tunes started out and while I’m not usually a fan of the gibberish guide vocals, it’s interesting to hear how Scott Weiland formed the melodies of the tracks but didn’t have real lyrics yet – like on “Meatplow” where he has part of the chorus down but everything else is just him establishing the cadence. And I just love hearing the early version of “Interstate Love Song” where at one point the music and Scott’s guide vocals don’t lineup at all and you can hear him pause and regroup.

The third disc contains a pretty great concert recording from New Haven, CT in 1994 on the Purple tour. At this point, they still only had two albums out, so you get all the tracks from the record live, except for “Kitchenware & Candybars” and all the best songs from Core. Thankfully, in retrospect, the band can pick out a concert where Scott wasn’t a fucking trainwreck – which made for a fascinating live show but probably not the best to put on disc as a release.

Die-hards like me, go ahead, get a physical version. Worth every penny. If you’re a casual fan, stream it.

  • Rating: Original album remastered 10/10, Bonus Material 9.0/10
Stone Temple Pilots, “Vasoline”
  • Album: Jimmy Eat World – Surviving
  • Previous knowledge: Everything
  • Review: Like clockwork since their second album in 1996, you can bank on a new Jimmy Eat World record every three years. And every three years, personally, I look forward to one. I’d often wondered if the band would have been bigger than they are if they had followed up 2001’s Bleed American, in a quicker manner than they did. Jimmy Eat World perfectly captured the indie rock to major label movement in the early 2000s and was a key band in defining emo-culture in the decade. While Dashboard Confessional was the slow, sad version of emo, Jimmy Eat world was the rock version but still vulnerable and able to appeal to a mass audience. 2004’s Futures, while a great album, didn’t have the same impact as the previous record as there was no immediately great single and the musical climate was already starting to change and potentially leave them behind. Understandably, there’s not many bands making the same music that Jimmy Eat World is right now and thus, a future hit record seems unlikely at this point but if you’re a fan, you can certainly appreciate that Jimmy Eat World continues to put out very consistent records, both sounding like you’d expect and pushing a few boundaries for themselves now and again – like the saxophone in “All the Way (Stay).”

But look, liking a Jimmy Eat World record comes down to if you liked Jimmy Eat World in the first place. I can’t picture the band is making new fans at this point but each record has been good enough to keep the band’s fans coming back for more. Despite the fact that that it seems like the band is kind of stuck in the mid-2000s, the music continues to be pretty damn fantastic. And Surviving is the best album since Bleed American. My only drawbacks to some of the last few albums is that they tended to get a little too slow and depressing at times. That doesn’t happen here. While there are a couple of tunes that are on the slower slide, even one of those (“Recommit”) is a slow burn that kicks in half way through the track to be a pretty epic rock song. The first half of the 10-song disc is fill with a bunch of great rock songs, it’s the last three tracks you need to hold out for. “Love Never” has this pretty awesome buzzsaw guitar riff that hasn’t been heard from the band before. Then there’s the aforementioned “Recommit” before ending the disc with another slow burner in “Congratulations.” The album closer starts off with a subdued rock energy that seems to be busting at the seams waiting to explode in a wave of guitars. Around the halfway point in this six minute tune, the song changes to just a creeping bass line before the band brings the rest of the instruments back in…before dropping the bomb in the final minute of the tune, with fierce guitar hooks, almost metal in nature or something like Rush put out on Clockwork Angels. It may very well be their most unique and best song in their catalog – which definitely pushes this album over the edge for me.

  • Rating: 10/10
Jimmy Eat World, “Love Never”
  • Album: Third Eye Blind – Screamer
  • Previous knowledge: Everything
  • Review: Well, I’ll lead with it…Screamer has served to vault 3EB into my top 10 artists of all time. This is only their sixth full length record since their debut in 1997 but also the first since singer Stephan Jenkins came out and said the band would never make another full length record so they could focus on EPs that are more digestible by the masses. That lasted a whopping two EPs. In an interview posted on Trib Live, Jenkins also stated there would be “no smoothed-out edges” and he wanted to “keep it weird,” which is odd, since this record is both as “smoothed-out” as some of their best material and also, not very weird at all (well, there is a trap song on this one, so I give him that. Yes. That’s not a typo. Trap). In fact, it’s catchy as fuck, which is exactly what makes Third Eye Blind themselves after all. And Jenkins manages to make a sparkling 3EB power pop record with a band that’s almost completely different from the original group with only drummer, Brad Hargreaves still around from the first record. I know many people who simply hate “Semi-Charmed Life” with a damn passion but for me, the self-titled record and follow up, Blue, are two of the greatest power pop records of all time. And despite Jenkins proclamations of things that I simply don’t hear on the disc, the music speaks louder than all and the music is vintage Third Eye Blind. You know, except the trap. And album has to be good for me to not knock it completely for that bit of silliness.
  • Rating: 9.5/10
Third Eye Blind, “The Kids Are Coming (To Take You Down)”
  • Album: G-Eazy – Scary Nights
  • Previous knowledge: Singles, a few albums…enough
  • Review: I’m going soft in my old age, I think. I feel like I would have normally had some issue with Gerald and his rapping, which I really don’t remember thinking fondly of in the past. But Scary Nights is a fantastic EP. I continue to have the thought process that albums like these are better than they really are to my ears because they simply aren’t trap but sometimes good is just good. I guess I’m old school in that I like to understand the lyrics, I still like a good chorus and I like authenticity. And I like variety on my hip hop records. With trap, the art of creating a unique beat seems to be lost. And then artists like G-Eazy get labeled as “alternative hip-hop” now, even though five years ago this album would have just been a normal hip-hop record. When the fat, lame white dude (me) starts bouncing in aisle 4 of the supermarket to a rap album (re: I’m old), you are either out of touch or have made an album that any rap fan can enjoy – and to make myself feel better, I’m going with the latter. Lead single “I Wanna Rock” does indeed mix rock and hip-hop together but I’m focused on “Full Time Cappers” with Money Bagg Yo and French Montana and “K I D S” with Dex Lauper as the two tracks that really make this EP for me. Overall, this is an easily digestible hip-hop album for the masses that doesn’t make me feel like the artist sold out at all.
  • Rating: 9/10
G-Eazy, “Full Time Cappers”
  • Album: White Reaper – You Deserve Love
  • Previous knowledge: None
  • Review: Two thumbs up for a blend of garage and glam rock with power pop in 2019. I’m not sure what to compare White Reaper with right now – they have a decidedly vintage garage rock, 70’s base to them, while mixing with a robust, huge current pop sound. And then a track like “Might Be Right” has an element of 80’s new wave mixed in. So with this, White Reaper have created this amazing concoction of music that sounds incredibly familiar and yet wholly unique at the same time, which is pretty damn hard to do.
  • Rating: 9.5/10
White Reaper, “Saturday”

Albums ranked 10/10 so far in 2019 (ordered only by release date)

  1. Terror Jr. – Unfortunately, Terror Jr
  2. Emily King – Scenery
  3. Good Fuck – Good Fuck
  4. The Claypool Lennon Delirium – South of Reality
  5. UB40 – For the Many
  6. Griz – Ride Waves
  7. Pup – Morbid Stuff
  8. Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
  9. Howard Jones – Transform
  10. Mavis Staples – We Get By
  11. Prince – Originals
  12. Yeasayer – Erotic Returns
  13. Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real – Turn off the News (Build a Garden)
  14. Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Servants of the Sun
  15. The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger
  16. K. Flay – Solutions
  17. Tuxedo – Tuxedo III
  18. Dorian Electra – Flamboyant
  19. My Life Story – World Citizen
  20. Bedouin Soundclash – MASS
  21. Jimmy Eat World – Surviving