Britney began recording in May of 2013 and continued into October of that year. On numerous occasions, she has described the album as the most personal record from her catalog.
Having assumed an integral position in its production, she co-wrote each track and collaborated with songwriters and producers including Sia Furler, David Guetta and will.i.am to achieve her desired sound.
Furthermore, the record features guest vocals from Britney's little sister Jamie Lynn, T.I. and will.i.am.
Upon its release, "Britney Jean" received mixed reviews from music critics, who praised the album for being personal, but were ambivalent towards its dated production. Others enjoyed the dancing elements and the personal lyrics.
It debuted at number four on the U.S. Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 107,000 copies.
In doing so, it became Britney's lowest charting album in the United States. The same happened in the United Kingdom, where it debuted at number 34; worldwide,
The album underperformed, only reaching the top 20 and top 30 in most countries. Work Birch stayed in the charts for three months
Album Background & ProductionEdit
In 2012 (while serving as a judge on the second season of the American version of "The X Factor"), Britney was spotted in the recording studio with producer Rodney Jerkins.
Songwriter Elijah Blake commented that Britney was "definitely trying to push the envelope" by "playing with new textures and stomping on new grounds and genres."
Their collaborations, however, were denied by Spears's representative, though he confirmed that producer Hit-Boy worked with Spears to create a "global sound" fusing elements of hip-hop and pop.
Producer Scoop DeVille had also worked with Britney for the album's early stages. Additionally, she had also recorded an unused song with rapper Wiz Khalifa for the album.
In an interview with Shape Magazine, Britney described the album's initial concept as having a hip-hop feel, saying "the record is definitely going to be more hip-hop than pop this time around."
In May 2013, Naughty Boy and William Orbit were announced to be working on the record; the former expressed his satisfaction with his collaborations with Britney, adding that he had wanted always wanted to "do something a bit different."
He commented that he is "a big fan of pop music and that culture" and wanted to "keep that going [...] in [his] own kind of style."
Later that month, will.i.am was confirmed as the executive producer of the project. He described that his recording process differed from his past experience with the Black Eyed Peas, elaborating that "[he and Spears] had these juicy sessions, where [they had] been bonding, building the trust and comfort."
The album's associate executive producer was Anthony Preston for will.i.am music.
In July of 2013, Britney acknowledged through Twitter that she "wrote such a special song" with Sia Furler which was later revealed to be her favorite track, the ballad "Perfume."
The following month, she reportedly traveled to Lake District in the United Kingdom to continue work with Naughty Boy and Orbit.
Naughty Boy later stated he wasn't able to work on the material for the album with Orbit because he "wasn't able to come to L.A. at the time [as he] was promoting 'La La La' around the world."
On numerous occasions, Britney has considered "Britney Jean" to be the most personal record from her catalog.
She stated that her experiences in recent years, including her break-up with ex-fiancé Jason Trawick, encouraged her to "dig deeper and write songs that [she thinks] everyone can relate to."
Britney added that the production of the record was an "amazing experience" and that her colleagues "helped [her] bring [her ideas] to life."
"Britney Jean" is a concept album about "the loneliness of pop life."
The opening track "Alien" deems celebrity an isolating experience that Britney describes in terms of feeling like an extraterrestrial over synth bleaps which according to some critics, "it echoes William Orbit work with Madonna on Ray of Light."
The second track "Work Bitch" is an EDM-influenced dance song where Britney sings about what it takes to be rich, famous and beautiful, repeatedly encouraging listeners to "get to work, bitch."
The third track "Perfume" is a hip hop-influenced power ballad which Britney described as "incredibly special to me because it hits close to home, and I think the story is relatable to everyone. Everyone's been through an insecure moment in a relationship that's left them vulnerable and I think this song captures that."
The fourth track "It Should Be Easy" (which features will.i.am) insists that love "shouldn't be complicated" with Britney imagining a bright-normal-future with a man who's stolen her heart with "robotized" voice and EDM beats.
The song was heavily criticized for the excessive use of Autotune, credited by will.i.am.
The album's fifth track "Tik Tik Boom" finds Britney begging a lover to make her "tik, tik, tik, tik, boom" over trap beats.
It was described as a "club banger" and "the closest the album comes to bringing Blackout 2.0 to life" featuring a "sex-drenched" appearance from rapper T.I.
The song "Body Ache" follows with its lyrical theme about dancing hard in a club, over shrieking sirens and EDM beats whilst the song "Til It's Gone" gives value to the stability of a good relationship, albeit after it dissolves, with its electronic and EDM sounds.
With the eighth track "Passenger", which noodles around with some EDM impulses before imploding into "brooding" pop-rock, Britney emotes about finding happiness after being willing to cede control.
The song "Chillin' With You" features Britney's young sister Jamie Lynn into a song about grasping at happiness over lush trap, EDM and country pop sound.
The album's closing track on the standard edition "Don't Cry" opens with a Spaghetti Western-esque whistle and it finds Britney refusing to give in to post-relationship grief. Some critics labelled it "her best vocal performance on the album."
Album Release & ArtworkEdit
In October of 2012, Britney had mentioned the possibility of making a follow-up to her fifth studio album "Blackout," tweeting:
"I heard Happy Birthday Blackout was trending earlier... thank u all for loving the album as much as I do. Blackout 2.0?"
In May of 2013, record producer Danja (who collaborated with Britney during its production) commented that he "[doesn't] know when the next [Blackout] is going to be, but [he believes] there’s going to be another one."
On August 20, 2013, she re-launched her website with a countdown ending on September 17, 2013. It was originally speculated to be the release date of her then-unannounced lead single.
On September 17, 2013, Britney announced on "Good Morning America" that her album would be released on December 3, 2013 in the United States, the day after her 32nd birthday.
On October 15, 2013, during an appearance on Capital London, she announced that the record would be titled Britney Jean, a nickname used affectionately by her family and friends.
On October 24, 2013, (together with an open letter to her fans), Britney unveiled the album artwork.
The black-and-white image depicts a close-up image of Britney with the term "Britney Jean" colored in blue lettering inside a pink heart near the bottom of the cover.
A report from ABC News Radio likened the usage of Spears' middle name in the album's title to being inspired by Janet Jackson's eighth studio album Damita Jo, saying "taking a page from Janet Jackson's 2004 album, Damita Jo, Britney Spears has combined her first and middle names -- Britney Jean -- to come up with the title."
A writer for The Huffington Post later suggested that the neon-style typography was inspired by the cover of Miley Cyrus' fourth studio album Bangerz which itself depicts a blonde Miley wearing a short black coat with the title "Bangerz" stylized in fluorescent neon lighting in front of palm trees.
While the typography was compared to that of Bangerz by a writer from The Huffington Post, Britney Jean marks the third album artwork from RCA Records to use a neon-style typography design, "Bangerz" from Miley Cyrus being one and the other being "Mechanical Bull" from Kings of Leon.
On November 4, 2013, the album was made available for pre-order through the iTunes Store.
That day, a colorized version of the cover was unveiled as the primary visual for the standard version with the original cover becoming the primary visual for the deluxe version.
Britney revealed the track listing for the album on November 12, 2013 which she implied was earlier than she planned after hackers "[tried] to ruin [her] surprises."
The record is additionally marked with the Parental Advisory label, affixed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to identify explicit content.
On November 25, 2013, "Britney Jean" was made available for streaming in full through the iTunes Store and iTunes Radio.
Standard Edition CD:
|1.||"Alien"||Britney Spears, William Orbit, Dan Traynor, Ana Diaz, Anthony Preston||William Orbit, HyGrade, Anthony Preston||3:56|
|2.||"Work Bitch"||Spears, William Adams, Otto Jetman, Sebastian Ingrosso, Anthony Preston, Ruth-Anne Cunningham||Ingrosso, Otto Knows, will.i.am, Preston||4:08|
|3.||"Perfume"||Spears, Sia Furler, Christopher Braide||will.i.am, Keith Harris, Braide||4:00|
|4.||"It Should Be Easy" (ft. will.i.am)||Spears, David Guetta, Giorgio Tuinfort, Nick Rotteveel, Marcus Van Wattum||Guetta, Tuinfort, Nicky Romero, Van Wattum, will.i.am, Preston||3:26|
|5.||"Tik Tik Boom" (ft. T.I.)||Spears, Preston, Onique "Sparrow" Williams, Clifford Joseph Harris Jr., Andre Lindal, Damien LeRoy, Joakim Haukaas||LeRoy, Preston||2:57|
|6.||"Body Ache"||Spears, Guetta, Tuinfort, Luciana Caporaso, Nick Clow, Myah Marie Langston, Preston||Guetta, Tuinfort, will.i.am., Preston||3:25|
|7.||"Til It's Gone"||Spears, Jenson Vaughan Robertson, Scott Rosette, Sharma Preston, Tuinfort, Guetta, Adams||Tuinfort, will.i.am, Preston||3:42|
|8.||"Passenger"||Spears, Thomas Pentz, Furler, Andrew Swanson, Katy Perry||DIplo, Preston||3:40|
|9.||"Chillin' With You" (ft. Jamie Lynn)||Spears, Adams, Preston, Joshua Lopez||will.i.am, Freshman III, Preston||3:39|
|10||"Don't Cry"||Spears, Adams, Lopez, Gonzales||will.i.am, Richard Vission, Chico Bennett, Zach "Reazon" Helligman, William "DJ Keebz" Kebler||3:14|
Deluxe Edition Album Bonus Tracks:
|1.||"Brightest Morning Star"||Spears, Lukasz Gottwald, Furler, Henry Walter||Dr. Luke, Cirkut, Preston, Braide||3:00|
|2.||"Hold On Tight"||Spears, Allan P. Grigg||Kool Kojak, A.C, Preston, Peter Carlsson||3:27|
|3.||"Now That I Found You"||Spears, Danny O'Donoghue, Tuinfort, Guetta, Frederic Riesterer||Guetta, Tuinfort, will.i.am, Presto||4:16|
|4.||"Perfume" (The Dreaming Mix)||Spears, Furler, Braide||Braide||4:02|
"Work Bitch" was released as the lead single from "Britney Jean" on September 15, 2013, one day earlier than expected after a low-quality version was leaked by "one bad apple."
A writer for MuuMuse described the track as a "massive return to form" and an "exciting way to kick off a brand new era."
It debuted and peaked at number 12 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 with 174,000 first-week downloads and charted moderately on national singles charts internationally.
On October 1, 2013, an accompanying music video for the track was premiered where Britney is depicted as a dominatrix-like character.
It received general acclaim from critics, with particular praise directed towards her dancing.
However, Britney herself commented that she felt forced into maintaining her provocative image, elaborating that she "cut out half the video because I am a mother and because, you know, I have children, and it’s just hard to play sexy mom while you’re being a pop star as well."
"Perfume" was released as the second single from the album on November 3, 2013. It received generally favorable reviews from music critics and was compared to her song "Everytime" (from her fourth studio album "In the Zone").
The track debuted and peaked at number 76 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Unlike her previous records (excluding her fifth studio album "Blackout") Britney did not heavily promote "Britney Jean" and no promotional performances in support of the album took place.
However, she appeared on Good Morning America to announce her two-year residency show at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, titled "Britney: Piece of Me" on September 17, 2013.
She then traveled to the UK to promote the lead single and the album on "Alan Carr: Chatty Man."
She also appeared for interviews on :The Ellen DeGeneres Show," "Entertainment Tonight" and "Surprise Surprise."
The album was additionally promoted through the documentary "I Am Britney Jean: Britney Spears' Road to Las Vegas" which premiered through E! on December 22, 2013 it covered the production and lead-up to its release and the launch of "Britney: Piece of Me."
The original airing of the special in the United States was viewed by 0.706 million viewers, garnering above-average Sunday ratings for the network while it was viewed by 0.63 million viewers in the United Kingdom.
On December 27, 2013, "Britney: Piece of Me" began on December 27, with tickets having been first made available on September 20, 2013.
Prior to its release in the United States, "Britney Jean" was initially predicted to sell 150-200,000 copies with Hits Daily Double crediting the underwhelming numbers to "her very light promo schedule with little or no TV around the release."
However, the day following its release, potential sales figures were lowered to 115-120,000 units.
The album debuted at number four with 107,000 units.
It is Britney's lowest sales and chart debut for a studio set. Previously, her 1999 debut album "...Baby One More Time" tallied her smallest start with 121,000.
In its second week on the chart, the album fell from number four to number 22 on the Billboard 200, making it Britney's first album to only spend one week in the top ten.
In Europe, the album debuted at number 34 on the UK Albums Chart, selling 12,959 copies in its first week.
In doing so, it became Britney's lowest-charting album in the country; by comparison, her previous lowest-charting record In The Zone peaked at number 13. It dropped to number 87 the next week.
Internationally, "Britney Jean" underperformed, only reaching the top 20 and top 30 in most countries and failing to reach the top 3 in all countries.
The track "It Should Be Easy" was used as the opening theme for cycle 9 of "Germany's Next Topmodel."
Upon its release, "Britney Jean" received generally mixed reviews from music critics.
At Metacritic, the album received an average score of 50 (which indicates "mixed or average reviews") based on 20 reviews.
Jason Lipshutz from Billboard provided a favorable review, describing the project as a "transitional record [as] her first album released in her thirties" and felt it was reminiscent of her third studio album Britney.
Nick Catucci of Entertainment Weekly shared a similar sentiment, stating that he "treasures" Britney for "[remaining] as enigmatic as the Disney-groomed, emotionally insulated teen who greeted us in the late '90s", and adding that will.i.am's production "happily indulges the fantasies of endorphin-seeking EDM festival goers."
Writing for Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield described "Britney Jean" as a "concept album about the loneliness of pop life – with a high-profile broken engagement behind her, Brit gets personal and drops her most bummed-out music ever."
In contrast, Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine provided a mixed review, criticizing its "dated production and vocals that hark back to the days when Brit was selling 10 million [records]."
Similarly, Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph stated that the album "continues the striptease of Britney's career" and felt that its production prevented the record from coming across as a genuinely personal effort.