I’m not sure how she does it, but Britney Spears has been a driving force in pop music for the last 15 years. Clearly, it has nothing to do with her singing voice or her artistic integrity, but she’s an iconic piece of history whether you like it or not. The critics have been slamming her since day one, but they have not been able to deny her staying power. In addition, Brit’s had more meltdowns than we even care to remember, and yet she’s got the public, more or less, rooting for her. Everything she does turns to gold, no matter how uninspired or synthetic it is. So how on earth is she continuously this talked about and successful? I’ll make it as simple as it gets… Britney Spears gets her hands on pop masterpieces that are slightly ahead of the curve. “…Baby One More Time” is everything a perfect pop song should be, and that sustained her career through 2 albums until she met up with Pharrell and cranked out “I’m A Slave 4 U,” beating the trend of urban-infused pop gems to the punch. Fast forward to “Toxic,” one of the most amazing pop records of the last 20 years and “Womanizer,” a dance pop tune that dropped just before Lady Gaga began her reign, and it’s clear just how much effort was being pumped into her career, and no one can deny how luck played a factor. For example, “…Baby” was passed up by TLC and “Toxic” was passed up by Kylie Minogue (were they out of their minds?!) Britney’s repertoire isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but when she’s needed it most, that perfect song has fallen right into her lap.
After a healthy, but busy dose of downtime in between albums that included a stint as a judge on the X Factor in America, a successful duet with will.i.am, and a contribution to the Smurfs 2 soundtrack, the “legendary Ms. Britney Spears” is back and ready to kick off a new chapter in her head-scratchingly enviable career. Boldly entitled “Work Bitch,” the single continues her musical relationship with the Black Eyed Peas frontman (will.i.am is executive producing her upcoming album.) Lyrically, despite what you’d expect from the title, the track aims to be inspirational, encouraging the listener to work for the finer things in life. While it doesn’t exactly hit the nail on the head, it is a refreshing surprise from the “sexy and fierce” subject matter it suggests. Playing to her strengths, Britney actually speaks most of the lines, following suit with “Scream & Shout,” her previous collaboration with will. Not shockingly, the real draw to the song is really just how euphorically danceable it is. “Work Bitch” is so club-ready in its original form that any remix would just feel redundant and uninspired. Quite frankly, it’s textbook will.i.am. There’s only a couple slight added twists to make it sound a bit more interesting.
All in all, the track hits all the notes it was shooting for. There’s a bit of edginess about it, but mostly because the title has “bitch” in it and the production and delivery is so authoritative and attention-grabbing. Realistically, radio is going to eat it up and the clubs are going to wet themselves; it’s a no-brainer hit for Brit. What makes “Work Bitch” disappointing is just how uninspired it is, though. EDM-infused pop songs are a dime-a-dozen these days, and they have been for quite some time. When she unleashed her Femme Fatale project in 2011, the musical climate was very similar, but tracks like “Hold It Against Me” and “Til The World Ends” were slightly alternative from the norm. They were the kind of pop tunes that just fall into her lap and she gets to run with it. “Work Bitch” sounds a little more crafted specifically for her, and that is actually hurting it more than helping it. There’s nothing about the song that feels monumental; it just feels like a hit. Maybe if “Scream & Shout” never existed, it’d feel a little fresher, but we’ve already been there/done that. Directionally, there’s no reinvention or boundary-pushing, and it’s lyrically so vanilla that there’s nothing really keeping it afloat. It’s hard to really criticize “Work Bitch” as a stand-alone track, but if Britney Spears wants to be taken seriously and disprove her many criticisms, she has to whip out flawless pop masterpieces, and this just isn’t one of them.