- I’m a Slave 4 U
- I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman
- I Love Rock n’ Roll
- Let Me Be
- Bombastic Love
- That’s Where You Take Me
- What It’s Like to Be Me
On Britney’s eponymous third album, Britney, released on October 31, 2001, Britney wanted to grow up. Tired of being the school girl in the music video or songs titled “Dear Diary”, she decided to mature her sound. Instead of incorporating all the same tricks from the previous albums, Britney started to incorporate new elements to her new music like disco, rap, and electronica. While the album received mixed reviews from critics, it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, making this her third album in a row to do so and the first time a female solo artist had broken this record. Britney was a smash, selling 15 million copies worldwide and receiving the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album in 2003.
Unlike the previous album, Oops!…I Did It Again, Britney was relatively unknown territory. I of course knew the three major singes (“I’m a Slave 4 U”, “Overprotected”, and “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”) and of course knew the original “I Love Rock n’ Roll”, but other than those songs I was at a loss. I was excited to hear how the grown up sound might differentiate this listening experience vs. the first two albums. What I discovered was an artist trying out new sounds, experimenting with different genres, and trying to figure out who she was. Britney is not as seamless of a listen as the first two albums in Spears’ discography. However, it has some iconic moments and some unexpected delights.
- I’m a Slave 4 U*
Arguably the debut of Britney being blatantly risqué. The song has an underlying Mediterranean influence along with the very overlying hip/hop, dance sounds. Despite the song’s title making it a potential breeding ground for misogyny, Britney is undoubtedly the one in control. It’s such a fun bop…and Britney danced with a snake!
Another single from the album that hits different in 2021 amongst the Free Britney movement. “I tell them what I like, what I want, and what I don’t/ But every time I do/ I stand corrected”…oof. It’s a powerful song about wanting to break free from the binds of those controlling you, and it becomes impossible to remove the meaning of this song from Britney’s current situation. It’s definitely a banger but also, #freebritney
“Lonely” definitely features a heavier R&B sound, in the vein of “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”. Britney’s famed vocal effects work on so many classic songs, but her vocals are a little weak here, and this is just not the song for it.
4. I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman*
One of Britney’s all time best ballads, this song could serves as the thesis statement for what she was trying to say on this album. This song has it all: beautiful instrumentation and melody, meaningful lyrics, and a great vocal. “I’m not a girl, don’t tell me what to believe. I’m just trying to find the woman in me.” It’s a song every girl, not yet a woman can relate to at that crucial point in their lives. So good.
We are back to risqué territory beginning with the extended spoken intro on this track. This song has both Eurythmics and hip-hop vibes, but its sound is definitely planted in the early 2000s. This song is definitely pushing the line, but Britney laughing throughout the song prevents the lyrics from being taken strictly at face value.
This song turns the ’80s up to 11 with a pure bubble gum pop sound that might rival anything with a similar sound on her previous 2 albums. Although it has mature lyrics (“I wanna rock with you/You’re feeling this right/Let’s do this tonight”), her vocals sound like they are floating on a cloud – a perfect fit for this song.
7. I Love Rock n’ Roll
A grungy/hip-hop take on the Joan Jett classic. In some ways it is faithful to the original, especially with the clap along chorus and gritty vocals. However, it removes the famous guitar solo in favor of Britney repeating the chorus in a talk sing fashion, which makes this cover err on the bland side. It’s a song about loving rock n’ roll with most of the rock n’ roll removed. Bummer.
This song has N’Sync vibes all over it. It’s a kiss off song about fairy tales not being true and, “breaking free from your lies”. An anthemic song that is resolute and strong in Britney’s conviction about ending this relationship. You go, girl.
9. Let Me Be
Track 9 is a variation of the same theme as “Cinderella”, but that song did it much better. I think many would agree that Britney can transform most ordinary pop songs into something interesting. Sadly, even she doesn’t have enough talent to transform “Let Me Be”. It is a very standard pop song that putters about without going anywhere; a pointless ear worm.
10. Bombastic Love
This one suffers from the same problems as “Let Me Be”. Despite have an interesting title, the contents of this song are very formulaic and the sparse arrangement causes it to feel unfinished. Very forgettable tune.
11. That’s Where You Take Me
A really breezy love song that is a needed change of pace after the last two tracks. While the sentiment is not that deep, it’s a nice listen. It just goes on for perhaps a minute too long.
12. What It’s Like to Be Me
This song is notable for the fact that it was written and produced by Spears’ then boyfriend, Justin Timberlake…and that’s about it. Like “Cinderella” above, this song has a very N’Sync sound with the dance beat and syncopated vocals. Like many other songs on this album, Britney is trying on different sonic outfits and trying to solidify her sound. This one just doesn’t quite suit her.