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Britney Spears The Singles Collection Review

Compilation. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

Essential pieces of the past ten years of pop history.

Mike Diver 2009

It might seem rather odd that this new collection features fewer tracks than 2004’s greatest hits collection, My Prerogative. But though trimmer, this set represents the best disc yet from arguably the biggest pop artist of the past decade, packing more hits (and bigger sales figures) into the equation than any other festive-period best-of. Put simply, this is the definitive Britney album.

Because, after all, who needs one of her ‘proper’ albums – sets featuring the singer’s three or four hits of the campaign in question padded out with a smorgasbord of filler material. They’re out there because the industry model demanded it, though with release strategies and marketing budgets evolving and fluctuating respectively, it’d be no surprise if artists of Spears’ ilk ultimately stopped producing long-players altogether. If Ash can do it, then…

While her career hit the skids in the middle of the decade – no need to elaborate on that here – Britney’s comeback with 2007’s Gimme More and Piece of Me, and the following year’s Womanizer, was phenomenal. With the singer assumed lost to a life of perennial befuddlement, expectations for her post-wilderness material were low. So when Gimme More proved to be every bit as repeat-play friendly as peak-period hits I’m a Slave 4 U, Boys and the Grammy winning Toxic, all predictions for what might follow went out the window.

Seven of these 18 tracks are from Spears’ 2007-‘til-now phase, and the excitable energy of If U Seek Amy, Circus, Radar and recent stateside chart-topper 3 comes filtered through admirable nods to electro artists and production houses of utmost respect. While her songs might have matured lyrically, often lacking the comparative innocence of her breakthrough hits and swapping innuendo for outright smuttiness, compositionally they’re astonishingly fresh. Even Girls Aloud were too squeaky clean to do justice to Womanizer when they covered it, such is Spears’ unashamed directness (though Sugababes could probably pull it off these days).

Spears’ revival in the last two years is evidence that even the most easily pigeonholed artist can eschew expectation. After all, when you’re seen as having nothing left to lose, anything with a little bite is going to leave an impression. And these songs don’t just make a mark, lingering in the memory – they are essential pieces of the past ten years of pop history, and deserve better than dismissal by so-called discerning listeners.

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