Britney Jean is Britney Spears' 8th studio album which was released on November 29, 2013 by RCA Records.
In 2012, while serving as a judge on the second season of the American version of "The X Factor," Britney Spears was spotted in the recording studio with producer Rodney Jerkins.
Songwriter Elijah Blake commented that Spears was "definitely trying to push the envelope" by "playing with new textures and stomping on new grounds and genres." However, their collaborations 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 Spears for the album's early stages.
Additionally, Spears had also recorded an unused song with rapper Wiz Khalifa for the album. In an interview with Shape Magazine, she 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 Spears, 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 2013, Spears acknowledged through Twitter that she "wrote such a special song" with Sia, which was later revealed to be Spears' 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, Spears 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."
Spears added that the production of the record was an "amazing experience" and that her colleagues "helped [her] bring [her ideas] to life." She told Rudolph, "I want Will to be a central figure in the album; I don't want to have hundreds of songs sent over."
Prior to the release of the album, allegations were made by critics and fans that the vocals on the track "Passenger" (which leaked online ahead of the release) were not entirely Spears's.
Claims were made that Myah Marie (a backing vocalist present on Spears' albums, "Circus" & "Femme Fatale") sang lead vocals on a large portion of this song as well as other songs on the album. Spears's team claimed that the song leak was a demo version.
Chelsea Handler later accused Spears of not singing the lead vocals on "Perfume", insisting: "It's obviously a new person singing. It's not her."
Reps for Spears responded, "Myah Marie didn’t do any background vocals on the song and doesn’t have credit. [The] only backing vocals on Perfume are from Sia. Britney absolutely sings on Perfume."
Following the release of the album in December 2013, Marie was not included in the credits for "Passenger" or "Perfume", though she was credited as a backing vocalist on a number of other songs from the album. Claims were made the following year with the online leak of vocal stems from "Alien" that Marie's lead vocals were featured in this song as well.
- Alien 3:56
- Work Bitch 4:08
- Perfume 4:00
- It Should Be Easy (featuring will.i.am) 3:27
- Tik Tik Boom (featuring T.I.) 2:57
- Body Ache 3:26
- Til It's Gone 3:43
- Passenger 3:40
- Chillin' With You (featuring Jamie Lynn) 3:38
- Don't Cry 3:14
Deluxe edition bonus tracks
- Brightest Morning Star 3:00
- Hold on Tight 3:28
- Now That I Found You 4:17
- Perfume (The Dreaming Mix) 4:02
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 Spears' lowest sales and chart debut for a studio set; previously, her 1999 debut album, "...Baby One More Time" tallied her smallest start with 124,000.
In its second week on the chart, the album fell from number four to number 22 on the Billboard 200, making it Spears' first album to only spend one week in the top ten. As of May 2020, "Britney Jean" has sold 280,000 copies in the United States.
In Europe, "Britney Jean" debuted at number 34 on the UK Albums Chart, selling 12,959 copies in its first week.
In doing so, it became Spears' 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, the album reached the top 20 and 30 in most countries; however, the album debuted at number one in China.
"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 21 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 Spears' third studio album, "Britney."
Nick Catucci of Entertainment Weekly shared a similar sentiment, stating that he "treasures" Spears 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 it 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".
Some critics felt the album was impersonal despite its marketing. The Chicago Tribune compared the album's contents to its title, noting: "the hype about her most 'personal' album yet begins with the album title [...] which promotes a sense of intimacy that the songs never quite deliver."
The Atlantic described the album as "her most disappointing release yet", calling it "dull" and criticized the album's content matter, noting that "glimpses into Britney Jean Spears, the artist, are, frankly, neither interesting nor informative."
Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph stated that Britney Jean "continues the striptease of Britney's career", and felt that its production prevented the record from coming across as a genuinely personal effort.
Billboard noted that the album did "not fully shed light on its author's current mindset." The New York Times described the album as being "about as personal as an airline preboarding announcement."
The production on the album was also pointed out by critics. Sal Cinquemani from Slant Magazine provided a mixed review, criticizing the album's "dated production and vocals that hark back to the days when Brit was selling 10 million [records]".
Barry Walters from Spin criticized will.i.am's production on the album, claiming that the songs he produced "replace[d] melody with repetition and familiarity," but praised Spears's vocal delivery on the track, "Don't Cry."