I’m not ashamed to admit that I was a Britney Spears fan back in the day. And when I say “back in the day”, I will also admit that “the day” was four years ago. Hey, I grew up in the era of boy bands and pop princesses, and in my teenage world, Spears’ reigned supreme.
Even by the time she released Greatest Hits: My Prerogative in 2004, I snatched it up for my personal collection, despite already owning all the individual albums the songs came from. Most critics panned the collection, saying that Spears’ wasn’t far enough into her career to be releasing a “Greatest Hits” album (fair enough- her first album was released in 1999 and 2004 is only a mere five years later), and I honestly have to agree.
The first single and opening song is Spears’ remake of Bobby Brown’s My Prerogative. While on the surface, it would seem that Spears has nothing in common with 80’s R&B singer, Brown, you can definitely grasp why she chose to cover this song by taking a glance at the lyrics. Spears growls her way through the defensive lyrics (“Everybody’s talking all this stuff about me/Why don’t they just let me live?/I don’t need permission, make my own decisions/That’s my prerogative”), and though the cover sounds a bit similar to the original (I’m pretty sure that’s still Bobby Brown screaming “OH!” in the background), Spears and her production team, Bloodshy and Avant, do a job of putting a fresh pop spin on the track.
Spears puts on her best sex-kitten persona for Toxic. I’ve always loved this song; the siren of strings that play throughout, the awesome electric guitar riff and the catchy hook (“With a taste of your lips/I’m on a ride/You’re toxic, I’m slipping under/With a taste of a poison paradise/I’m addicted to you/Don’t you know that you’re toxic”) easily makes the track one of her best songs. Another favourite of mine appears next in The Neptunes-produced track, I’m A Slave 4 U. Despite the fact that the song was released in 2001, it still sounds fresh and sexy now. The Neptunes’ sleek production is mostly what makes the song so good, but Spears’ breathy, seductive vocals also add to the song’s charm.
The Neptunes make a second appearance with Boys (The Co-Ed Remix). This is another song I’ve always been a fan of- more polished production and the banter between Spears and Neptunes’ lead, Pharrell, are what make the dance song enjoyable. The fierce electric-guitar heavy sound of Stronger was a big change in musical direction for Spears in the time the track was released (in 2000, on the Oops! album). Even now, this track isn’t so bad. Of course, Spears’ vocals are traditionally pretty weak, and I am admittedly sick of hearing her sing her trademark “bay-bay” in every song, but I do like the empowering lyrics in the chorus (“‘Cause now I’m stronger/Than yesterday/Now it’s nothin’ but my way/My loneliness ain’t killing me no more/I’m stronger…”), and if nothing else, the song is extremely fun.
Unfortunately, I’ll have to agree with Glvrican’s assessment of this record and say that the rest of the songs aren’t as “fresh” sounding. Hearing Oops! I Did It Again for probably the first time in five years is nearly cringe-worthy. The corny backing music, Spears’ over-enunciated vocals, and the awful lyrics (“Oops!… I did it again/I played with your heart/Got lost in the game/Oh, baby, baby/Oops!…you think I’m in love/That I’m sent from above…/I’m not that innocent”) all tumble together in what is probably one of the cheesiest songs from the early 00’s. I honestly can’t even believe this song was ever on the radio, and I definitely can’t imagine hearing it on the radio now.
The same thing goes for Spears’ older hit singles, like …Baby One More Time and Lucky. …Baby, was of course, Spears’ claim to fame, but the music seems terribly dated now and even though I know this track was released in 1999, it sounds like something that would’ve come out of the very early 90’s- just no good. The chorus is still as catchy as ever, but the weak lyrics stand out more to me now than they did when I was 12. Mid-tempo Lucky is a thinly-veiled personal narrative, but the overproduced sound and poor lyrics (“She’s so lucky/She’s a star/But she cry, cry, cries/In her lonely heart”) make for the kind of embarrassing pop music that no one wants to admit having ever enjoyed.
Sadly, some of the worst tracks seem to be Spears’ “recent” hits on the album. The pop world had been salivating over a Spears/Madonna duet for years, but the result, Me Against The Music, fails to impress. I don’t really like most of Madonna’s music post-2000 anyway, and this sounds similar to most of the stuff she released then- fast-paced, cheesy pop with some busy synth- to me, nothing more than a musical trainwreck. Spears and Madonna have no musical chemistry, the lyrics are boring (“All my people on the floor/Lemme see you dance/All my people wantin’ more/Lemme see you dance”), and the duet, as a whole, falls flat. Lullaby-sounding ballad, Everytime, is sweet enough, but the dreary melody and tone go nowhere and the song lingers on far longer than necessary. Outrageous is a wannabe club hit (and was even written by R. Kelly, strangely enough) but the poor production doesn’t do much to make the track stand out. I’ve Just Begun (Having My Fun), besides having an annoying title, isn’t much better- though at least the chorus is a bit more memorable (“I’m just a crazy kind of girl/I’ll tell it to the world/I’ve just begun having my fun”).
The disc ends with the worst of the tracks, Do Somethin’. Spears growls her way through this wholly unattractive dance song, and again, it’s the overproduced sound that really gives me a headache. Overall, this sounds like something P!nk would’ve released around the same time, which is definitely not a favourable comparison to make, as I definitely can’t stand most of P!nk’s music.
I do have to agree with other music critics in saying that Britney Spears’ Greatest Hits album was prematurely released; while this disc is fairly representative of her earlier hits, the “recent” songs at the time of this album’s release are pretty horrible and certainly aren’t hits now. It would’ve been better if Spears and her team held off a few years- as now, 14 years after her debut, it would seem more appropriate for a Greatest Hits album. At the very least, it would’ve included some of her more recent songs which were actually hits (“Gimme More”, “Womanizer”, and “Till The World Ends”…just to name a few).
1. My Prerogative
3. I’m A Slave 4 U
4. Oops!… I Did It Again
5. Me Against The Music
8. …Baby One More Time
9. (You Drive Me) Crazy
15. I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman
16. I’ve Just Begun (Having My Fun)
17. Do Somethin’