Originally scheduled to “hit radio” today, Britney Spears’ new single ‘Work Bitch’ instead hit the internet over the weekend, so we’ve all had a chance to mash our heads up against its punishing EDM wall of sound and marvel at the kind of lyrics that would sit nicely on the next Tory manifesto. Somewhere in all that cacophony are some lessons to learn. Like these.
We know will.i.am. He dresses like Captain America (80s re-edit), builds entire songs (‘Boom Boom Pow’, ‘My Humps’, ‘This Time (Dirty Bit)’, ‘Check It Out’) around ideas you only get when you’re drunk, and has already tried to ruin Britney’s career with last year’s almost entirely merit-free ‘Scream & Shout’. He’s up to his old tricks here, assembling every whacked-out notion he ever tapped into his phone while pretending to listen to pub singers on The Voice into one big unholy mess. ‘Work Bitch’ is a four-minute, stop-start intro – that actually turns out pretty exciting. Genius!
Britney has already tried to own the word with the deathless “It’s Britney, bitch” on 2006 single ‘Gimme More’. It’s been hard to say her name without appending it since. But, you know, it’s still always sounded a bit off – only now, somehow, it’s an affectionate nickname with an in-built treat-you-mean needle of encouragement. If you’re Britney’s bitch, at least she’s lavishing some time on you, cajoling you to realise your potential. You could be like her, you know. That’d be good, right? No, Britters, this one’s not going to float.
The metamorphosis is complete. Britney Spears is maniacal Conservative grandee Norman Tebbit. Look, it’s no good sitting on your arse waiting for economic recovery to kick in. If you want to have Britney’s life – the good bits – you need to put in some graft. You want to “live fancy“? Maybe get a Maserati, or a Lamborghini too? “Live in a big mansion… Be the champion… Sip MARTINIS?” Well, you’ll be wanting a job. Get on your bike to the local employment office and you’ll be partying in France in no time.
The Moriarty to will.i.am’s, er, Moriarty, Swedish House Mafia’s Sebastian Ingrosso also has a certain ‘creative involvement’ in ‘Work Bitch’. You can tell this because halfway through there’s a kettle-whistling beat-frenzy that vaporises in a rave crescendo JUST LIKE EVERY SINGLE SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA RECORD. Ingrosso himself has since claimed that he’s not directly implicated – he just manages co-writer Otto Knows – but he pointed will.i.am towards his protégé’s beats. It’s to Britney’s credit that she recovers and gets straight back on the electro horse for the final furlong.
And a bit like Nicki Minaj doing that not at all played-out English accent thing. The “ring the alarm” business is a little too Aguilera for comfort as well, but Britney’s spread her robotic personality all over ‘Work Bitch’ and – with some pretty dubious cohorts – has made something nagging, something addictive. It might be EDM, post-EDM, proto-EDM, deconstructivist-EDM. It might have all the soul of a USB key. Whatever the limitations, ‘Work Bitch’ has jolted Britney awake and made her a topic again, all without will.i.am sticking one of his stupid hashtags in front of it.