Britney Spears – I Wanna Go
When it comes to Britney Spears there are so many deep cuts, leaked demos and a legendary entire scrapped album for us to delve into. For me, when you mention Britney songs that should’ve been HUGE hits there are only two that spring to mind. One is My Only Wish (This Year) and seeing as it’s summer, today I’m writing about I Wanna Go.
So, Britney in 2011: her very public breakdown was over three years ago and although she was in much a healthier state, the shadow of those events still loomed strong. Her father (and for a time, her other half) had control over her financial decisions, and her half-hearted performances and dead-eyed appearance caused many to speculate Britney was being forced to continue her pop career against her will. Other people claim that Britney was doing what she loved but the last few years had knocked her confidence in performing. Whatever you believe, it’s hard to argue that between the heavily auto-tuned vocals and lack of creative input from Britney, Femme Fatale is one of her most anonymous albums.
Of course, sometime’s a popstar’s emotional disconnect can work well – just look at Patsy Kensit in Eighth Wonder or Rachel Stevens on the entirety of Come and Get It. Good producers know a lack of distinct personality equals malleability, and it gives these knob-twiddlers are a chance to experiment with their own sound rather than conform to an artist’s.
Sadly I don’t feel this was the case with lead single Hold It Against Me. I’m going to get flack for this I’m sure, but the song is a dud: naff vocals, a shoehorned in dubstep breakdown and, like most of the parent album, lyrics that try and find new ways of saying ‘I want that D’. What it did have going for it was a strong video, detailing Britney’s meteoric rise to fame, fall from grace and subsequent return to form. The video seems to have faded from public consciousness however, whether due to the ADHD over-editing or the duff song it was paired with. This is where we get to I Wanna Go: the third single that, in every way, should have been the first.
First of all, the song itself: it’s a banger. New Order-esque hard synths, a cheeky whistled hook and the right amount of stuttering. The lyrics encapsulate Britney during this time: “Lately people got me all tied up / There’s a countdown waiting for me to erupt” – that’s every thinkpiece and magazine cover right there. Under all this media scrutiny (and her father’s conservatorship too?) all Britney wants is to “be a little inappropriate”. The writers (Shellback, Savan Kotecha and MAX BLOODY MARTIN) understand Britney’s frustrations and channel them in a tongue-in-cheek way: “Shame on me / To need release” she giggles. A lot of the writers on Femme Fatale cast Britney as some sex obsessed robot and, yes, in I Wanna Go she’s prowling for the D but not just out of unbridled animal lust – she wants to do it because it’s a naughty thing to do – everyone’s telling her not to act out and she just needs to feel liberated.
(Also there’s a bit where she goes “un-con-controllably-la-bly-bly-la-la-la-bly-bly” and I used to think it was “I can’t control the bleed” and her menstrual cycle was making her act this way. You probably didn’t need to know that but I bet you’ll never listen to the song the same way again.)
Onto the video, which, in a career filled with iconic visuals, is her best. Fight me. It’s bizarre, ass-kicking, hilarious and super referential, both to Britney herself and other pop culture. First of all, her outfit: Avril Lavigne wishes she could still pull this off. And the dead Mickey Mouse is the perfect F-bomb to her early Disney days. Speaking of F-bombs, the opening skit is note perfect, parodying the ridiculousness of celebrity gossip rumours and showcasing Brit’s strong comic timing and delivery. We’ve all had that moment in our lives where we wish we could deliver a mini-rant like hers.
Things only get better from there as the following happens: being searched by whilst simultaneously grinding on a sexy policeman, punching paparazzi, Crossroads 2: Cross Harder, killing Terminator-esque cyborgs with a microphone whip and getting seriously turned on by a carton of milk. And seashells. And Thriller. Take note of how to do film homage properly, Iggy Azalea.
So why was this song not the titanic smash it so clearly deserves to be? Well, in the US it kind of was. It gave Britney her third top ten from Femme Fatale, the first time in her career that had happened, which is all sorts of unbelievable. In the UK it didn’t even touch the top 100, the first time in her career that had happened, which is all sorts of unbelievable. Just think how much better it could have done had it been the lead single. Shame on you, record label. Sh-sh-sh-sh-shame on you.
Entered chart: Did not chart. Wikipedia says 111 if you want apparent specifics.
Who could sing this today and have a hit? With some actual promotion, Britney. She’s not above putting a song on multiple studios albums (Radar), so who says she couldn’t try again with the limited edition of B9?