It’s been a big week for our best friend and princess of pop, Britney Spears.
On Thursday, New Orleans radio station B97 promised to premiere “Make Me,” the lead single from her upcoming ninth studio album, at midnight.
I’m a million years old and after several long delays, I wasn’t going to stop everything for a drop that seemed unlikely. This morning, however, I woke up to several texts in all caps alerting me that “Make Me” had actually dropped, and damn, it’s so good. It's personally important, too, since every incarnation of Britney has soundtracked each meaningful stage of my life, but more on that in a bit.
First, let's talk “Make Me," the sweeping, mid-tempo ballad laden with synths. Entrenched in a familiar Britney theme, the single opens in Brit’s dream of connecting with someone from across a crowded dance hall. The song steps into meta-territory and goes a step further in the bridge: “I just want you to make me move / Like it ain’t a choice for you / Like you got a job to do."
And that’s exactly what she intends to do. When the proverbial beat drops, Spears is joined in the chorus by what we imagine are hundreds of angels lighting up a desert night sky, cooing “Make Me / Oooh oooh oooh.”
In the current pop music atmosphere, leading a hyped album with a mid-tempo ballad isn’t revolutionary — see Ariana's “Dangerous Woman,” et al. But Britney feels at her most powerful and vulnerable over these kinds of sexy, tortured singles.
My favorite Britney songs include the likes of “Blur” from 2009’s Circus and “He About to Lose Me,” a bonus track from 2011’s Femme Fatale. It may not be a bold move on a global level, but for Britney Spears, "Make Me" is a true departure from her recent singles.
"Make Me" follows the Wednesday release of an ad for the most recent entry into her storied fragrance empire, the aptly titled Private Show. In the clip, we also catch a sneak peak of the hook of her same-titled song, another glimpse of her upcoming album.
It's a throwback to classic Spears ads that inspired the world of celebrity fragrances as we know it today. Never forget the original theatrical masterpiece that launched Curious, her first fragrance for Elizabeth Arden, in 2004.
The high production value and body gyrations seen in the "Private Show" teaser remind us why Spears rose to power in the first place. The actual scent is based on Brit’s obsession with Starbucks Frappuccinos, and is getting terrific reviews on global beauty blogs.
Why do I care? Because, as alluded to earlier, Britney’s career arc has mirrored my own life. From the sweet high school boyfriend, Erik, who thought the Pussycat Dolls’ “Stickwitu” was a romantic classic that would play at our wedding (“…Baby One More Time”) to the dead end-job and panicked flailing of my post-graduate 20s (“Britney Jean,” no shade).
I bookend the eras, jobs, and boyfriends of my life based on Britney’s albums. Let me tell you, the Blackout years were fun as hell, but so destructive that I’d never go back.
Our generation grew up with Britney, a new kind of celebrity. We were children of the internet, ones who mocked and tortured her for the next headline. Long criticized as a vehicle for the worst kind of capitalistic pop, Spears came back from one of the most public mental health crises of the century. The stability of her ongoing Las Vegas show greatly benefitted both her wellbeing and her status as an icon.
At this point, so-called Spears “comeback albums” have become the status quo. Each reinvention is more exciting than the last, Britney Jean notwithstanding (again, no shade). Sources suggest her long-in-the-works new album will be a mature rebirth.
However, judging by the new bodysuits from her most recent Vegas shows, it will be “mature” in the vein of #RHOBH cast member Erika Jayne — anthems about redefining your own sexuality and finding power in growing older. After all, Spears’s biggest musical contribution to date is completely shattering the subjects about which we allow popstars to sing.
“Private Show” and “Make Me” reveal some unfamiliar vocal territory from our princess of pop. She’s pushing her oft-derided voice to intriguing new heights. There’s a rumor swirling that this will be Britney’s final studio album — which, like, I can’t even right now — and it feels like she’s willing to put in the work to blow past our expectations.
But back to me! Britney’s move toward stability, passion, and security during the production of this album feels like the opening of a new era in my life. Single and fabulous exclamation point! It feels like the years of delays were just her team realizing that the world (/I) wasn’t in a place where I could accept a new album into my heart, but goddamn I’m ready now.
The end of the Private Show commercial reveals Britney dancing to an empty auditorium. Then, suddenly, we are knocked over the head with a quick camera flash, dramatic outfit change, and an outburst of thunderous applause. Britney is back to remind us all that she shares her most intimate moments on a world stage, making us move like it’s her job (it is).
Although her relationship with fame is complicated, to say the least, she’s at home in the spotlight, even if that spotlight is just a flickering elevator bulb on my ride up to work at 6 a.m. on a Wednesday. When she's releasing a global mega-hit, it always feels like it's just for me — and isn't that what's most important? But really, that rare ability to connect so deeply with fans is further proof Britney is pop music immortality.