Q: Why did Britney Spears's latest album, "Britney Jean," perform so terribly? Has she lost her mojo in a Miley- and Gaga-obsessed world?
A: In fairness, Spears did score the only debut in this week's Top 10, and she's having to compete with the "Duck Dynasty" people, who have the Lord on their side. But nobody is calling "Britney Jean" a success. The album debuted on the Billboard charts at No. 4, Spears's lowest bow, like, ever, y'all. Initial sales of 107,000 copies fell below even the most modest industry predictions of 115,000 to 120,000 units. In contrast, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Miley Cyrus all had more robust album debuts this year.
Why all the meh surrounding "Britney Jean"?
Well, you can start with the music itself. The album's first single, "Work B---h," is fairly catchy, but the companion video fails to showcase Spears's onetime trademark, her dancing. The track failed make it into the Top 10 of Billboard’s Pop Songs airplay chart. It also had the shortest run on that list of any first single from the singer's albums.
"It's lackluster," one music publicist told me. "It's what you've seen and heard from her before."
Spin magazine's Rob Harvilla agrees that Britney Jean lacks the oomph of an "Oops! ... I Did I Again" or "Britney."
"The album is just a drag, I'm afraid," Harvilla tells me. "'Work B----h' is hilarious, and [follow-up single] 'Perfume' is actually pretty fantastic, but from there it falls off a cliff — there's not much worse than bad will.i.am. It's pretty vapid throwaway EDM, and I say this as a vapid-EDM enthusiast. She's no Ke$ha, alas.
"And as a media provocateur, she's dwarfed right now by the Miley/Gaga/Katy nexus — it's not that it's necessarily a younger woman's game, but it is exhausting and probably soul- and personal-life-destroying, so I choose to hope that no news is good news in terms of her overall well-being, even if no news equal lousy sales."
The marketing for "Britney Jean" also appears to be MIA, per Harvilla
"It just wasn't there — the Pepsi or McDonald's partnership. Britney could definitely be all over the hemisphere in terms of tweets or blogs or skits on Funny or Die or popping up in a movie as a cameo, or a surprise appearance on 'SNL,' but I haven't seen any of that with this album."
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Leslie Gornstein is an entertainment writer and the host of the weekly Hollywood gossip podcast The Fame Fatale.