On November 29, 2013, Britney Spears will drop her eighth studio album, the highly anticipated Britney Jean. “Perfume” is the second single from the album, following September’s divisive single “Work Bitch,” which seemed to be hated more than it was loved (at least among people I know).
Well, fans who thought “Work Bitch” was too forward-thinking or stupid, or whatever else their complaints were, can rejoice because “Perfume” could not possibly be more different. For starters, instead of being a massive EDM track, it’s a fairly subtle, mid-tempo ballad. Yes, I said BALLAD. I know it’s been a long, long time since Britney released a ballad, but “Perfume,” which she co-wrote with Sia, proves to be well worth the wait.
Of course, Britney’s ballads have generally been her most lackluster singles, but fans of her B-sides and bonus tracks have long cherished her ballads, as the ballads left off of the standard releases of her albums have tended to be better than the ballads that actually made her albums. Who can forget “I Run Away” or “When I Found You,” two gorgeous electro-pop ballads that were foreign edition bonus tracks from the album Britney? Trust me, if you’re a Britney fan and you’ve heard them — and you’re not a serious Britney fan if you haven’t — then surely you remember them because they were both stunning and more than a little touching, among her best songs to date. But this is a review of “Perfume,” so I digress.
“Perfume” was produced by will.i.am and Chris Braide, Braide being the writer and producer of many of the songs on this year’s stellar soundtrack to The Great Gatsby. Like the songs on The Great Gatsby soundtrack, “Perfume” manages to sound both perfectly modern and a bit retro all at once. And I would have to say that it’s one of the best tracks that will.i.am has ever had a hand in producing. Of course, I tend to strongly dislike everything Will does, so perhaps that’s not saying much, but, yes, “Perfume” is beautifully-produced.
It starts off on a subtle note with quiet, little electro-beats — along with sporadic, bolder beats — and tender piano, Britney singing softly with an air of precious vulnerability and melancholy about her voice, wondering if her boyfriend still wants her or not. “Is there still longing there?” she asks. And is he cheating? That begs more questions: “Am I being paranoid? Am I seeing things? Am I just insecure?”
The pre-chorus mentions the number “three,” but not in the fun way that she sang about three in the sex romp “3.” Here, the lyrics go, “I want to believe / It’s just you and me / Sometimes it feels like there’s three / Of us in here baby.”
When it hits the chorus, it suddenly leaps from being a delicate ballad to a massive and highly addictive one with lots of sunshiny synth, shimmering strings and huge, intense beats. “So I, wait for you to call / And try to act natural,” Britney sings with a bit of anxiety in her voice, fitting the lyrics perfectly. “Have you been thinking ’bout her or me? And while I wait, I put on my perfume / Yeah I want it all over you / I gotta mark my territory.”
And if the chorus doesn’t hook you, there’s a passionate post-chorus that immediately follows. It includes the brutally honest lyric: “I hide it well, hope you can’t tell, but I hope she smells my perfume.”
Which leads us to the second verse, which is as sweet and fragile as the first. But I’m not here to quote *all* of the lyrics, so I think I will wrap things up here by simply stating the obvious: if you’re a Britney fan, then you need this single NOW. And if you’re not a Britney fan, this one just might win you over, assuming you love a good ballad. Because this is a very, very good ballad. I should think that fans of Miley Cyrus’ current hit “Wrecking Ball” would especially adore it.