A guest blog written by Arielle Tschinkel. You can agree/disagree with her here.
Song: ‘Inside Out’
Artist: Britney Spears
US chart peak: Wasn’t released as a single
Release date: March 25, 2011 (as part of the album, obvs)
Writers: Lukasz Gottwald, Jacob Kasher Hindlin, Mathieu Jomphe, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee
Producers: Max Martin, Dr. Luke, Billboard
Quintessential Max moment: The not-so-subtle lyrical winks to ‘…Baby One More Time’ and ‘(You Drive Me) Crazy’
Video synopsis: There was no video 😦
‘Femme Fatale’, Britney’s seventh studio album, came out almost exactly six years ago, which feels like a lifetime in the ever-changing world of pop music. By this point, the Britney ‘comeback’ narrative was well underway, after the boat-steadying success of 2008’s ‘Circus’; she was touring, winning MTV Video Music Awards, and snuggling up with Jason Trawick. In Spearsland, things were, in Britney’s own words: “Sexy and Strong. Dangerous yet mysterious. Cool yet confident!”
The subsequent album from this ‘cool yet confident’ time was pretty great (a solid 7/10), but not enough people outside the core Britney fanbase give it enough credit for how cohesive it is. Outside of the bangers, obvious album highlight ‘Inside Out’ pairs the signature Britney sweetness with a synth-y, sexy bass line to create pop gold.
The premise of the song is pretty simple, and something we can all relate to; breakup sex. Who among us hasn’t been drawn to an ex like a moth to a flame? Breakups are a pretty common theme in the Britney repertoire, but instead of being angry, a la ‘Shattered Glass,’ or devastated a la ‘Everytime,’ ‘Inside Out’ acts as a sister song to ‘Showdown.’ Sometimes, the only way to get over an ex is to get under him…one more time.
Lyrically, the song is bolstered by the not-so-subtle nods at two of her earliest Max Martin collaborations: “Hit me one more time, it’s so amazing how you shook my world and flipped it upside down / You’re the only one who ever drove me crazy ’cause you know me inside out.” Amazing. In fact, six years later and it still gives me goosebumps. Anytime Britney gives us a wink to her iconic past, it’s gold. (Okay, maybe not full shiny gold on ‘Clumsy’ [“Oops!”], but certainly some pretty good knock off jewellery gold).
Vocally, the song is peak-Britney. It’s robotic, breathy, and wistful all at the same time. The thought of our girl sittin’ in the mirror gettin’ pretty for a loser ex-boyfriend makes me sad, but that indignant “SO COME ON!”, and those empowered “baby”-s, prove that she means business. Also, nothing is better than when Britney pulls out that no-nonsense, “sexy and strong” attitude. “I’m telling you, let’s just give it up and get down, and get down, and get down…” Ask, and ye shall receive, girl.
Critics often lament Britney’s use of heavily processed vocals as a lack of personality, as if she’s keeping the world at arm’s length to her true emotions. ‘Inside Out’ proves that’s simply not true – sure, her vocals are roboticized, but she’s engaged and vulnerable. Sexuality is Britney’s bread and butter, but she’s at her best when she opens up about heartbreak. This song was a rare glimpse into that pain on ‘Femme Fatale’, which was a generally dubsteppy, dance-heavy record.
‘Inside Out’ was rumored to be the second single off Femme Fatale, until ‘Till The World Ends’ was released. I definitely agree with that choice, but this song still should have been a single. Later, Britney’s team ‘took to Facebook’ to poll fans on their choice for the fourth single (which is the most 2011 thing I’ve ever heard), and ‘Criminal’ was chosen over this and ‘(Drop Dead) Beautiful,’ a decision which was, well…criminal.
Don’t get me wrong, I love all three of those songs, but ‘Inside Out’ never got its due, and that’s a bummer. The mid-tempo melody paired with Britney’s incredible, warped, slinky vocals made for a perfect piece of pop music. The fact that the masses didn’t get to hear it is a shame.
If you’d like to write a guest blog on a Max Martin song that didn’t make the US Top 10 then there’s information on how to do that right here.