What have we done as a culture to deserve “Scream and Shout,” Britney Spears’ new collaboration with will.i.am? After leaking over the weekend, the song has officially premiered, and it sounds like punishment inflicted by a vengeful god.
Listen to the song here… if you dare.
For one thing, this song makes Spears even more anonymous than she usually is. She hasn’t had anything approaching a musical personality since “Toxic,” since producers just bury her voice beneath electronic trickery or distort it until she might as well be a robot. I’ve talked about how this is understandable, since Spears doesn’t have much of a creative spark, but that doesn’t make it right. Why should we listen to music by a singer who has nothing left to offer? Why should we listen to songs that sound like they were entirely sung by computers? Doesn’t that just make us spiritually impoverished consumers, passively absorbing whatever is shoved in our ears and mindlessly accepting the death of the human in our art?
If “Scream and Shout” is a hit, then the answer to last question will be a horrifying “yes.”
At the beginning of the track, will.i.am has Britney speak-singing in a low British accent, which is maybe supposed to be funny, but is instead just odd and distracting. Or maybe it’s another woman speaking? Who can tell? It’s not like the computer-filtered result really sounds like a person. Hell, it might’ve been ME saying all that stuff. I’ve heard I talk in my sleep. Maybe will.i.am snuck a microphone into my bed.
Whoever she is, the female vocalist pretty much disappears after that, leaving will.i.am more room to say stupid things into his vocoder. Ultimately, there’s only one phrase in the entire song where we can even recognize that Britney Spears is performing, and even then, she’s just delivering a background line in the chorus.
And of all of this might be okay—if depressingly inhuman—if the beat were hot. But it is not hot! “Scream and Shout” has three structural elements, all of which are lugubrious, and it just repeats them ad nauseum. The song never grows or fluctuates. It never even operates above the low-watt energy of a stoner trying to brush his teeth in the morning.
The only context in which this foul emission make sense is at a party where everyone is already fucked up. If you’re so high that you will move to anything, then this could be the jam for you. But if you’re aware enough to pay attention, the you will probably either feel angry or sad within 20 seconds. I pray to Cher that the world rejects this thing and that it disappears forever.
Mark Blankenship is actually offended by “Scream and Shout.” He tweets as @IAmBlankenship