Coinciding with the ceasing of Britney Spears conservatorship on November 12 a group of 19 female-identifying and non-binary artists have partnered with Head Bitch Music to release the #FreeBritney project. A seventeen-track collection of some of the pop star’s monumental and career-spanning hits, performed by a number of independent artists, with 25% of the earnings going to ACLU SoCal. The album represents a tangible and emotional stand of solidarity for Britney by the large cast of singers who appear on it, as well as vocalizing support for all survivors of conservatorship/guardian abuse and abuse within the greater music industry towards women.
The reworks of the songs on #FreeBritney vary in their reimagination of immaculate hits like “Oops!…I Did It Again” and “Toxic,” but what remains constant is the passionate resonance of each artist’s connection to Britney’s music. Illicit Ghost opens the album with “Gimme More,” a potent dance track and the artist’s favorite Britney song; while gay hollywood, aka Carmen Elle, lends some brooding electronica to the stellar ballad “Sometimes”; and “Work Bitch” becomes a grinding, grunge-rager thanks to Brooklyn-based L’FREAQ.
But the return to Britney’s songs also necessitates brushing up against the fact that the singer released four studio albums while under the conservatorship. In revisiting songs like “Overprotected” singer/songwriter Olivia Dear, who gives a heartwrenching rendition of the song on the album, recognizes the song’s “eerily ominous” lyrics that point to Britney’s protectors as being more controlling than was known at the time. Other songs like “Toxic” (JPOLND, Rachel K Collier) and “Circus,” performed by the enigmatic TANGELA, point to the constant vitriol spewed by the media and celebrity gossip culture at Britney as complicit with the abuse she received.
More poignantly ZOLA, a singer/songwriter from San Francisco, paints Britney’s struggles anew on “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” But the overwhelming sentiment from the artists who’ve lovingly put together the album comes from a carefully guarded optimism that the end of the conservatorship will afford freedom and peace for Britney moving forward.
Quotes from some of the featured artists:
“I was sickened by the control exposed over her (Britney’s) life via her abusive conservatorship. I hope this can shed light on arrangements like this for all people from popstars to every day people who are in abusive, controlling situations. ‘Oops!…I did it again” is such a jam, and one of my favorites growing up. I can’t even believe how iconic the song is, it was a no brainer to take it in a slightly unhinged horror pop direction.”
~ Dresage – “Oops!…I Did it Again“
“Obviously in the last couple of years we’ve all gotten more familiar with the Britney Spears conservatorship case and the concept of conservatorship abuse in general, but I’ve kept thinking about how if someone like Britney Spears who seemingly has so much power and money can be in this situation, how many other people must be trapped in situations – without the entire world rallying behind them. I’m honored to be part of this project and had so much fun producing this track … “Lucky” was the only Britney Spears song I” was really obsessed with as a kid. I liked Britney, but this song in particular I was OBSESSED with … I must have been five years old but I was already an extremely emo child and it deeply affected me emotionally for some reason.”
~ Talker – “Lucky”
“I chose to participate in #FreeBritney because it’s the least I can do as a fan, after the imprint she left on pop music and women’s sexual confidence. So many of us were complicit in watching her public cries for help when she had no privacy or autonomy. I remember watching an interview with her being asked invasive questions (“Are you still a virgin? Did you lose your virginity to Justin?”, etc.) without thinking anything of it. Gross … “I chose the song Radar because I think it’s one of her most underestimated tracks. Her attitude and pop vocal performance carry the song. I love the confident, Blondie-esque stalker vibe she taps into, and enjoyed tapping into this emotion for my reimagined version with TAIINA.”
~ BELLSAINT, TAIINA – “Radar”
Listen to the new album #FreeBritney below!