Britney Spears is getting a music makeover from Beyonce’s mentor. On Thursday, I heard some new tracks from Britney’s forthcoming still untitled album, and I can tell you: They're not bad.
Jive Records, distributed by SonyBMG, will release the album on Nov. 13 despite Spears’ recent troubles. It will go head-to-head with another BMG release, Alicia Keys’ “As I Am.” I’ve heard several tracks from that album, too.
While Keys’ album is certainly more important artistically, Spears’ has a lot more riding on it —like, her career.
The trick will be how to promote Spears’ CD. So far, my sources say Jive is just going to put the CD out and not depend on Britney for publicity. They’re not going to let another debacle like Spears’ MTV Video Music Awards performance happen again. No sir, no way.
Britney’s fans — and by the numbers she generates with this column she must have a lot —already know “Gimme More.” It’s the first single, and probably the lead track, although nothing is set in stone.
This much is known, however. Spears’ guiding light on this project is Jive’s new A&R guru, Dallas-based Theresa LaBarbera Whites. She’s the same women who is credited for discovering Beyonce, Destiny’s Child and Jessica Simpson, and putting their careers on track.
That means that Whites is working with producers and writers to get Britney the right sound for an album's worth of hits. If the album tanks, which it shouldn’t, Jive and Spears will be in boiling hot water. ...
But from the sound of it, Britney’s got a couple of hits ready to go after “Gimme More.” In particular, a track called “Heaven on Earth,” written by a California duo called Freescha, is a smash, I think. It’s a totally original dance track that comprises a distinctive and catchy melody. It sounds fresh and exciting, and it’s eminently hummable.
If Jive can get a video out of Spears for this song, they’ll be in good shape. The song was co-produced, too, by Kara DioGuardi, a 26-year-old one-woman pop music hit factory.
No, it’s not Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell, but it’s got a beat, and the kids can dance to it.
Another track, “Piece of Me,” is written and produced by a team called Bloodshy and Avant. (Don’t you love these names?)
Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg are the same Swedish music production team that did “Toxic” with Britney in 2004. They tailored “Piece of Me” to be a reaction to Spears’ treatment by the tabloid press and the paparazzi. She gets to sing lines about the photogs “pissing me off” and taking pictures of her derriere.
The song has a clever production — it sounds like Britney’s trapped in a pinball machine — as it rhymes “rich and famous” with “shameless.” The producers even get to chime in vocally, singing “Extra! Extra!”
The two other tracks I heard were more straight-ahead electronic disco. “Radar,” produced again by Bloodshy and Avant with The Clutch this time (an Atlanta hip-hop outfit) has sonar pings and sounds like Las Vegas goes EuroDisco. (Check out The Clutch’s MySpace page; you’ll be pleasantly surprised and wonder why they’re not getting big push.)
“Break the Ice” was produced by Nate “Danja” Hills, protégé to Timbaland and the man behind “Gimme More.”
Add these to some other tracks floating around the internet — “Cold as Fire,” produced by rapper T-Pain, in which Spears uses the F-word — and we have some idea of what to expect on Nov. 13.
No, it’s not in the same class as Alicia Keys, whose “As I Am” is going to blow away everyone who hears it. As usual, Keys wrote all the songs, including one with John Mayer.
But Britney’s audience is different, and if she can make a quick connection in the clubs and disco radio, her career has a chance to be “Heaven on Earth.” The alternative would not be a happy outcome for anyone.
Thursday night, while celebrity photographer Patrick McMullan hosted throngs of socialites at the Whitney Museum, we broke bread with Chaka Khan.
Chaka Khan! Yes, indeedy. The occasion was a party at the Fifth Avenue duplex penthouse of Denise Rich for a songwriter friend and to introduce a female group she’s producing on her 785 Records called Epiphany. They’re the daughter and nieces of Kathy Sledge, don’t cha know, of Sister Sledge fame.
Patti LaBelle was already in the house when Chaka — roughly two hours late, but we love her — arrived. The R&B divas hugged while the DJ played some Aretha Franklin songs. The party was so much fun, it may still be in progress.
But over at the Whitney, Patrick — the hardest working man in show biz — touted his newest picture book, “Glamour Girls.”
Social X-rays, debutantes and party hostesses, wives of CEOs and even Martha Stewart and Blaine Trump were among those who lined up to get a signed copy from Patrick, who is one of the good guys.
Really, this party was so swell that it looked like it was in a movie about New York society. I should add that Maybelline paid the freight. …
Elaine’s was quiet Thursday night around 10:30, but then former New York Gov. George Pataki came in around 11 p.m. with Charles Gargano while Ann Coulter dined with Lloyd Grove, and Sharon Bush (the prez’s former sister-in-law, mother of Lauren Bush) arrived with Sinatra stepson Bobby Marx.
Other sightings: TV producer Russ Kagan ate with soap-opera guru-agent Jim Sarnoff; Bobby Zarem perked up; criminal-defense lawyer Mickey Sherman put in an appearance; a gang from the Times hunkered down and things, shall we say, got going, especially when John Miller, now FBI communications guy, formerly LAPD and before that hard-charging local NYC reporter on the mob, sauntered in.
Two out-of-town businessmen sent Coulter a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne. “We love you!” they said. ...
It sounds kinkier than it was, but on Wednesday night, Brooke Shields was blindfolded during dinner. So were Chloe Sevigny, Gina Gershon, Katie Lee Joel, Carol Alt, former Barneys chairman Gene Pressman, Chris Barish with wife, Michelle, musical director John McDonald and Boston hotelier Seth Greenberg.
This happened at Public restaurant, where the celebs taste-tested Sebeka Wines from South Africa courtesy of Lente Roode (director of the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre) and Stephanie Gallo (Gallo Winery). Sebeka is one of many up-and-coming vineyards from South Africa, which has turned into a hot producer in the last few years. …
Joni Mitchell’s “Shine” album is No. 4 on Amazon.com. (Did we help? We tried!) If you buy it there, and don’t know much about Joni, pick up what I think is her masterpiece, “The Hissing of Summer Lawns." …
And Bruce Springsteen’s “Magic” is No. 1 on Amazon, up from No. 2. (Did we help? We tried, even though it was hard!) Again, Springsteen’s great work is “The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle.” It’s genius. ...