Britney Spears is back -- perhaps for real this time.
In September, the teen-pop veteran sassed her way though “Work Bitch” with enough zombie-eyed determination to get Pop & Hiss mildly enthused about her comeback album “Britney Jean,” due Dec. 3.
But with its chanted vocal hook and its unforgiving stadium-rave beat (produced in part by will.i.am), “Work Bitch” is very narrow-band Britney; it presents only a tiny part of the broad emotional spectrum reflected in Spears’ best work, including her last comeback album, 2011’s excellent “Femme Fatale.”
You get much more of her in “Perfume,” a new midtempo “Britney Jean” track that Spears released Sunday through her Facebook page -- where she told us, “This is like sharing a piece of my heart” -- and then put it on YouTube.
Co-written by Sia, it’s about how Spears plans to mark her territory (which is to say her man) with a scent presumably drawn from her extensive line of celebrity fragrances.
“Sometimes it feels like there’s three of us in here, baby,” she sings over a gently percolating synth pattern, before admitting, “I wanna fill the room when she’s in it with you.”
Yet rather than putting across these words with a kind of campy menace, Spears goes unexpectedly soft; she’s pleading, not commanding. And that returns the star to the appealingly complicated zone of such tough/not-tough classics as “Everytime” and “Piece of Me.”
Listen to “Perfume” below -- and hope that there’s more on “Britney Jean” where it came from.