BRITNEY SPEARS – “I’ve Just Begun (Having My Fun)”

The intricacies of Britney marketing relegate this to an In The Zone bonus track in some countries; a non-release in others. Which is odd, because you could imagine it being a post-“Toxic” single. If Kelis’ “Trick Me” hits big then Britney’s people might think they’ve missed a trick: “I’ve Just Begun” bounces along on a similar stiff-limbed skank. Britney being Britney though there are plenty of embellishments – she rarely tries or suits sparseness, one reason her Neptunes tracks never quite convinced. The Neptunes’ space-toyshop productions are full of gaps which a Justin Timberlake can fill with eager charisma, always working the crowd. (Timberlake keeps the mouseketeer spirit alive much more than his ex does.) Britney was never comfortable with them: her studied moans click best when she’s surrounded by production that can match her glossy, showy engineering.

That’s why “Toxic” was so great, because it was so busy, a collection of glittering ideas supercollided until they catalysed into a song. People complained that Britney sounded anonymous; they missed the point, that Britney has always sounded happiest as a component in a pop machine, the huger the better. “I’ve Just Begun” piles on the blips, buzzes and squeals and then dollops on a “Toxic”-ish string jab for good measure: the result is high-quality, if generic, ’04 Britney. Its one difference is the pre-chorus, an amusing bite of Timberlake’s style that turns the track into a subtly specific kiss-off tune.