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The curious case of Britney Spears’ voice: Where did it go?

It has been almost two decades since Britney Spears burst onto the scene, becoming a worldwide phenomenon for her catchy pop tunes, sex appeal and all-American charm. But wait — shouldn’t a singer be known for their voice, you ask? The answer is no. Well, not in Britney Spears’ case as she was, is and never will be known for her singing. It simply isn’t her strong suit.

The conversation surrounding Spears’ vocal abilities surfaced earlier this week when a vocal warm-up of her Britney Jean standout “Alien” hit the blogosphere. On the leaked audio, which is an unfiltered vocal warm-up, Spears sings the tale of being an outsider and not fitting in, and homegirl definitely doesn’t sound too hot, so what gives?

During her childhood, Spears undoubtedly had a very strong voice; it had depth, strength and even captured the attention of Star Search judges. I mean, she wouldn’t compete in a singing competition if she couldn’t even carry a tune.
Fast forward years later and our Brit Brit would continue to show off strong vocals during her debut years, especially on her very first LP …Baby One More Time. But as time went on, and the choreography intensified, Spears’ vocals began to diminish in strength, the lip-syncing increased and the slobber of auto-tune started getting heavier and heavier. Factor in her smoking, inconsistent live performances and you basically have the current state of Spears’ voice.
So what’s a fair interpretation of Spears’ voice? It’s probably best heard on her latest single “Perfume.” After one quick listen of the pop ballad, it’s clear this is her present-day voice without all the heavy textures, overwhelming auto-tune and multiple layers of her own voice. This is Britney Spears singing. She’s utilizing her lower register, showing off some genuine vulnerability, and providing us with what is probably her best vocal in years.
And yet, even though her vocal strengths have decreased throughout the years, there’s still something to hearing a Britney Spears track. You know it’s her right off the bat. There’s no question whether she’s cooing, purring or giving her best belt. You know it’s Britney, b****.

Aside from her recognizable tone, Spears can still convincingly pull off several singing hats. Whether she wants to act seductive (“I’m a Slave 4 U”), vulnerable (“Everytime”) or heartfelt (“My Baby”), B is a vocal chameleon, if you will. She’ll never pull off the strongest vocal compared to her peers. She’ll probably never satisfy her detractors, who claim she can’t sing. But at this point in the game, she’ll also probably not try to please anyone but herself.

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