Pop superstar Britney Spears' Britney Jean album landed five years ago on Dec. 3, 2013. Touted as her most personal efforts at the time, it included "Alien," a song that provided some insight into Spears' guarded life.
For the most part, Britney Jean ended up being a miss for fans despite containing the eternal workout hit and job economy booster "Work B*tch" and one of Spears' best recorded vocal performances to date, "Perfume." Looking past those official singles, there was a time when "Alien" appeared to be the next release in line from that album. In the 2013 documentary "I Am Britney Jean," Britney expressed a closeness to the song and implied it would be the third single. That never came to fruition, but "Alien" remains a hidden gem in her vast discography.
When word first got out about "Alien" in November 2013, fans were excited at the prospect of Spears teaming up with pop vanguard William Orbit, the producer behind Madonna's Ray of Light album and All Saints' "Pure Shores." She wrote the song alongside him, Dan Traynor, Ana Diaz and Anthony Preston. Orbit provided Spears with a folktronica soundscape as she likened herself to a lonely extraterrestrial waiting around for love. "Had to get used to the world I was on while still yet unsure if I knew where I belong," Britney sang. There was gorgeous galactic imagery that seemingly hit home for the singer, who has been guarded by her family and team since bouncing back from her personal struggles in 2007 and early 2008. "Alien" is truly one of kind in Spears' songbook and something that still feels like a direct transmission from her into what probably feels like an isolated world sometimes.
Spears wanted to include "Alien" in the initial shows of her Las Vegas residency Piece of Me but later decided to hold it off for a future leg. When she broke up with her boyfriend David Lucado in early 2014, she bumped "Perfume" briefly from the setlist to perform "Alien" instead. That year an alleged demo of the song leaked featuring a not-so-flattering vocal warm-up from Britney. The fuss around the clip pushed "Alien" to No. 8 on Billboard's Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart. Orbit defended her and released two special remixes: the psychedelic Insurrection Mix and the club-ready Crossing the Universe Mix.
Follow-up album Glory in 2016 included "Man on the Moon," a celestial sister and heartbreaking apparent sequel to "Alien." Britney Jean was certified Gold in the U.S. earlier this year, probably thanks to the heavy streaming "Work B*tch" gets in the gym and SoulCycle classes. Spears returns to Vegas in February for her new residency Domination at the MGM Grand's Park Theater.