"(Drop Dead) Beautiful" is a song recorded by American singer Britney Spears for her seventh studio album Femme Fatale (2011). It features guest vocals from American singer Sabi. The song was written by Jeremy Coleman, Joshua Coleman, Esther Dean, Mathieu Jomphe and Benjamin Levin. "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" received mixed reviews from contemporary music critics, who deemed it as one of the best offerings of the album, despite criticizing Sabi's verses.
After trying to choose between the song, "Criminal" and "Inside Out" to be the fourth single from Femme Fatale, "Criminal" was selected, although Sabi revealed she pictured a music video for "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" in a similar style to the performance of 2011's Femme Fatale Tour. The performance consists of Spears singing and dancing to the song while her dancers are carrying picture frames. Sabi performed the song with Spears in selected cities. Despite not being released as a single, "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" managed to peak at number forty-one on South Korea's Gaon International Chart, due to digital sales separate from Femme Fatale, and also appeared on Billboard's Dance/Electronic Digital Songs chart.
Spears spoke to V about the sessions for Femme Fatale, commenting that she had been recording the album for two years. During the recording sessions, the singer contacted songwriter Ester Dean in 2009, after receiving a demo of the song "Drop It Low", which Spears wanted to record. The song, however, was later released as Dean's debut single. Spears then recorded two songs co-written by Dean for Femme Fatale. "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" was written by Dean, Jeremy Coleman, Joshua Coleman, Mathieu Jomphe, and Benjamin Levin, while being produced by Blanco, Ammo, JMIKE, and Billboard. It features American recording artist Sabi. Spears first heard about Sabi after listening to songs from The Bangz, an old music group the latter participated. Sabi explained that, after she was asked to collaborate with Spears, she felt it was so surreal that she refused to believe her luck until the song was recorded.
Although both singers worked with producer Benny Blanco in studio on "(Drop Dead) Beautiful", Spears recorded her vocals for the song before Sabi, who actually raps on the track. The latter also revealed she felt lucky and honored because Spears does not do features often, while commenting that "it's just pretty crazy, I mean, I grew up watching Britney Spears. All my friends watched Britney Spears and we even had a routine to ['...Baby One More Time'] that we were gonna perform, like, for a middle-school talent show. So it's a dream come true. Never did I ever think that I'd be in the mix with Britney. I'm just lucky." When asked about how she learned about Sabi in an interview with Rolling Stone, Spears revealed, "friends and people around me are always showing me new artists that they love and that's how I learned about Sabi and ended up working with her on '(Drop Dead) Beautiful'. I have always wanted to feature a new artist on one of my albums and she is really cool." A small teaser of the song was unveiled by the singer on March 7, 2011. Four days later, it leaked in full online, along with another Femme Fatale track, "Inside Out". On August 5, 2011, Spears posted a poll on her Facebook page asking fans whether her next single should be "Criminal", "Inside Out" or "(Drop Dead) Beautiful." After the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, she revealed to MTV News that "Criminal" was chosen as the fourth single.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Spears revealed that her idea initially was to make an album that was "fresh-sounding [...] for the clubs or something that you play in your car when you're going out at night that gets you excited, but I wanted it to sound different from everything else out right now." "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" is a party song with a heavy club beat. The elements used on the song's background were compared to similar used on songs by The Black Eyed Peas, Usher, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga, while its bass line was said to be "a cousin of the ground" for the Eurythmics' 1983 single "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)".
In the verses, Spears is flirting with a guy, in lyrics such as "Look at you/Look at you/Be my sweetie/Be my honey tonight/Look at you/Look at you/Be my sweetie/Be my honey tonight/'Cause you're beautiful/Drop dead". Sabi rap's also alludes to the theme of the song, with lines such as "I think I like you/Boy, boy, look at you/I want to get next to you/Got me kind of hot but I ain't sweating you/Steaming like a pot full of vegetables". Spears references The Notorious B.I.G.'s hit "Hypnotize" in "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" in the line "You must be B.I.G. because you got me Hypnotized". Spears' vocals on "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" were deemed as "robotic", but similar to the ones of "Oops!... I Did It Again" (2000). Jocelyn Vena of MTV noted the singer uses her deep vocals in lines such as "And, yeah, your body looks so sick, I think I caught the flu" and "You must be B.I.G. 'cause you got me hypnotized".
"(Drop Dead) Beautiful" received mixed reviews from contemporary music critics. While reviewing Femme Fatale, Alexis Petridis of The Guardian noted Spears "does what pop stars invariably do in lieu of having a detectable character of their own: goes on and on about sex", while commenting that "after a while, you get the feeling the lyricists just gave up trying in the face of her indifference: 'You got me kind of hot … Steaming like a pot full of vegetables,' she sings, which somehow makes you think not of thrillingly sweaty congress but the smell of boiled cabbage." Contemporary critic Robert Christgau noted the songs on the album are "such a convincing illusion that any guy who goes all the way with it has too much libido invested in the bimbo fantasy", saying that the singer is "just too straight-faced" on "the nauseous 'Your body look so sick I think I got the flu'". A reviewer of Samesame.com.au compared the background vocals of the song to Kesha's "Blow" (2010), and noted "guest rapper Sabi wish[es] she was Nicki Minaj". Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani considered "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" one of the album's "best offerings", comparing the song to Christina Aguilera's "Desnudate" (2010).
Keith Caufield of Billboard noted the song "doesn't take itself too seriously. Halfway through the number, the luckiest rapper in the world, Sabi, appears, inexplicably rhyming 'sweatin' you' with 'vegetables'," while Digital Spy's Robert Copsey considered it "self-assured". The A.V. Club's Genevieve Koski commented that "inane lyrical premises like those" on the song "are salvaged by the mightiest of hooks, pummeling the listener into lobotomized musical escapism". David Buchanan of Consequence of Sound said both "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" and "I Wanna Go" "brings Dirty Vegas memories, plus phoning in that Far East Movement 'Like a G6' backing track would have been put to better use with Spears' producers". Thomas Conner of the Chicago Sun-Times noted Spears "drags her down low as if she's Rihanna" in the song. MTV writer Eliot Glazer said that, "even as a mom with two kids, Britney still manages to ooze sex appeal in "Beautiful," cementing her place as the world's number one MILF". Hannah Rishel of The Daily Collegian said "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" was "possibly [her] favorite song on the album", commenting that "it’s cheesy and ridiculous, but Spears makes it work in the song". Following the release of Femme Fatale, "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" reached number forty-one on South Korea's Gaon International Chart, after selling 7,500 digital units of the song alone. The song also appeared on Billboard's Dance/Electronic Digital Songs chart on the week of April 23, 2011.
"(Drop Dead) Beautiful" was first performed by Sabi at the Wango Tango of 2011. On 2011's Femme Fatale Tour, a video interlude in which the stalker talks about femme fatales in history sees the beginning of the third section. Spears returns to the stage wearing a golden outfit and performs an Egyptian-inspired version of "Gimme More", containing a barge and fireworks. In her next number, "(Drop Dead) Beautiful", Spears is surrounded by her dancers carrying picture frames, and includes an appearance by Sabi in select cities. Sabi revealed she pictured the music video for the song based on the live performance of the tour, saying, "what we do onstage is very Egyptian, Middle Eastern-like feel and a lot of vanity kind of stuff. So I would just imagine what we kind of did for the green screen, where there's mirrors and there's boys that are like oiled up. [...] I would imagine us in goddess-looking outfits and us looking vain". On August 3, 2011, ABC Family announced that "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" would be available for free download on their website, until the premiere of the Teen Spirit series on August 5, 2011.
Credits for "(Drop Dead) Beautiful" adapted from Femme Fatale liner notes.