Lyric videos: They aren't just for your kid sister's Justin Bieber fan clips anymore.

Yesterday, Britney Spears released an official lyric video for "Criminal," her upcoming fourth single off Femme Fatale.

First of all, awesome: That song has a darker edge than some of her previous work, but still retains her trademark computer-y syrup-y sweet voice, if that's your thing (and it's kind of mine).

But it got me wondering: When did lyric videos become an official, publicist-touted release? Spears still plans to be put out a traditional music video—in fact, she's been making headlines across the pond for her Criminal video shoot. So apparently, this lyric video is just to build buzz and get you talking about the song.

Check it out below:

Intrigued? I don't quite understand how this builds any more buzz than simply having the song on the album. It will definitely help with your drunk karaoke, but it's not like a lyric video is going to go viral.

Although, I've got to say, a good one is certainly hypnotic. The first big lyric video I can think of that really captured my attention was Cee-Lo Green's ubiquitous hit, F*** You.  I remember hitting replay over and over (though that may have just been because of the catchy tune). The basic white text over the bright backgrounds—it was the best PowerPoint presentation I'd ever seen.

Besides Spears and Green, other artists dabbling in lyric video artistry include Jason Derulo and P!nk. But not all are on board: Both Rihanna and Katy Perry's most recent singles have an official audio video on Youtube, featuring just a stock image or moving design — no lyrics on screen.

Interestingly, most don't even have photos of the artist in question. I could kind of understand this phenomenon if fans were getting a sneak preview of some kind, or behind-the-scenes shots of their favorite singers.  But typically, they don't. Are we to think of these as placeholder videos, to be subbed out once the real thing is finished?

Tell us what you think: Are they just a hopeful buzz builder, or is something else at play? And do they hold your interest, or just make you want to hold out for the real thing?

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