Britney Spears has a decade of musical debauchery behind her. From her simple beginnings as the class slut ("...Baby One More Time") to submissive video maven ("I'm A Slave 4 U") to Madonna's bitch ("Me Against the Music") to psychotic paparazzi favorite ("Piece of Me"), Ms. Spears has led a humble legacy. At the height of her public downfall, 2007 brought the world Blackout, an album that found Spears lost in every possible way and exhibiting very little interest in furthering her own career. Her promotion of the album included the infamous MTV performance of "Gimme More" and the single phone interview she did with Ryan Seacrest. It seemed, while she was releasing progressively entertaining singles, that she just didn't care anymore. I cannot support an artist who doesn't support herself, and in recognition of this fact, I declined from buying Blackout. Fast forward a year.
Is her life a Circus?
Circus showcases a bold image difference from the computerized (visually and vocally) Blackout era, a healthy and happy Britney posing on the front and confidently bursting onto the radio, screen, and charts with the lead single, "Womanizer." I'll be honest, readers, I hated this song. At first listen, the song was lazy and repetitive. The video changed everything for me though, the concept inventive and Spears herself playful and energetic, clearly happy to show off her body again and enjoying the opportunity to poke fun at herself. She's performed the song on multiple award shows both in the US and overseas, taking charge of the promotion and really making an effort to steer her career in the right direction. This is an artist I can stand behind.
"Womanizer" features a plucky swing beat and a dreadfully catchy... everything. The word itself is repeated to insanity, and continues to plague the mind many hours later. The chorus is fun and the verses are well-written. Everything about the song is just enjoyable, and while the swingbeat-made mixes for this song unwieldy and difficult, I felt a few were just enjoyable enough to shake my ass to. "Circus," the follow-up single and title track of the album, is a true and triumphant Britney Spears pop song with a pensive underbelly (the first verse in particular) and a supremely executed hook. The scorching hot video is nothing to scoff at either. The Danja-produced "Kill the Lights" takes a more urban-dance approach to Britney's pop style, her vocals seeming to emulate the Pussycat Dolls while the beat stomps around your speakers. "Shattered Glass" is a beautiful upbeat pop tune, vacillating between cold and jagged verses and a soft and melodic chorus. The most scandalous song on the album is also the most innocent at first glance. "If You Seek Amy" bounces along like a high school house party until the title of the track shows up: "All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy." Yeah, just say it out loud. She's not that innocent, hasn't she told you before?
A few ballads
It isn't all a party though, Brit's brought the ballads back with the help of Guy Sigsworth, who lends his ready handiwork to "Out From Under" and "My Baby." No one can handle a soft moment quite like Sigsworth and he doesn't disappoint on these tracks. Neither does Brit, her voice adapting to that vulnerability and softness we've become accustomed to with her ballads.
Other standouts on Circus include: Bloodshy & Avant's "Unusual You" which definitely does not sound like a typical Britney song (reminds me of Imogen Heap actually); Brit's co-written slap-happy jam "Mmm Papi"; trance-funk "Lace and Leather"; and Blackout survivor "Radar."
Safe to say that Britney's back, in my estimation. While I'm not a Brit fanatic, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that if she continues putting out intelligent albums like this (and for Britney standards, this *is* an intelligent album) she will surely carve her name in musical history as an artist and not a tabloid victim.
Released December 2, 2008 on Jive Records.[p0