While “Britney” had it’s share of duds (i.e. – “I’m Not A Girl,” “Anticipating,” “Bombastic Love,” etc.) but it also had it’s share of hits. “I’m A Slave For You” was her first dip into the DIRRTY pool, “Overprotected,” and “Boys” were also fun, bangin’ tracks. The problem was that the album still had an innocent vibe throughout – and the track list didn’t flow seamlessly from song to song. “Slave” was a dirty, raunch-fest while “Anticipating” was a bubbly pop track circa the “…Baby One More Time,” era! There was a certain disconnect present on the album.
Needless to say, she’s done some growing up between 2001 and 2008. I’m not going to lie, I really think “Blackout” is a strong album. It’s darker, electro-fueled, with a bit of an urban vibe. The problem was Britney wasn’t physically ready for an album release. That couldn’t be more evident in her now infamous MTV performance of first single “Gimme More.” She had a bad year, let’s just say that much. The promotion was non-existent and that can be partially blamed on Spears’ bad year.
Flash forward to now – when I heard that the label wasn’t releasing “Radar” as the third single from “Blackout” and that she was recording a new album – I was excited, but somewhat skeptical. I was excited because she was recording again which suggested a certain amount of lucidity on her part – but was it perhaps too soon? Well after the album leaked a couple of weeks before the official release date (December 2, 2008) I knew that it wasn’t too soon. The video for first single “Womanizer” was fun (a la “Toxic”) and all of the tracks seemed to have a certain energy about them. While her live performances are still fairly lacklustre – she has time before she goes on tour with the album. Now – what about the album?
Fanmade cover art by Vin via Coverlandia Blog
First single “Womanizer” took some time to grow on me. The repetitive nature of the hook was too much at times. When the video was released, that’s when my opinion shifted. Produced by The Outsyders, “Womanizer” is a club-banger, with none of the accompanying dance remixes coming close to the original. Follow up single “Circus” is equally as strong. Produced by hit maker, Dr. Luke – it’s most certainly a single worthy track. I enjoy the melody in this track…at least it has a melody unlike “Womanizer.” Also – the video for this track is epic! Huge! Fabulous! “I’m like a performer, the dance floor is my stage,” Britney purrs. She couldn’t be more right.
Now let’s talk about her ballads for a second. Let’s be honest here for a minute – Britney doesn’t have the pipes to sing a Leona Lewis-style big, riff-filled powerhouse ballad. She just doesn’t. That being said, an appropriately produced down-tempo track like “Out From Under” is perfectly suitable for the performer. One of two tracks produced by Guy Sigsworth (Sugababes, Alanis Morissette, Frou Frou), “Out From Under” is a beautiful Brit-Brit Ballad. What this will sound like live (not lip-synced) is another question entirely, but this song isn’t half bad. It’s better than “Everytime,” that’s for sure!
Fanmade cover art by Inkstewer via Coverlandia Blog
Other stand out tracks on the album include, my personal favorite – the gorgeous Bloodshy & Avant-produced “Unusual You.” Stunning! Absolutely stunning. “If U Seek Amy” was a song that made no sense to me, lyrically. Sure it was fun, electro-poppy – but WTF was she talking about? “All of the boys and all of the girls are beggin’ to if you seek Amy…” What? Then it all made sense. I started reading about the double entendre in this song and finally – after listening to it on repeat about 10 times in a row – it clicked. Max Martin – you clever, clever man! It’s fast become one of my favorite tracks. The Danja-produced “Kill The Lights,” and Benny Blanco/Dr. Luke-produced “Shattered Glass” are also fun clubby tracks. So…are there any duds here? Yes. Yes, there are.
Fanmade cover art by Vin via Coverlandia Blog
Well. Perhaps “dud” is too strong a word. There are tracks on “Circus” that are still growing on me and who knows – maybe they won’t grow on me at all! Tracks like “Lace and Leather” (Dr. Luke), “Blur” (Danja), “Mannequin” (Harvey Mason Jr./Rob Knox), “MMM Papi” (Let’s Go To War) and to an extent “My Baby” (Guy Sigsworth). Let me just say though, that of all of these tracks – “MMM Papi” has the biggest chance of winning me over. It’s just so endearingly silly that you can’t help but smile a little.
When all is said and done, “Circus” is a pretty solid album. As with all Britney albums, it’s a bit overproduced, but that’s probably for the best. I don’t know what Britney’s actual singing voice sounds like but I know that she probably couldn’t sing the entire track list live and dance at the same time. I’m not knocking Ms. Spears…her high energy performances on stage take a lot out her! It would be next to impossible for someone to be doing that much dancing and moving around and not have a shaky voice. Although, Beyoncé can do it so maybe I’m off the mark here. When you get down to it…the album is fun, energetic and full of life. A nice return to form for Ms. Spears. We’re certainly not dealing with bubble gum anymore. We’ve moved on to something a bit spicier.