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Britney Spears - Circus Review

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Britney Spears - Circus Review

Back in college, I wrote a review for Britney's self titled album (2001's "Britney") for my college paper's weekend edition. In my review I did a silly little analogy - comparing Britney's past two albums to various types of bubble gum. I don't remember the specific type of gum "Britney" was but I do remember giving a generally negative review. Perhaps it was because I was young, perhaps it was because at the time I really didn't care for the album - whatever the case may be, I've had years to reflect on that review (which wound up winning me some kind of award at the end of the year) and I've changed my mind.

Britney Spears - Britney 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.

Britney Spears - BlackoutNeedless 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.

Britney Spears - Womanizer Single 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?

Britney Spears - Circus - Fanmade Cover

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 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.

Britney Spears - Everytime Single 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!

Britney Spears - Kill The Lights - Fanmade CoverBritney Spears - Shattered Glass - Fanmade Cover

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.

Britney Spears - Lace and Leather - Fanmade Cover 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.

Britney Spears - Circus
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.

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Blogger Steve said...

Very good review, it is a very balanced one. I would almost go and listen to Circus. No, in fact I think I actually will do it one of these days!

But I am no Britney fan. I don't like her (imho way too limited) vocal capabilities and I never liked her image (innocent girl turned vamp?). There are stars with limited vocal capabilities that I do like (a lot...), but Britney just never hit that thing with me. Slave 4 U is the only track I ever really liked.

December 8, 2008 at 12:13 AM  
Blogger Bones_Doll_House_615 said...

i'd hav to say i all around agree with your review except, i absolutely love bombastic love from Britney... but the song is an aquired taste so to speak, some of my friends like it, some don't. but i absolutely love Lace & Leather, Out From Under, Kill The Light's, If You Seek Amy, Shattered Glass, & Unusual You off of Circus! I think you're right about Blackout, i have 1 friend who didn't even know about the c.d. until last week...
can't wait for her next album!

April 10, 2009 at 1:05 AM  

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