Album Review
Britney Spears - Circus

The world has spent the past decade trying to make Britney Spears the new Madonna. At times, the passing of the torch seemed inevitable, but ten years after Miss Spears danced her way down the hallways dressed as a seductive schoolgirl and into America's collective heart, she seems to have more in common with the king of rock n' roll than the queen of pop. Like Elvis, Britney is just a sweet simple southern-born star whose swiveling hips have caused parents' faces to turn red. Both have become massive icons of their era and recorded some of the most memorable songs of their time (Obviously, Presley's body of work has had a much larger impact on popular music than Spears' ever could, but still...). Both have, at some point in their careers, walked the delicate line of being a squeaky clean sex symbol. The most striking similarity between the two is the way they have been used, abused, and manipulated by those around them. For Elvis, this resulted in death. Britney, during her darkest, "fat Elvis" days, seemed inches away from becoming a tragic figure herself. Major news outlets had obituaries written and were just waiting for the overdose or paparazzi car accident that would finally end the most gripping celebrity reality "show" the world has ever seen.

That said, Circus has more in common with Hard Candy than any Elvis record. It's packed with red hot dance songs, but has its share of filler and works better as a collection of singles than a cohesive album. "Womanizer", her biggest hit this decade and the record holder for biggest jump in chart history (#96 to #1 in a single week) is a slice of futuristic, cutting-edge electronica that Britney has come to be known for. Its extremely repetitious, not to the point that it grates on you, but just enough to lodge itself inside your head and refuse to leave. The title track is another surefire hit as Britney sings, "There's only two types of people in the world: the ones that entertain and the ones that observe. Well baby, I'm a put-on-a-show kind of girl." Oddly enough, the second of two pre-choruses is the best part of the entire song. It's probably because of the heavy breathing in the background.

While listening to Danja introduce the paparazzi-taunting "Kill The Lights", I wondered why no one thought of mocking the John McCain celebrity ad. "She's the biggest celebrity in the world, but, is she ready to lead?" It honestly would have made the song that much better. "If U Seek Amy" sounds like a Pink/Katy Perry reject, but somehow she pulls it off. "Love me, hate me, say what you want about me, all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if u seek Amy." If that doesn't make any sense, say it three times fast.

The album features three slower songs, only one of which is utterly awful ("My Baby"). The other two, "Out From Under" and "Unusual You", are some of the record's highlights. The ballad, "Out From Under", produced by Guy Sigsworth of Frou Frou fame, provides airy atmospheric orchestration for Britney to contemplate coming out from under all of life's problems. "I don't want to feel the pain. What good would it do me now?" she asks. The single best moment of the entire record however, comes on "Unusual You" as Spears laments, "Been so many things when I was someone else, boxer in the ring tryin' to defend myself". At that moment, she ceases to be Britney Spears the popstar and she's just Britney the person. Like everyone else, she's been hurt and felt like there was no one on her side, only with her, the entire world was watching.

Circus is no 1968 Comeback Special, but considering how far Spears fell and how quickly she has gotten back up, it works. With the cut-and-paste ability of iTunes, Britney fans can easily mix and match there favorite tracks and B-sides in the order they want to make their Circus just right. There are bonus tracks that are miles better than some of the songs that made the album, and it could afford to be reshuffled. Jive inexplicably added "Radar" from Blackout, so if you want, tack on "Toxic" and no one will mind. After two stellar coherent albums, Britney is back in the category of 'singles artist', but since we won't be finding her dead on her toilet with a jelly doughnut anytime soon, she has time to crank out her masterpiece eventually. Let's just hope it's before she turns 50.

Must download:
"Unusual You"


vicm said...

Circus could definitely use some reshuffling. That part where Danja's all like "we interrupt this dance music.." I'm like...what? The last song was a ballad? That's what itunes playlists are for.

Anonymous said...

All I know is the womanizer video is HOTTTTTT.

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