Britney Spears
December 2, 2008
Jive / Zomba / Sony

I remember back in the day when I was supposed to hate Britney Spears. She was the epitome of dumb, blonde, and talentless. She was also an icon of pop culture that was, and still is, to be reckoned with. Britney Spears has, like Koda Kumi in my previous post, been the leader of the charge to push the envelope. She debuted in a Catholic school girl outfit asking to be hit one more time for the love of God! Against all odds, Ms. Spears is still in the business. With all her up and downs she has cemented herself in the psyche of Americans as the queen of pop. As I always say when people ask me why I listen to Britney, “I don’t go to Britney Spears when I want deep, heartfelt lyrics about soulful issues. I go to Britney when I want to shake my ass.” It’s really that simple.

Circus is Spears’s sixth studio album in eleven years. That’s right people, we’ve been listening to Britney Spears from (for me) 3rd grade until my sophomore year in college. That’s a lot of synth and auto-tuner for any generation. As her previous album Blackout demonstrated very well, she is in the mood to dance. Unlike Blackout, though, Circus doesn’t build on anything. Where Blackout built on the heavily synthed-up sounds of tracks like [Toxic] and [Me Against the Music], Circus starts from Britney (2001). Although the sound is decidedly updated, it is a step back in her musical evolution. But, that is not to say that it is bad. Circus has some of freshest beats and harmonies in the pop music business and Britney billows her way through sticky-icky beats like nobody’s business.

Opening track, [Womanizer], her first number one single since […Baby One More Time] (anybody else find that hard to believe?), bumps in with electric synth and a deep, intense beat that carries an until the end. The chorus is insanely catchy and everything I expect from a Britney song. Second single, [Circus] carries the theme of the album with another bangin’ beat and a dance break the Pussycat Dolls would kill for. While most of her dance tracks are exactly what they portend to be, standouts include [If You Seek Amy] a witty, vulgar play on words that is sure to get the right wing to boil and [Mmm Papi], a comedic turn at Spanglish with a fake British accent. Funniest part? “I’m mami, and that makes you papi, and that makes us lovey.” If you could see, I roll my eyes, but the song is still good. The best part of the song on the other hand is a high pitched moan that she does that is skipped by the mixer. It’s orgasmic. Bonus tracks comprise of two of the best songs out of the session that produced Circus but they aren’t on the normal edition of the album. Bloodshy & Avant and The Clutch produce [Phonography], a trendy, relevant treatise on our crack-like cell phone use; and [Trouble] an oddly familiar techno remix of interesting choral rhythms.

Slowing down, Britney shines exceptionally on [Unusual You] a song about falling in love with the right guy (at last…). The line that seals the deal: “Didn’t anyone tell you / you’re supposed to break my heart / I expect you to / So, why haven’t you?” [Out From Under] is a critically-okayed ballad, but I find it pretty at best. [Blur] is as close to thinking as Britney gets on Circus, singing about waking up after a night of partying in someone else’s bed and trying to remember last night through the blur.

While Britney will probably never be able to sing as well as she did when she debuted, Circus is a solid effort that deserves respect at the very, very least. But it isn’t Britney that really makes this album. That credit goes to people like Bloodshy & Avant, The Clutch, Max Martin, Danja, and Dr. Luke. Britney sings the songs but it’s as if she recorded it through the blur of a hangover. But the point of a Britney album is to wake up the next morning with a hangover in the bed of someone way too hot for you. It succeds in the idea of that at any rate. But without giving Circus too much credit, the album surprised me with the quality of what should have been filler. I didn’t feel that anything, with the exception of [Mannequin], was true filler. And for that I say, “Brava”. Keep making my ass shake, Britney. It’s your job and you do it damn well. Yes, ma’am…

Grade: 95%
Four Stars

Download: Kill the Lights, If You Seek Amy, Unusual You, Trouble, Phonography

~ by vinyabarion on February 1, 2009.

2 Responses to “Circus”

  1. *Gasp!* I must disagree about Mannequin’s status as filler. The atmosphere and rhythm arrangements make it truly unique, while still fitting seamlessly into the overall tapestry of the album’s style. Her thin, somewhat plastic vocal approach might be regarded as a lack of skill on any other song, but on Mannequin it, in my opinion, brilliantly adds to the overall feeling. Perhaps it’s just a fluke, or maybe my opinion’s whack, but if you ask me, that track is a total jam.

  2. As I have listened to it more often, I have found that it does indeed have some instrinsic value of its own. But I find it lackluster against some of the bigger, more slickly produced dance tracks on Circus. That’s just my opinion, and it may well be whack has welll :D


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