December 4, 2008

Britney Spears: Circus

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On her MTV special “For the Record,” Britney Spears proclaimed, “I don’t really like it when they say, ‘the comeback.’” Damn straight she shouldn’t like it, because it’s not true! Yes, she had a few life crises over the past year, but her music career never went away. While quite a handful of reviewers say that Blackout (2007) was not a true comeback, I strongly disagree. There were five solid singles off that CD (“Gimme More,” “Piece of Me,” “Radar,” “Break the Ice” and “Toy Soldier”) and it was one of the most successful party albums of last year. Now, Spears’s 2008 release, Circus, which some media outlets are calling her true-comeback, is in reality just an interesting follow-up to Blackout.
Circus, the sixth album release from Britney, made its American debut and on Tuesday (Spears’s 27th birthday). While the record is definitely one for the iTunes library, I’m not so sure how many “most played” lists all of the songs will be making. “Womanizer” has already terrorized the charts, ranking in the number one spot on the Hot 100 the week it was released. “Circus” is currently on the cusp of being the next top tune in the country. Besides those two tracks though, the other single possibilities (“Kill the Lights,” “If U Seek Amy,” “Mmm Papi”) are not nearly as strong as what Spears has offered up in the past. Although Brit-Brit does deserve much credit for her soft-spoken, digitized-vocal, ballad “Unusual You,” which seems to be exceptionally stellar, but quite undervalued, on the whole album is not Britney’s best.
Overall, Circus is what it’s titled, but not in the classic sense. According to this month’s Rolling Stone cover story on Britney, she recorded 30 songs and the 13 tracks that made the final cut are the best of the best. I’ll agree that these are 13 quality songs, but I have to question why “Radar” (originally released on Blackout) has been re-released as the album closer when there were supposedly 17 other options. I also must question the ordering of the songs. For example, “Lace and Leather” a naughty song about seduction that boasts the lyrics “Your one and only pleasure / All decked in lace and leather,” is followed by a sentimental ballad to her children titled “My Baby.” That’s one circus of a track listing if you ask me, but not the kind of circus I expected from Ms. Spears, the recent mental patient.
Also in this month’s Rolling Stone article, Spears dished that when she’ s a brunette she’s sad, but when she’s a blonde she’s happy. Well, on the cover of Blackout she was a brunette and there was quite some anger flying around (“I’m miss bad media Karma / Another day, another drama”) while on the cover of Circus she has returned to her better-off blonde roots (“Mr. Photographer I’m ready for my close up / Make sure you catch me from my good side — pick one”). Britney’s new confidence, missing in the recent past, makes an appearance on the album, but it is by no means a comeback. If anything, Circus is a matured version of the classic Britney that made her a star in the first place, but slightly lacking in the pizzazz that is expected from such a mega-performer.