Monday, December 08, 2008


Song: Amnesia
Artist: Britney Spears
Album: Circus

Just a little over a year ago I was deeply surprised as something that occurred that I never thought possible… I liked a Britney Spears record. Last years “Blackout” was what I always thought the girl might have in her, a killer dance-pop record. Sure I’d liked singles from Britney before, but making it through a whole album was a hard pill to swallow. But “Blackout” was refreshingly ballad-free, and contained some of the best tracks she’d ever laid down. But of course as we know homegirl went a little crazy, barely promoted it, and its pop brilliance was lost under the clutter of tabloid garbage.

So in just over a years time we saw America’s (sort of) Sweetheart go from bat-shit crazy to the comeback, and this is the album to do it. I don’t really know if she’s ready for all this, as made evident in the MTV documentary “Britney: For the Record,” but she’s making good videos again, getting ready to tour, and is actually out on the road doing work for the album. So how is it? And is this a new Britney?

For one, “Circus” is a pretty good record, with some of the tracks being new favorites of mine. But it also shows the return of the ballad, which honestly was part of Britney’s bread and butter early in her career, but it didn’t work then (for me) and it doesn’t work now. But there is a better “Circus” out there… you just need to sort of make it yourself…

“Circus” does continue, in part, Britney’s formal move from hip-hop inspired tracks to more electro-pop, which I think is excellent. First single “Womanizer” is a bouncy gem, and the Danja produced “Kill the Lights” sounds like it could have been on “Blackout.” “Shattered Glass” and “Mannequin” are sleek bubbling electronica, and the return of hit maker Max Martin gives us “If U Seek Amy,” a song that I just don’t think is ever going to be made a single given its chorus, despite being super catchy. (It reads: “Love me, hate me, say what you what about me, but all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy.” It doesn’t make sense written out, but say it fast.) I also really liked the Prince inspired “Lace and Leather” which has a killer base lick and a goofy vibe to it that reminds me of the “Blackout” track “Hot as Ice.” They don’t sound the same, they’re just goofy and totally fun.

The biggest surprise of the album for me is “Unusual You,” a slow electro track that isn’t a ballad, but is rather beautiful. THIS is what Britney should be doing when she slows things down. “Unusual You” was written by Britney’s secret weapon, Bloodshy & Avant along with The Clutch. They produced last years “Piece of Me” and “Radar,” which was my favorite track off “Blackout” and was never made a single, yet it is tacked onto “Circus” as a bonus track, odd. Also on the slow side but rather good is the Danja produced “Blur” which sounds like something Britney’s actually lived through. A morning after, what the fuck happened last night, kind of slow burning electro ballad.

So where does “Circus” fall apart? Well, “Out From Under” track three, finds Britney returning to overwrought ballad territory. It’s a planned single, and despite the presence of Robbie Williams and Kylie songwriter Guy Sigsworth, it’s a snore. But he also helps her continue the embarrassing last track tradition with “My Baby,” an absolutely dreadful ode to her children. Of course it’s not the sentiment that’s cringe inducing, it’s just not very musical, and lyrically it’s like a long greeting card. The big upbeat misstep is “Mmm Papi,” which is goofy in a bad way and not entirely convincing. Ugh.

But what is the biggest surprise is what’s NOT on the album. There are six tracks that are being used as bonus material for iTunes and elsewhere, two of which should have, in my opinion, been on the record. But thanks to the iPod, you can build a better “Circus” yourself. So take out “Out From Under” and in its place put the throbbing “Trouble,” which seems to sample Madonna’s “Get Together,” though is it’s own thing. Once again, Bloodshy & Avant produce a killer track for Brit, and one that really seems fit for her. They also do the so-so “Phonography” which sounds like Kylie. It’s not great… but pretty good. “Quicksand,” written by Lady Gaga is an okay ballad and a good album closer. So replace “My Baby” with that one. In “Mmm Papi’s” place you can put in the poptastic “Amnesia.” I really really love this song, despite an awkward start, its very Gwen Stefani, and one of the new tracks I’ve listened to the most, even though it’s not on the album.

So while I don’t love “Circus” as much as I did “Blackout,” there are still some killer tracks on the album (and off it.)




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