Monday, November 24, 2008

The Day I Review "Circus"


If there was one person who could pull off two consecutive "comebacks", it's Britney Spears.

Slightly more than a year ago, the popular media hailed the announcement of the release of her much awaited new album Blackout as the magnificent comeback of the tabloid-ridden former Pop Princess. Then her life began to unravel, starting with her critically panned performance of "Gimme More" at the 2007 MTV VMAs.

Along came her very public mental meltdown, the loss of her children's custody, plus the widely publicized psychiatric rehabilitation and her placement into co-conservatorship of her father, all under the glare of the unrelenting paparazzi. The cloud surrounding Blackout hung around like a curse. The catchy and well-produced ditties on the album were overshadowed by the flood of negative publicity.

However, things seem to be on the upturn. Having rebuilt her image from her head-shaving, umbrella-wielding, paparazzi-smashing days, she is once again being portrayed in a positive light by the usually-vicious celebrity gossip sites. With a brand new album waiting in the wings, plus a cover of the December issue of Rolling Stones, the bitch is really back.


Circus is complete with a great mix of radio-friendly hits and dancefloor anthems, very much like Madonna's latest offering "Hard Candy". Unlike the sexually aggressive undertones of Blackout, Circus is sweeter and more subtle, and it's packed with easily digestible pop.

As we all already know, the lead track "Womanizer" made it to the top of the billboard charts, a first for Britney in close to 10 years as her only other single that made it all the way to number one was her first hit "Baby...One More Time" back in 1999. The title track (which has been confirmed as her second single) is very hip-hop influenced and reminiscent of "4 Minutes", reflecting Britney's ever increasing influence from Madge. In "Kill The Lights", she declares herself no longer the Pop Princess, but "now the Queen of Pop", which is a very bold statement indeed.

Then there are the ballads. "Out From Under" (a song originally covered by Joanna Pacitti and can be found on the horrible "Bratz" movie soundtrack released earlier this year) is a beautiful but understated ballad of escape, while the vocally tampered "Unusual You" (but not the the extent of Cher's "Believe") has her expressing how amazed she is at a lover who doesn't hurt her.

But for every such subdued and touching moment on the album, she springs a surprise with a blast of almost psychotically upbeat bubblegum pop, like "Mmm Papi", a catchy, over-the-top ditty thatcan be interpreted as either a sarcastic swipe at an ex-lover or being borderline incestuous ("Mmm papa love you!")

Overall, the pop grooves are smooth and nimble, the electro ambience unique and addictive, the ballads understated and emotive, the packaging playful and attention grabbing. On the whole, it is a very well-produced album with a great variety of songs. Let's hope this will last.

You can listen to most of the tracks on her new album here, with the exception of some bonus songs that are only available with the purchase of the album.

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