Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New album “Circus” sees Britney at her Best

Britney Spears is a singles artist. Though her albums have sold consistently well throughout her career, the secret to her success rests in her ability to deliver a handful of good songs that effectively outweigh the throwaway material that populates a majority of the rest of the album. It wasn't until 2007's Blackout that Britney finally got it right; ironically delivering her most cohesive album while she was at her least coherent state. So it comes as no surprise that it is the dance floor brilliance of Blackout, paired with the popstar's renewed sense of confidence that make Britney's latest offering Circus, her best work to date.

The album's first single Womanizer might be Britney's most commercially successful since Baby One More Time, but it's the title track and second single that really delivers the goods. Where Womanizer is rigid and restrained, Circus allows Britney the chance to catch a breath, resulting in her best vocal delivery in years. The track's near-flawless production is subtle in all the right places and just as aggressive when it needs to be; a dance song that carries you with it, instead of asking you to catch-up. That pace continues with the Danja produced Kill the Lights, which is almost hypnotic in its layered background vocals and slick use of 808, and the short but sweet Shattered Glass. Britney's delivery in the latter is as acid washed as a pair of 80s jeans, resulting in a sexy swagger that she carries with her to the sleazy-yet-satisfying Lace and Leather.

Britney's ballads have always left something to be desired, and that doesn't change this go around. My Baby is perhaps the most personal offering on Circus, as Britney coos about motherhood to a soft piano-driven melody, and though the sentiment is sweet, the vocals are not. She manages to sound a little better on Out From Under, another introspective-ish track, but in the end both feel boring and uninspired. The mid-tempo Unusual You sparks a bit more interest, both in terms of production and subject matter, as Britney wonders "You're so unusual. Didn't anyone tell you you're supposed to break my heart?"

That's as interesting as the lyrics get, as substance is hardly a factor in Circus. That comes as a bit of a surprise, considering the documentary that accompanied the album's release, in which Britney address the past couple years of her life. It would have been nice to see her incorporate a bit more of the loneliness she emotes throughout the film into Circus. Instead, we're given an album that more or less perpetuates the persona that she says imprisons her. For instance, the juvenile double-entendre of If U Seek Amy (repeat it aloud) barely functions throughout the song, and is really just unnecessary in general. Considering the fact that Britney's vagina has been plastered all over the internet as a result of her indifference to draws, is there really any use in her throwing a phonetic veil over the word fuck?

Britney doesn't break any new ground with Circus, and if you didn't like her before that probably won't change now. But, while Circus may not gain Britney any new fans, it will certainly satisfy the many she already has.

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