Sunday, July 13, 2008

Album Review: Britney Spears - Blackout (4/5)

When the thundering bassline of, "Gimme More" begins to render you know exactly where this is going. Britney Spears' fifth album, Blackout is indeed an interesting offering from the singer, emerging as a more electronic and vocodered sense of pop, in comparison to her last album (which was almost 4 years ago) In the Zone, which was a very diverse effort --incorporating elements of classic pop ("Toxic") hip-hop with some poppy flair ("Boom Boom") some club-ready trance moments ("Breathe On Me," and "Touch of My Hand") and some rare, haunting ballad moments ("Shadow," and "Everytime").

Blackout doesn't jump genres much, well at all. It sticks to its futuristic, electronic formula and lives it out throughout the whole album. The lead single, "Gimme More" kicks off the album well, pacing with a throbbing bassline and kinetic crashes --Producer, Danja also adds in his vocals towards the end, seems a tad cheesy but Blackout does essentially find itself more in the hands of the producer than Spears. Following up swiftly is the other single, "Piece of Me" which was one of the first tracks I really liked off the album. Dubbing Spears' vocals in (sometimes inaudible) vocoders, it looses all personality and range, bringing in a more robotic venture, pulsing with articulate synthesized basslines and layered robotic vocals.

Being a Britney fan myself -- I'm really appreciating this harsh stray away from her usual style of music. This is definitely her most adventurous yet. "Radar," begins with twingy layers of synth before breaking into an animated, kinetic handclap bassline. The current single, "Break the Ice" isn't as electronic as most of the stuff on here --it has a clean-cut bassline and some surprising natural vocal work from Spears. The song also has a nice hook that builds up to the killer chorus.

Whilst I really like the album, there are some songs that I don't really care for. The Danja produced, "Get Naked" is a very missable track. Once again includes some very haunting vocals from Danja, infact he basically is the chorus, leaving Spears' to murmur the verses and annoyingly repeat the title. "Perfect Lover," isn't any better --although I like the eery vibe, it's pretty wasteful and Spears' purring over the backing track isn't as effective as its been on previous showings, and with lyrics like: "don't you wanna see my body naked," it's not that sexy.

Luckily those two are the only ones I don't really like. The best track on the album comes in the form of, "Heaven on Earth" which pulses with synthesizers and subsequently emerges into a blissful 80s reminiscent production --carrying a very lighthearted feel. I absolutely love it. "Freakshow," is a messy and shallow number, but is also is annoyingly addictive --plundering with a collection of kinetic handclaps and clicks, bold synths and bleeps.

"Toy Soldier," is a upbeat, retro number. Like most of the songs on here --there's really not much need for much of a vocal perfomance, Spears' forceful rap seems to do the job and do it well. "Hot As Ice," is just a good --I love the lyric: "living legend you can look but don't touch."

"Ooh Ooh Baby," (along with "Break the Ice,") is probably the least electronic on the album. Starting out as a somewhat Spanish acoustic before breaking into a more compelling venture, which consist of tambourines and acquiring a rhythmic thump. The album closes with the only slow song on here, the Pharell Williams produced, "Why Should I Be Sad?" which thumps a slick urban feel. With Blackout's initial release, this song didn't receive such a positive reception, probably because it puts the albums electronic spree to a harsh hault.

I didn't give this album a chance last year. I thought because of all the outragrous antics Spears' was seeing to there was no way this could be anything pass decent, but I was wrong. Blackout is was passed decent --not better than In the Zone-- but not that far off.

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