Saturday, November 29, 2008
Album Review: Britney Spears - Circus (3.5/5)
The story of Britney Spears is quite the remarkable telling. A southern girl who hit it big in her teens; staying on top for a couple years, becoming the biggest thing in pop since Madonna; hitting rock bottom and returning to prominence --leaving all hardships and struggles on the backburner. Britney Spears' sixth album, Circus marks that return. It's astonishing to have whiteness such a harsh transition in Spears' life over the course of this year. 10 months ago, she was shaving her heard, attacking cars with umbrellas and being carried away to a general ward on a stretcher. Fast forward 10 months and now we have a more sane Spears', who looks to be getting back on track. But does the music live up to the life turnaround?
Last years' Blackout was released in the mist of all the chaos, but proved to be a very decent effort, indulging in an electronic venture, which found Spears' vocals completely dubbed with almost inaudible vocoders. It seems as though Spears' was really just the vocal behind the producer's masterpiece. Now, Circus isn't nearly as futuristically adventurous as, Blackout, It takes a more missionary route --A couple uptemos, mid-tempos and ballads-- but it gets the job done.
Whilst, Circus can be seen as more soft encounter in comparison to, Blackout, it does aquire some musically strong moments. The comeback single, "Womanizer" can be described as electronic, but is essentially made up of gushes of syth and a catchy kinetic handclap backed with alerting sirens going off in the background. Probably Spears' best singles since, "Toxic" (not to say "Piece of Me," "Gimme More" and "Break the Ice," weren't good too) although just not as good --it's the perfect comeback single.
Following swiftly is the title track, "Circus" which finds a more urban venture. I've always wanted Spears' to explore the urban genre more in her music, whenever she puts a song out of the latter she always sound amazing ("Why Should I Be Sad," "Boom Boom," "I'm a Slave 4 U," "Don't Go Knockin' On My Door" are just a few examples) and "Circus," is no exeption, riding on an compelling, cutely synthed R&B bassline, produced by Dr. Luke and Benny Blanco the brains behind Katy Perry's biggest hits this year.
The last ballads Spears' spawned was 2003s ("Everytime," and "Shadow") which were both brilliant. "Out From Under," is definitely a moment to appreciate as they often come as rarities when it comes to Britney Spears (Blackout lacked in ballads). Accompanied by an acoustic guitar, it's a beautiful haunting ballad and she sounds the best she has in a long time, it's great to hear her without all the electronic and vocoders beheld on her vocals. Another ballad on the album is, "My Baby" which also rides on an acoustic guitar, only on here it sounds a tad empty, overall sounding very unfulfilled -- It's not as good as "Under". Like her single, "Someday (I Will Understand)" "My Baby" is a sweet dedication to her sons.
There are only two more songs that I don't particularly fancy. Like last years' "Piece of Me," -- "Kill The Lights," is another song of Spears' that takes a stab at the Paparazzi, only it's not as good. It contains some very strong vocals, especially during the beginning but quickly fizzles as she works her way through the song, it sounds very bland and lacks a catchy hook. The last is, "Blur" which is almost a direct reminiscent of "Early Morin'," from the In the Zone album -- again-- only it's just not as good. It starts off a tad cartoonish before breaking into 3 minutes of utter bleakosity.
The rest of the album is genuinely good. The futuristic, "Shattered Glass" is among favorites, pulsing with layers of synth and layered vocals. Another highlight, "Unusual You" is similarly futuristic, portrayed in a more elegant manor, also pulsing with synth toppled by Spears' distorted vocal work. The song is also backed with delicate piano keys, which gives a fragile effect.
Pop genius, Max Martin lends his producing talents on the albums most provocative number, "If U Seek Amy" say it really fast and it spells out F-U-C-K me. The profanity is cleverly disguised, not because of the name 'Amy' but because she's actually talking about a girl called Amy in the verses. The song itself is your typical upbeat-pop number, thumping a slick synthesized bassline building up to a killer chorus, which is essentially backed by the repetition of ("la la la la") similar to singer, P!nk's "So What" where she exclaims ("na na na na"). Funnily enough, produced by the same person.
"Mmm Papi," is a cheeky number -- Spears' at her most jaunty. It has a swinging 60s beach scene to it, featuring a catchy kinetic handclap and a very awkwardly funny chorus where she proclaims ("mmm papa love you, mmm papa love you"). "Mannequin," is the albums more inventive moments --Spears' vocal becoming virtually inaudible but thumping a bricky bassline and featuring some cool lyrics ("you cry eyes outta your head"/"you cry cry cry again again, my face like a mannequin").
The funky, "Lace and Leather" is an interesting number, starting off with a nice string and drum venture before bursting into a breezy chorus. Circus, is by no means Spears' best album, but it marks a safe return to the top ("Womanizer" scoring her first #1 in 10 years) and despite its flaws Spears managed to churn out winner, a safe winner, but nonetheless a winner. Hopefully on her next album, we find a more risk taking spears. I would die for another In the Zone.
Best: Womanizer, If U Seek Amy, Circus, Out From Under, Shattered Glass, Unusual You