Monday, March 2, 2009

Britney Spears - "Circus" Album Review



Long overdue is my review of Circus, Britney Spears' latest album released on Dec. 2, 2008.

The album has already sold over 1.1 million copies just in the first month of its release - passing the total sales of her last album, 2007's Blackout which has sold about 900,000 copies since its release. Blackout by no means was a flop, but without ANY promotion except for two sub-par music videos, selling that many copies in an age of illegal downloading is almost an accomplishment in itself. Blackout was actually a great dance album in its own right but lacked that traditional Britney feel to the music.

In order of appearance...

1. Womanizer

By now, Womanizer has broken all sorts of records for Britney - it's her first #1 Hot 100 single since Baby One More Time in 1999; it also made the largest 1-week jump on the Hot 100 in history, from #96 to #1 (again, largely based on digital sales). The song, although repetitive, is incredibly catchy and serves as a kiss-off to a cheating boyfriend.

2. Circus

The second single from the album (which has already debuted at #3 on the Hot 100). The breakdown of this song is incredible ("I can feel the adrenaline moving through my veins") and the video is a big step towards her returning to form on her dance moves.

3. Out From Under

A cover version of a song that's on the Bratz movie soundtrack. This is rumored to be a single in the future. It's a slow-burning ballad that many have speculated mirrors her breakup with K Fed. This song - thank God - doesn't feature too much computerized effects, instead letting Britney sing without robot-izing her voice.

4. Kill The Lights

A futuristic-style song that is lyrically similar to "Piece of Me". In this song, Britney directly addresses the paparazzi who have made a career out of making her life more difficult. She snarls "Is that money in your pocket or are you happy to see me?" It's a great dance or workout track.

5. Shattered Glass

Unfortunately, "Shattered Glass" suffers from being overproduced. The "glaaaeeees, glaaaaeees, glaaaaeees" refrain gets very old after the first drawn-out word. However, the verses hint at the powerhouse this song could have been. Britney warns that "you're going to see me in your dreams tonight/my face is going to haunt you all the time" to a man who cheated on her.

6. If You Seek Amy

This song is proof that Max Martin should have produced the entire album. Martin was Britney's producer on classic songs like "Baby One More Time" and "Oops I Did It Again". He does not disappoint here. Martin employs the "oh baby baby" refrain that made Britney a star early in her career. This song has failed so far to make a huge impact at radio, mostly due to the fact that "Womanizer" and "Circus" are still so popular and that no video has yet been released for "Amy". A great club track and one of the best songs on the album.

7. Unusual You

For no reason that I can understand, a lot of Britney fans rabidly adore this song. It's just album filler to me. In this song, which is almost a haunting ballad, but somehow falls short, Britney addresses a love interest who is different from the rest precisely because he has not broken her heart.

8. Blur

An alcohol-drenched song of regret. Britney wakes up with a hangover and can't remember how she got where she is now. The production on this song is slinky and throbbing, much like a hangover itself.

9. Mmm Papi

By far the worst song on the album, but it has started to grow on me. This song evokes both the surf-pop anthems of the early 60's as well as a Latin rhythm guitar vibe - in short, a mess....but a mess that straightens itself out with repeat listenings. The lyrics are inane but the song drills itself into your head, and stays there.

10. Mannequin

I wasn't too impressed with this song - it's way overhyped. The "eeeeeeeeeeeeeee" and "iiiiiiiiii" effects in the chorus are annoying with each listen - unlike "Mmm Papi" it doesn't get better with repeat listening. This could be a great dance track for Britney in concert, if she has it on her set list.

11. Lace And Leather

One of the best songs on the album. A fun song with a great groove.

12. My Baby

A treachly ballad - the opening line is "Tiny hands, yes that's you" and it also features the almost repulsive line "I smell your breath/It makes me cry" - but one sung with genuine emotion from Britney and absolutely no audible computerized effects. A welcome change from her overproduced dance tracks. A song that would almost fit on Britney's debut album "Baby One More Time"...if she had had a baby at 17 like her younger sister Jamie-Lynn.

13. Radar (Bonus Track - previously released on Blackout)

It has mystified many people why this song is included on the Circus album. Basically the producers of the song, Bloodshy & Avant, were promised this would be released as a single off the Blackout album. Since the idea for a 4th single was scrapped after Britney's personal problems, the single was never released. This is the way Britney's record company resolved the issue with them. "Radar" is an okay song with a skip and swagger that bounces along. I don't think it would have made a great single but would have certainly gotten some dance club play.

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