Britney Spears

Jive Records, 2008

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


“That which does not kill us makes us stronger” -- Friedrich Nietzsche

Female pop stars have really tested my patience this year -- Madonna completely blew it with Hard Candy, Rihanna was way overexposed on the radio, and Pink’s new album Funhouse was anything but. And don’t even get me started on Sasha Beyoncé Fierce…

If you were to ask me a year ago whether Britney Spears would end up having the best pop album of the year, I would have asked what you were smoking. I have by no means ever been a fan of Ms. Spears. I’ve always found her singing to be far too nasal for my tastes -- talk about Minnie Mouse on helium. Britney was an actual member of the Mickey Mouse Club, and it showed.

Last year, through all the turmoil of her personal life, she released the cluttered Blackout, an album that got played in the clubs but proved to be the worst-selling of her career. Now, seemingly rehabbed and remade by her handlers, Britney is launching still another comeback, this time with Good Morning America viewers in her sights. The question is: will the conservative American public welcome this new and improved, wholesome Britney Spears back? If they get a listen of her new album Circus, they will.

For starters, there’s the impossibly catchy “Womanizer,” which just so happens to be her first #1 single since her debut “Baby, One More Time” nearly a decade ago. I heard “Womanizer” for the first time in the dark while I was in bed listening to my clock radio, not realizing that it was my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Britney Spears, of all people. Now, with the title track as the follow-up, it looks like Britney is about to give Rihanna a run for her pop peanuts.

Speaking of Umbrella Girl, there is a blatant re-write of her song “Breaking Dishes” contained herein, though Britney has titled hers “Shattered Glass.” Britney even has the cheeky audacity to rip off Katy Perry with the lesbian themed “If You Seek Amy,” which actually ends up making mince-meat of “I Kissed A Girl.” So take that, bitches! The funky bass line and dynamic feel of “Lace And Leather” all but sealed the deal for me. Thank you, Britney, this is the top-of-the-line pop I’ve been waiting for.

What really impresses me the most about Circus is that Britney has dispensed with the intrusive vocoder, and has attempted to sing four ballads for real. Before you let out a yawn, I can assure you that they are all engaging and serve as proof that she can give a powerful vocal performance when she really needs to. Now is certainly the time for her to shine more as a singer, and less as a personality. Calculated? Maybe. But it should be just enough for critics to forgive and forget her many tragic missteps along the way. As she defensively states in “Kill The Lights,” she’s not perfect and neither are we.

There are more than eight great cuts on Circus, which is enough for me to give it an A rating. The minus part comes from the sub-par tracks toward the end of the album. Coincidentally, they all start with the letter M. Britney tries to throw some frivolous fun into the mix with “Mmm Papi” but ends up sounding like Lucy Ricardo. My least favorite slow song has got to be the airy “My Baby,” which of course, is dedicated to her kids (think Madonna’s “Little Star”). And then there’s the biggest flopper of them all, “Mannequin,” which was such a torture to listen to, I had to skip over it. As producers of that song -- if you can call it that -- the Underdogs need to be put back out to the doghouse.

My advice to Britney for her future albums would be to cut down on the number of producers. I’m amazed that this album is as cohesive as it is with so many cooks threatening to ruin the broth. If anything, it is reminiscent of No Doubt’s stable of producers on Rock Steady from 2001. I’d be really interested to see Britney try her hand at producing the next time around; now that would be daring. At any rate, she’s finally got this reviewer’s attention. Let’s see if she can keep it.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2008 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Jive Records, and is used for informational purposes only.