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Music Review: Britney Spears' Circus

Mon 15 Dec 2008 In: Music View at Wayback View at NDHA

Ahhh Britney, you either love her, or you love to hate her...and even if you do hate her, you probably have one of her songs tucked away on your iPod, go on, you can admit it, I won't tell anyone. The slight issue with Britney of late however is that you could be forgiven for forgetting she is first and foremost a singer (opposed to, say, a bald nutjob with a penchant for eschewing panties), but with Circus she tries once again (after last years failure, Blackout) to remind you...and succeeds... to a degree. From the very first impression she seems to be trying as hard as possible to distance herself from everything she has done over the last 18 months. The cover art has her back to blonde and is a stark contrast to the unappealing goth-zombie look she went for on the cover of Blackout. In fact she almost seems to be trying to re-create her image from 1999 with a picture that seems to say "psychiatric ward? Public breakdown? I can't imagine what you're on about, I'm the sweet, innocent and still virginal Ms Spears"... we almost fell for that back in 1999, but it seems slightly trite in 2008. Luckily for us this backpedalling doesn't extend to the music, which for the most part sounds like a more polished and refined version of last years effort, with slightly less auto-tune and robotic effects added to her voice. The album kicks off with the first single Womanizer and despite the hype I am not a particularly huge fan of it. For me the track has no decent melody, no memorable hook (the inane chanting of "womanizer woman womanizer you're a womanizer" does not count as a hook, it's an annoyance), and is in dire need of a good chorus to hold it together. To be quite honest it's all a bit of a mess. The follow-up single and title track thankfully fairs a lot better serving as a slightly less tabloid bating successor to Piece Of Me with the first line of the chorus perfectly summing up Britney's life for the last two years: "All eyes on me in the center of the ring just like a circus", however when she proclaims she's "like the ringmaster" and "calls the shots" that's a bit of a stretch, let's be honest, she's far more likely to be wearing a red nose, fluffy purple wig and having whitewash poured down her trousers. Now for the bad news… the Britney ballad is back *cue disappointed groan*. The good news though is that out of the three ballads on the album, two are not as ear-bashingly offensive as some of her previous works (did anyone really want to hear that Britney wasn't a girl but not yet a woman?). Out From Under is pleasant if a little forgettable, and Unusual You is actually quite good with a synth beat that chugs along behind a heavily layered vocal and the whole thing is setup for some good dance remixes. The criminal offence here comes in the form of My Baby, a saccharine, schlocky ode to her children that they will not be thanking her for in years to come. Britney needs to learn to leave the ballads to the better singers. Back in the up-beat territory, Mmm Papi and If You Seek Amy are to music what NW Magazine is to journalism, completely trashy but completely addictive. If You Seek Amy sees Britney teaming up with Max Martin for the first time since album number 3 and even pays homage to her distinct "oh baby baby" line from her first hit, but despite being a fun listen, the novelty of the OH so clever pun of the title does wear off about halfway through the second playthrough. Mmm Papi is a tad confusing with lines like "now see I'm mommy, and that makes you papi, and that makes us lovey"; we know her father has taken complete control of her life of late but what exactly is she trying to say with this one? It's better if you don't even attempt to analyse the lyrics and just go along with the ride for this one. Kill The Lights conjures up memories of Toxic and this is what Britney arguably does best. The incessant back beat is fantastic and this is definitely one of the better vocals on the album. This also continues onto Shattered Glass, a hook heavy number that is bound to get repeated plays. All in all, if you like Britney, you probably already have the album and are loving it (My Baby excluded), if not, this won't change your mind. Yes, it's questionable how much input she had on the album herself; yes, in theory anyone with enough money could buy the array of big name producers Britney has behind her and make the same record, but no one could sell it as well as she can. Love her or hate her, she looks to be hanging around for a while longer yet. Watch a random gay dancer shakin' it to Britney's Circus below. Andrew Grear - 15th December 2008    

Credit: Andrew Grear

First published: Monday, 15th December 2008 - 9:39am

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