It’s been four years since the release of In The Zone, and between that time not only has Britney Spears become a shell of her former self, her path towards becoming a paler Janet or would be sequel to Madonna has seemingly hit a dead end.
Now known more for being a staple of the paparazzi, a fast food junkie, an irresponsible driver, and an even more irresponsible mother, it’s hard to remember Britney Spears the entertainer: the carefully choreographed, perfectly produced, one woman tour de force that used her Lolita-inspired sexual tease on America to ascend up the pop cultural hierarchy.
Britney Spears hasn’t helped on that front – failing miserably at every attempt to duplicate past successes. This includes the much talked about performance at this year’s VMAs, where an unenthused, out of shape Spears walked across the stage for four minutes — appearing almost as confused as the rest of us who watched on in disbelief. Then there’s the video for the ridiculously catchy first single from her new album, Blackout, “Gimmie More,” in which Britney forgoes exuding the enticing sensuality she’s become known for – and which the song practically begs her to deliver – in favor of looking like a jilted stripper past her prime.
From all of this you would expect the album to be as sloppy, uninspired, and all over the place as the artist behind it. Thankfully, that’s not the case. Blackout is by far one of the best pop albums to come out in a long time — and arguably the best album of Britney’s career.
In many ways, Blackout comes across as this decade’s answer to Madonna’s Erotica (or as close as anyone has gotten thus far), and with the production of Timbaland protégé, Danja, who helms five of the albums tracks, the album plays off the theme of FutureSexLoveSounds a lot more cohesively than ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake’s own offering.
On the dance friendly and sexually charged Blackout, Britney sounds confident, secure, and in control – a stark contrast to the Britney we’ve come to see spotlighted every single day in tabloids and gossip blogs. Much of that has to do with her team of hit writers and producers, including Danja, Bloodshy & Avant, The Neptunes, The Clutch, Keri Hilson, Sean Garrett, T-Pain, among others who all assist in guising her flaws.
Don’t forget to give Britney some credit, however. Never known for her vocal strength, she has mastered the art of getting by on sexual coos and whispers over slick production versus any display of vocal gymnastics.
Furthermore, in a world of pop music where it’s easy to be hear today and gone tomorrow, it says a lot that despite all of her troubles and despite not having a hit in years, producers still flock to Britney.
Tracks like “Get Naked (I Got A Plan)” and “Freakshow,” with their erotic overtones and dance-inducing production value, push the envelop even further than Britney did on In The Zone.
The infectious “Radar” and the sing-a-long friendly, “Hot As Ice,” offer Britney’s label two obvious choices to push her back to her status as a mainstay on pop radio.
“Toy Soldier,” produced by the Swedish production team of Bloodshy & Avant, is as strange as it is wonderful. The song is futuristic pop at its finest.
As you would expect, there are some allusions to her current troubles. They include the Pharrell penned and produced, “Why Should I Be Sad?” The song could easily be called, “Dear Kevin.” And there’s the second single, “Piece Of Me,” where the defiant self-professed ‘bad media karma’ Britney is unapologetic to every single one of her criticizers. “Piece of Me” is catchy enough to where you almost want to forget that she’s responsible for many of her own troubles.
Speculation over whether or not Britney can still deliver musically can now end. She may need judge-ordered parenting classes to teach her the fundamentals of child rearing, but she’s still adept at being a pop artist and who can churn out good songs.
Blackout, finely crafted with its sonic sound, top notch production, and label-approved tracklisting, serves as the perfect album to re-launch Britney into the world of pop music. Or at the very least, it issues naysayer’s a moment of silence, and extends an olive branch to her faithful followers still hoping Britney snaps back to her old self any day now.