Reflections on Britney's Circus
“There’s only two types of people in this world/Those that entertain and those that observe” and Britney Spears is a “put-on-a-show kind of girl.” That might be the only proverb Brit has learned in a decade long career. Still as vapid as a career that has become, whatever handlers handle her and producers that produce her, don’t allow her music to become as prosaic as she contends her life is these days (yeah I sat through For the Record). So Circus is the comeback? And unfortunately, last year’s Blackout, the pre-fab pop album of 2007 by default, suffered in popularity maybe because the world was more interested in Britney’s descent into the maelstrom of her personal hurricane. Circus is certainly not as stacked as Blackout, beginning with the insta-single “Womanizer” which is a veritable dentist drill of catch-phrase and quickly following that up with the title track, the “theme” or artist’s “intent” herein – “Hey, my life is a circus and I’m the ringleader” – it’s filed with dancefloor filler, but as a document of her coming clean, her Motley Crue confessional, it’s pretty infectious and hard to put down.
Those handlers haven’t abandoned the fact that Britney mouthing “baby” in an nth number of variations is paramount to her success (from “Baby One More Time” to a song about her kids here, “My Baby”), the key is what wraps around those coos. Of course having Timbaland’s protégée Danja will create some disposable sexxxy-back Timberlake-counter (“Kill the Lights”) and the indispensible Swede Max Martin waves Top 40 with his fingertips on the ode to (sic?) Amy Winehouse, “If U Seek Amy,” but the real treat comes with her tell-all chutzpah and the tracks that accent it with unlikely sources.
“Unusual You” would suggest that Brit has been listening to the Knife and Roisin Murphy (she probably thought this template was “hella cool” before the recording), it’s a mid-tempo disco ballad drenched in neon strings and micro-house beats. Likewise, “Blur” and “Amnesia” are absolutely stunning, kind of beating Christina Aguilera to the punch of pop queens finally succumbing to Talk Talk and Portishead backdrops. Throughout she drops little lines like “smoking up outside” or “doing him for seven years” then talking about forgetting her address or “f’ing” till dawn (yeah, no fucks yet). Overall she appears to be clear-minded about her chaos six months ago.
Maybe rehab does wonders, maybe the music she had dropped in her lap made her realize she’s got enough money to blind the public with the cream of the pop-candy crop, when her younger peers (It’s Miley) pull in the lucrative Wal-Mart booty now? Circus is certainly not a perfect record (Blackout was eerily close), but at least it’s current, tasteful, and unforgiving.