Monday, October 29, 2007

Britney Spears - Blackout (SonyBMG)

So apparently, Britney's has been having some troubles. Not that we’d know or anything, she’s wisely opted to stay out of the limelight and steer clear of anything that could be construed as a publicity stunt. And remarkably, on the other side, the press have been incredibly sympathetic to her difficulties, and let her benefit from her privacy.

All jokes aside, Brit's stock truly has plummeted. It’s long past the point of enjoying a giggle at her expense, and is genuinely triggering a concern in the stone-cold British public. So, bearing in mind she’s little more than a shambolic pity case at the moment, with any trace of artistry having been lost with her dignity and her knickers, fifth album Blackout needs to be breathtakingly exceptional for Britney Spears to ever come back from the depths.

If nothing else, Spears knows how to get your attention. Gimme More - even in its title - sounds as though it was crafted specifically for a soft drink ad. And yet, involuntary foot-tappage is prompted with ease - testament not only to the effectiveness of the track, however robotic and empty, but it sets the tone nicely for what is, effectively, less an album and more a dancefloor bible.

Piece of Me, a self-deprecating commentary on The Cult of Britney, provides a personal account of the lunacy so many of us snort at while flicking through Heat on the bog, and actually succeeds in giving some insight into a world we think we know, all enveloped in crunching, throbbing pop goodness.

Squeaks, bleeps, blips and fuzzier-than-fuzzy vocal effects rain down upon Blackout, and become an irksome reiteration far too early on. The electro-clichés are generously spunked out, to the point that she’s completely unrecognisable beneath the layers and layers of distortion. Were you to listen to Radar without knowing the artist, you’d be hard pushed to name Britney as its holder. Is it J-Lo? Danity Kane? Rihanna? Aly & AJ? Rachel Stevens? Bloody Samanda?

The non-specificity bears witness to the big fat question mark that is Britney Spears as a person. Tortured mother, pop legend, or all-round human practical joke?

But taking the music - and the music alone - into account, this is a woman who has improved massively with each studio album released. And while it remains to be seen if Blackout can better the distinct, diverse spectacle that was In The Zone, it’s certainly no major step back. But in the current pattern, album number six threatens to be truly prodigious. Let’s just hope she’s alive to actually make it…

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