Blackout

Britney Spears

Jive, 2007

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/20/2009

Released during her bipolar multimedia meltdown, Blackout is the only Britney Spears album not to go straight to #1. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its fair share of #1 dance singles. “Gimme More” and “Break The Ice” bear that distinction, as well as the song that directly addresses Britney’s ongoing battle with the paparazzi, “Piece Of Me.” It’s also the first Britney album that breaks from the pop tradition, fully embracing the beat-heavy electronic sound that is tailor-made for the clubs all over the world.

Britney’s personal favorite cut, “Radar,” appears for the first time on Blackout, though it didn’t become a hit single until it appeared again on the 2008 follow-up, Circus. Virtually the entire first half of Blackout is groundbreaking stuff for the now-infamous singer, especially the incredible track “Heaven On Earth.” The interesting thing about that song, as well as the fun “Ooh Ooh Baby,” is that it was produced by new American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi. Things do get a little rough in the album’s second half, however, especially on the slower tunes at the end. nbtc__dv_250

Furthermore, Corte “The Author” Ellis ruins “Get Naked” with an inanely obnoxious backing vocal, while bonus track “Outta This World” adds completely nothing with its inclusion. And though Britney tries to be self-deprecating with a wink and smile on “Freakshow,” the execution leaves something to be desired. In short, like its author, it’s a repetitive mess.

Britney wisely limits the bulk of the production duties to two in-demand production teams, Bloodshy & Avant and Danjahandz. There’s an erratic hip-hop number produced by Bloodshy & Avant called “Toy Soldier” that picks up where Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” left off, but aside from the catchy percussion, Britney’s vocal performance is unnecessarily whiny. Why producers insist that she continue to sing through her nose is something I’ll never understand.

Though the material on Blackout is largely one-note, it is a note that we haven’t heard from Britney Spears before. The experiment proved successful from an artistic point of view, so much so that they decided to duplicate (and actually perfect) the formula for Circus. Maybe there’s a daring creative individual beyond the Barbie doll persona after all. It should be interesting what Spears & Company come up with in the next decade.

Better lyrics that aren’t so repetitive are desperately needed for Ms. Spears to grow further as an artist. Over the last ten years, her voice has deepened, which should prove to be an essential ingredient in making the ballads more effective. So far, though, it’s been the dance songs that we have come to expect from her and it’s probably doubtful her fans will be open and patient enough to sit and chill to one of her slow songs. That being said, Britney’s youth is certainly an asset, so she should be able to churn out records as good as Blackout for many years to come.

Rating: B

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© 2009 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, and is used for informational purposes only.