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Review of 2008: Britney’s so-called comeback

“I have ‘come back’ so many times, people are just like, ‘Is this another one?’ It’s kind of like a joke to me now.” Britney Spears

http://mediaplayer.yahoo.com/jsGimme More remix featuring T.I.

Having outed myself as a pop whore in my previous post, here’s my thoughts on Britney’s so-called comeback this year. Now you might consider it wrong that I care about Britney Spears at all given that most of us think of her as a white trash pop muppet with little more than two brain cells to rub together, who deserves any shit she gets from the press because she “got into bed with them” in the first place. But I kind of feel sorry for her. And it may be because of her producers, but I enjoy some of her tunes.

OK, I admit it, my interest in Britney began, like everyone else, with Hit Me Baby One More Time and its controversially saucy video, in 1998. I was 21, even then, slightly too old to be perving over schoolgirls, but dodgy as it was, it was also obvious from that and subsequent hits that Britney had “it”. You know, the X-factor. Forward ten years and there she was, miming on Simon Cowell’s show of the same name, watched by 12.8m UK viewers (extraordinary ratings in these days of increasingly fragmented audiences), and was then thoroughly panned in the tabloids for not singing live like the contestants.

Not sure what they expected – she’s never been known for singing live. But never mind, it sold a few papers to give her a bit of a kicking. Personally, having heard Diana Vickers attempting to sing a Dido song and sounding more like a mouse with asthma, I vote for miming every time.

“I think Circus is a little bit lighter than my last album. I was going through a very dark phase in my life when I did Blackout so a lot of the songs reflect that. Circus is very much pop where as Blackout is darker, edgier and more urban because I was in a dark place back then.” Britney Spears

Womanizer is not a bad pop tune. It fits in with much of her earlier light-as-a-low-fat-chocolate-mousse pop material – but doesn’t really come close to her last album, Blackout. Produced brilliantly by Danja (for the most part), it’s a slick, hyper-modern, sexy pop record, blistering with vocoderised, disturbing dirty talk and breathy bi-sexual/a-sexual groans. When Britney works with cutting edge producers she’s at the top of her game – witness I’m a Slave 4 U with The Neptunes.

Unfortunately her record company kiboshed the demos she did with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy ( http://mediaplayer.yahoo.com/jsDFA demo), and because Blackout didn’t do particularly well in the US, it’s back to basics and working with mainly her early pop producers for Circus. Therefore it’s much more of a bland, conformist pop album which seems to put her back in the eternal teenager mode that her US fans seem to be most comfortable with.  It even includes the last single from Blackout, Radar, as a bonus track – which only goes to highlight how much better that material was.

Of course, while her record company were releasing the songs from Blackout, Britney Spears was going through hell, divorcing her husband and fighting for custody of her children. Obviously struggling with an addiction, probably to drugs, she was lashing out at everyone around her. And who can blame her? Mollycoddled by her parents and management since her early teens, and then ending up in an unfulfilling marriage with a bunch of kids to look after, is it any wonder she wanted to break free? And it just happened that she made her best music when she did.

Now she’s been brought back into the fold – her Dad has taken over all of her affairs and has her on a tight leash – and she’s back in the gym, looking much more like her old, sexy, pre-packaged, record company approved self. She’s revealing nothing in magazine interviews but don’t believe that’s because she has nothing to say – it’s because she has nothing she’s allowed to say. It’s like that scene at the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest where Jack Nicholson comes back from electric shock therapy a sedated, smiling idiot.

See, within that pop puppet you loathe is someone – a human being, screaming to get out. But in the pop industry/mainstream media, body fascism and conformity win every time, and the result is a disappointing album, and a woman back in the prison of her own popularity, doomed to a lifetime of pretence.

By Milo

Freelance writer and content creator.

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