Our own Paul Lorentz wrote a fantastic review of Britney Spears’ new album, Circus. He loved the album. Here’s a different perspective.

While Britney Spears and her people would like you to believe that Circus is her comeback album, they can’t fool anyone who has heard, or bought Blackout, which was released last year. Blackout was an attempt to get Britney back on the music scene despite her already existing place on the pages of Perez Hilton and other gossip sites because of her out of control behavior. Britney herself didn’t even really promote it, and while it wasn’t a good album, there were good things about it. With a bit of promotion it probably would’ve sold much better than it did.

Is Circus better than Blackout?
I’d say yes, but barely. They had a money in the bank single sitting in their hands, but it was never released to my knowledge. Break The Ice was a supreme banger and had it been released to the clubs, I’m sure it would’ve been a huge hit. There’s no song that matches it on Circus, but the album as a whole is probably just a tad bit more consistent.

But what stands out as the difference between the two albums is Britney herself. On Blackout, she sounded like a robot. She was Robo-Britney. Her singing, while never her strong point, was flavorless and emotionless. She sounded sedated. But on Circus, you can hear the energy back in her voice. If anything, she sounds like someone who is at least faking some happiness.

About the music …
At this point, I think Britney’s music is going to sound similar in sound and feel no matter who produces it. The hottest producers will try to catch her ear with thumping production and thus, nothing really stands out. For some reason, Womanizer is being lauded as a great comeback single, even though they were saying the same thing about Gimme More last year. (I think I’d take Gimme More by a nose.) I think the press is buying into this comeback business just as much as the fans. Circus is actually the much better single because your ears aren’t ringing after listening, but also because it shows a little bit of the sexiness and teasing that her music is famous for, rather than the straight up bedroom talk that she’s been moving towards of late.

The mysterious Unusual You is sensual and yet at the same time, a little disturbing. This could either simply be the world of Britney Spears, or the writers thought it’d be an interesting take on her love life, but the song is about Britney expecting to get her heart broken, but doesn’t and this is unusual. It’s as if she’s simply unable to be loved. But it’s also the biggest surprise on the album. There’s a certain quality in both the production (Bloodshy & Avant) and in her singing that stands out and is missing from most of the rest of the tracks. If U Seek Amy is built as a “guilty pleasure” track, except, after first listen, I figured out the gimmick and the pleasure was gone for me. If you say the phrase “if you seek Amy” and think of letters that would stand for the words, you’ll understand the gimmick to the entire song. Now, I’m not sure how many records Britney sells to young girls anymore, but if mothers and fathers bought their young daughters this album without first listening to it, they’re in for a surprise. And it’s a really unnecessary track.

Mmm Papi is hilariously bad, but at least you can tell she’s having fun with the track. And it’s the one song that she actually receives a writing credit. I wonder if she wrote the squeals in herself or if they were improvised. Out From Under is a very straight laced Britney ballad. You get the feeling that she’s probably done this song at least five other times over the span of her career. Mannequin is one of the few throwaway tracks. There’s nothing original about it at all.

Look but don’t touch, unless you want to lose your innocence …
That line is from Lace And Leather and I’m probably nit picking the heck out of her at this point, but that line is from a 27 year old woman singing to who you’d imagine to be 27 year old men. I think that if Britney wants to achieve an adult career, her direction needs to go away from trying to pretend that she’s still 18 years old. While the young teenage girl really carried her career early on, her image also catered to this older guy demographic who saw a young sexpot. I guess you should try and cater to any and all demographics when you’re trying to be the biggest star in the world, but it always bothered me that she was so young and yet was pushed with this beyond sexy image. Nowadays, she’s old enough to push whatever image she wants, but let’s stop trying to pretend that she’s still a teenager.

And the extras …
Depending on which version of the album you have, you may or may not have the bonus tracks. If you have Blackout, you already have Radar so I’m not sure why it’s included again as an extra track on the new album. Phonography is another song that tries to play on words. She says that she’s into “phonography”, but it really sounds like she says she’s into “pornography”. So really, it’s a song about phone sex without really saying phone sex. At this point, Brit having phone sex with someone is probably much better than her doing the real thing. I just thought the lyrics were silly. Rock Me In is nothing special, but Amnesia has a Cyndi Lauper she-bop kind of feel to it that makes it a fun record.

Don’t believe the hype. If you’re a Britney fan and you want to hear her happy again, this is right up your alley. But don’t be persuaded by those who think this is an enormous leap over her previous record. The music is almost exactly the same. She just sings it in a little more of a happy voice.

Photo of Britney Spears by jonathanhstrauss and shared via creative commons.