Music is a funny thing. Ego’s control so much of what we allow ourselves to listen to that it almost becomes scary. I know this because there are people in the world who will not even bother to spin Kanye West’s critically acclaimed “808’s & Heartbreaks” nor Britneys latest (and greatest?) “Circus”; instead opting for the more macho “big” release this year — Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Chinese Democracy”.
“Circus” is the follow-up release to a rejuvenated Britney on the back of the dark-electro fest “Blackout”. Being one of the eleven people that actually enjoyed Blackout last year, I’m naturally wanking all over the prospect of a saner Britney doing more of the same. “Circus” is the production extravaganza I’ve been yearning for over the past few weeks.
Records like “Circus” should not be dismissed because of the perceived lack of talent of the “artist”; instead someone should celebrate the fact that someone — be they Britney or an unnamed record label extraordinaire — has crafted a cohesive compilation of bouncing, interesting and (in places) innovative pop songs.
Single “Womanizer” feels like “Blackout pt.II” and paves the way for the four-to-the-floor banging glitch-electro-club sound that was so accomplished but understated in “Blackout”. The 80’s tom-rolls, distorted synths and unusual rhythms open the album brilliantly with Britney’s delivery lazy but refreshing next to the crowd of OTT female vocalists. Moving into “next single territory”, title track “Circus” is a more minimalistic subby grind-fest. The synth hits are hard and the prechorus perfect for close-ups of sweaty bodies in the video. The chorus unleashes into a warbling bass line and glitched backing vocals. It’s kinda like the music equivalent of sex really.
“Out From Under” is the first of a few ballads on “Circus” and Britney shows that she can still belt out the odd-tune or two. The chorus swirls with backing harmonies and crystal clear acoustic guitars twinkle across the soundscape. Rain music without a doubt.
Totally antithesising the mood “Kill The Lights” is a Thriller-inspired disco-pop track with subtle “horror movie” overtones — interestingly the subject of the lyrics: “Mr. Photography I’m ready for my close-up”. Our Britney still hasn’t forgiven the papp’s then? This track’s insanely catchy robotic bass line is her revenge. Or something.
Head-nodding potential is finally broken through with “Shattered Glass” — big swirly synths, enormous subby bass synth stabs and honky piano twitters drive a four-to-the-floor pop beat along. Sadly “If U Seek Amy” — a hip-titled ditty — takes the robo-pop philosophy too far as it develops from a painstaking filtered bass-line into an embarrassing mess of a chorus.
In fact “If U Seek Amy” begins a three-song lull of pretty shit songwriting. “Unusual You” may have a Euro-house beat and all the right production in the right places but feels underdeveloped and predictable. The vocals effect are creative however — an inspiring mix of harmonies, autotune and filters creates for a fresh approach but does little to improve the downtempo feel of the track. Likewise “Blur” starts like a Soundgarden track but grows into the obligatory Timbaland beat and gated synth.
Thankfully “Mmm Papi” quashes the depressing mood of previous tracks with a disco stomper. “Let’s make out” Britney insists before the synths blip all over the place and the bass moves the entire low-end. The lyrics suck but, hey, Britney co-wrote this one; catchy as fuck mind.
“Mannequin” is another hard hitting synth stab disco-track which suffers from the same problems as “Unusual You” before it. The production and melody is spot-on but the song feels tired and familiar. The glitch effects return for this one though, so if you’re a fan of those this is like chocolate cake.
“Lace And Leather” is a slap-bass Chic-esque disco encounter that would be the perfect closer for the record if the dogged “My Baby” wasn’t present at all. You can always pretend right?
While not always consistent, when “Circus” is at full-speed (namely with it’s astounding opening) the record delivers everything a listener could want: hooks, beats and great, great production. It’s shame some tracks “played safe” but the big-hitters are more than enough to carry the record as a whole. For the most part: brilliant. Now you just have to let your ego allow you to enjoy it.get2sammyb.co.uk