CD Review of Blackout by Britney Spears
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Britney Spears: Blackout

Reviewed by Jeff Giles


as it really only been four years since Britney Spears’ last album? Pretty much any other recording artist on the planet could take a four-year break without anyone blinking an eye, but in Spears’ case, it feels like an eternity; this has less to do with people actually missing her music than the dozens of public gaffes that have changed her from unattainably hot pop starlet to barefoot, gum-cracking embarrassment, but still – Blackout might mark the fastest turnaround from Top Ten to Comeback Album in recent memory.

And yeah, we can call it a comeback. At the time of this writing, it was unclear whether Spears or the Eagles would walk away with the top spot in their debut week showdown (Ed. Note: The Eagles won by a country mile, thanks to a convenient rule change on the part of “Billboard”), but whether she ends up being first or second, plenty of people are buying this album. Whether this is because they’re fans or just morbidly curious remains to be seen – but Jive’s accountants aren’t going to care, and neither will Spears. It’s Britney, bitch.

As it turns out, no matter your reasons for purchasing this album, you’re likely to derive at least mild enjoyment from it. She might seem like a mess outside the recording studio – hell, minus Pro Tools, she’s probably a mess inside – but she’s surrounded herself with enough A-list talent here to cobble together another dozen tracks’ worth of solidly catchy dance pop tunes. Leadoff single “Gimme More” is arguably one of the weaker songs on the record, and it wound up being a Top Three hit – if Jive plays its cards right, Blackout could keep spinning off singles well into next year.

The whole thing is, of course, quite disposable, but that’s beside the point. Records like this one aren’t supposed to hold up five years later – or hell, even two; how many teenage girls do you think were listening to Spears’ …Baby One More Time in 2001? Insofar as Spears has any artistic goals, they should always be focused on two things – sounding as current as possible and disguising her limited vocal range – and on both counts, she comes through with flying colors here.

At 12 tracks, Blackout has at least its share of filler; for instance, “Radar” highlights Spears’ urgent need for a diction coach, and “Get Naked (I Got a Plan)” is at least twice as annoying as “Gimme More.” But there are actually a number of decent dance numbers here: “Heaven on Earth” is catchy and charmingly ‘80s, “Freakshow” weds babydoll vocals to a see-saw groove, and “Toy Soldier” should ride its battery-powered drum corps to the top of Billboard’s club charts. Don’t look to this album for any clues regarding Spears’ breathlessly discussed private life (it’s worth mentioning that she had nothing to do with writing the ostensibly autobiographical “Piece of Me”), but if you need an excuse to shut off your brain and shake your ass for 45 minutes, you could certainly do worse than Blackout.

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