Last week I purchased a copy of Britney Spears’ new album Blackout. I really wasn’t thrilled to get it, but I’ve been a fan for so long I felt rather obligated. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a super-fan of hers like I am of Christian Slater, nor am I crazy for her like Chris Crocker a.k.a. Britney Boy is.
My initial impression of the album was that it was alright. All the songs are upbeat dance tracks, no ballads. It seemed as though there was something missing though. For a lack of a better way to explain it, the album felt empty. Cookie cutter if you will. Not what you’d expect from the icon who is Britney Spears. But considering all the publicity surrounding her lately it wasn’t very surprising. I’m not calling the album bad. In fact it is growing on me quite rapidly. The music itself is pretty catchy. The melodies of a lot of the songs are rather monotone and more talk-singing than actual singing. That’s not to say that she doesn’t sing in a lot of the songs. In fact, it seems that the singing is either very monotone or very harmonized either with backup singers or by multiple tracks of Britney singing*. The themes of the songs seem to revolve around sex, which is only mildly irritating and, again, isn’t surprising.
Perhaps the reason I felt the album was lacking something was because at first I had a difficult time visualizing the put together, sexy Britney of the past. Instead I had the mental image in my head of her dispassionate VMA performance, along with the knowledge of all the bad publicity she has received lately. And not just run of the mill bad, but the “you aren’t fit to be alone with your children” bad. And if the lyrics of your song are going to be “guess I canâ€™t see the harm in working and being a mama and with a kid on my arm” … I don’t know, it just rubs the wrong way.
After listening to the album a few times, the songs started growing on me and the image of Bad Britney slowly started to fade. I’ve taken quite a liking to “Break the Ice” (track #4) and “Freak Show” (track #7), which both have super harmonized choruses. Something about “Freak Show” reminds me of “She Bangs” (the Ricky Martin version, not the William Hung version). And the chorus of “Break the Ice” has a beautiful sound, which pairs uniquely with the sex-themed upbeat tempo. Tracks 3, 6, 10 & 11 are starting to grow on me also. Although I don’t care for a couple of the tracks, they are still listenable, which says a lot considering music these days (does that make me sound old?).
I think Blackout is a good album. I’m glad that I purchased it and will probably listen to it a lot. If Britney had kept a clean image in these past few months I think the album would have sold much more copies. After all, pop music is image based. The image doesn’t have to be clean, just appealing in some way.
*I’m torn on the whole multiple track thing. For starters, she is a solo artist. Backup singers to help carry a melody are one thing, but if you’re going to sound like a group, go be in a group. It also makes performing live a bit awkward sounding. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds pretty cool on the CD, but at the same time it makes it really hard to sing along to. Which part am I supposed to sing along to while in the car? I can’t sing them all. Maybe I could rig up my computer to make my own multitrack recording of song #4. That would be lots o fun.
And as a side note to my side note, my dad recently gave me a little history lesson on music where I learned about the history of 8-tracks. Apparently the multitrack recording phenomenon started back in the day because it was too expensive to pay multiple singers. Somewhere down the line of our overpriced music industry, it must have been decided that eight of a good thing are better than one.