On The Download: Britney Spears' 'Circus'

To give a true assessment of a Britney Spears album, one has to listen to it in the context of the genre that it falls into. Britney Spears is never going to produce something that sounds like Stevie Nicks or, for that matter, even something that sounds like a peer of her’s, such as Pink.

Britney albums really can only be measured against other Britney albums – she’s developed a sound that in many ways truly belongs to her. Her career can certainly be compared to that of Madonna, Jessica Simpson or Christina Aguilera, but even these three singers (although they share much in common with Britney) are very different sounding than her.

That being acknowledged, “Circus,” Ms. Spears’ sixth full original studio album, is actually quite good.

Watch Britney Light Up The L.A. Live Christmas Tree Thursday Night!

It’s certainly better than 2007’s “Blackout,” which, while not as strong of an album start-to-finish, itself had a few great songs on it.

It’s hard to look at a Britney album in a vacuum based purely on musical merit though. Britney has become a pop culture multi-media experience, both in her professional endeavors (PR appearances, touring) and her personal life.

And the truth is, Britney hasn’t fully returned to form. Yes, her performances in the week leading up to her album’s release were a thousand times better than her “Gimme More” performance on the MTV VMAs in 2007. But she has still not returned to her pre-Federline performance levels. It almost looks like she’s going through the motions of performing, without any of the heart. At least, that’s how it felt during her “Good Morning America” performance.

The true test for, “Has Britney comeback?” will be her tour – whether or not she can deliver then will make the most difference for her future as a major player. Because let’s face it, that’s where artists make the real money – not from album sales.

Now back to the album itself.

The album’s leadoff single, “Womanizer,” was nothing if not catchy. Was it a great Britney song? I’d give it a 6 out of 10.

That being said, the second single, “Circus,” just serviced to radio, is a hit — easily an 8 out of 10 – maybe even a 9.

My personal favorite tracks on the album are the down-tempo yet ethereal “Unusual You” and the mid-tempo and poppy “Shattered Glass,” which has a lot of fun with sound affects and reverb, while still letting her voice shine through a bit.

Out of her ballads – “Out From Under” is the strongest – but ballads just aren’t what Britney does best.

Brit also re-released the “Blackout” track “Radar” – which is a stellar pop song – hopefully, with the intent of finally releasing it as a single.

All in all, it’s a solid B to B+ of an album – and that’s saying a lot considering what this young woman has been through in the past couple of years. Again, if she can put on the tour to support the album, Britney will truly be the pop star of recent 21st-century yore.

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