She's Back, Bitches

Britney Spears is a perennial favorite of the type that chases ambulances -- not for the potential lawsuits, but just to get a glimpse of the tragedy inside. On her new album, Circus, Spears begins -- finally -- to justify some of the idol worship that legions of gay fanboys have heaped upon her image.

BY David Michael Conner

November 30 2008 1:00 AM ET


The Superstar Underdog

Even if Britney
is not the mastermind of the album, she maintains a
strong presence on every song, which wasn’t the case
on Blackout and certainly never before that album.
Part of Spears’s allure may be her lack of autonomy.
She has been compared to Madonna, but Madge
is famous mostly for her strength, not her failings or
vulnerability. Both may croon about their love of
dancing, but any control that Britney’s image has
ever involved was granted to her, not owned. How many
of us have felt that way? If Madonna is the self-made
diva some part of my gay psyche aspires to be, then
Britney is the broken doll that makes itself known on to me
on a more regular basis. Britney succeeds in spite of
herself -- the same way I survived high school.

But no.
It’s time to give Britney long-overdue credit. It is
often said that she can’t sing, but attentive
producers have shown time and again that her trademark
nasal whisper is capable of attaining a couple of
sweetly touching notes that trump Madonna’s
consistently capable but never truly evocative voice.

Don’t get
me wrong. On her own, Spears would not be capable of making
beautiful music. But "Out From Under" is a sigh of a song
that makes Spears sound like a vulnerable, passionate
half-robot, half-woman -- a sort of Pixar character
whose highly publicized masochism only proves that she
is in fact real. And the song’s lyrics are intimately
relatable, if not the most unexpected from a young pop star:

And my eyes see it all so clear It was long
ago and far away, but it never disappears Try
to put it in the past Hold onto myself and
not look back I don't want to dream about all
the things that never were And maybe I could
live without when I'm out from under I don't
want to feel the pain What good would it do
me now? I'll get it all figured out
When I'm out from under

Though Spears's
strength is dance-pop, she has issued perhaps her most
effective performance, emotionally and vocally, in the form
of the mid-tempo song "Unusual You." The song, which
opens with "Nothing about you is typical / Nothing
about you's predictable," is urgent, with heavy guitar
and aggressive percussion. Though the sound would be
familiar terrain in the neighborhood of Kylie Minogue,
Britney makes more of it than Kylie would.
Brit’s intonation feels at once apathetic and
dire. And then she reaches the chorus, and it almost breaks
your heart:

Hey baby you're so unusual Didn't anyone tell
you you're supposed to break my heart? I
expect you to So why haven't you?
Baby, you're not even human 'cause Only an
angel could be so unusual A sweet surprise I
could get used to, unusual you

Tags: Music

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