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 12:00 AM ET


Unusual Britney

What's "unusual"
in the song is that its subject can be counted on not
to exploit, disappoint, or give up on the singer. On the
page, the idea may feel overdone, but all the
disparate elements of the song come together to reveal
what one could imagine as the crux of Spears's real
personal troubles. Implied is the idea that she has had many
experiences with many men but has never made a real
connection based on trust or what others call love.
Manhunt much?

No one likes to
think of the rich, famous, and beautiful as victims,
especially when some of them so seemingly make their own
lives hell for attention. That's one thing that makes
this album such a triumph: Spears doesn't come across
as desperate for anything, least of all your pity. She
is the ringleader here, even if only by virtue of her
one-of-a-kind performance and the baggage of her
persona. Everyone sees her as a flamboyant head case,
an undeservingly successful second-class citizen who
brazenly staggers on a tightrope with no net.

She’s
living the way you are.

Or maybe
I’m just speaking for myself.

While
Circus features great (“Unusual You,”
the disco-’80s “Shattered
Glass”), good (“Blur,” “Out from
Under,” “Circus,” “Kill the
Lights”), puzzling (“If U Seek Amy”
could be about Britney’s second personality --
or possibly even Lindsay Lohan?), and standard fare
(“Womanizer,” “My Baby”),
nothing about it approaches bad. Compare this track
list with anything Spears's name was tagged to before
Blackout, and ... well, there is no comparison.
The album is resistant (with the exception of "My Baby,"
which may be excusable) to self-indulgence.

Britney Spears Is No Christina Aguilera (Thank God)

It is hard to
imagine the vocally superior Christina Aguilera presenting
such mature music, and yet Aguilera gets all the credit.
Why? Ten years ago, it was clear that Aguilera's voice
made her a preternatural star, in league with Whitney,
Mariah, and Céline. But as Aguilera ages, all she
does is try on different costumes; she remains consistently
intoxicated with the expansiveness and volume of her
own voice, and her songs have become sickeningly
self-celebratory.

Could it be that
Britney Spears is emerging as an artist, outperforming
those who had a clear lock on musical superiority ages ago?
To paraphrase Aguilera, even though my mind says hellz
no! my heart says yes. And isn’t that what
music is all about?

Tags: Music

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