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What would “Circus,” Britney Spears’ quasi-comeback album, sound like if she was still flashing her vag, yo-yoing in and out of hospitals or attacking paparazzi with umbrellas?
Consider this: Amidst it all (see also: custody battle and head-shaving fiasco) the 27-year-old pop luminary dropped one of the best albums of her career, “Blackout,” last year’s all-dance romp produced – and pretty much completely crafted – by top-flight music makers. Spears could’ve phoned in her machine-tinkered vocals.
On No. 1-debuting “Circus, which scored big before taking a sales dive, she sounds fine – or as fine as Britney Spears sounds – but maybe the non-cohesive chart-topper wouldn’t have been such a silly mish-mash if Spears was, say, preoccupied with a Norelco razor.
The big-but-boring beats – courtesy of some of the “Blackout” producers, like Danja and Bloodshy & Avant – are lazy, aimlessly in search of an ear-wormy hook. Evidence: “Shattered Glass” and “Lace and Leather,” a couple of cookie-cutter club throwaways, and “If U Seek Amy,” a better pun (say it out loud) than a sexy-time song.
Worse, though, is Spears’ baby talk: On Latin-themed “Mmm Papi” she intones ga-ga talk, and then she goes all Celine Dion on us, dedicating “My Baby,” one of few tracks she co-wrote, to her kids. It’s a goopy, gawky pop-dance shortcut to sane that has her reciting lyrics that’d make the most gushy of mothers – yes, even Celine – puke: “Tiny hands/yes, that’s you/and all you show/it’s simply true.”
One ballad – the honest, layered “Out from Under” – does work wonders, Spears’ singing in a whispery, airy voice. And “Womanizer,” the album’s first chart-topping single, is a thumpy, heavily-chorus-looped dance track. Another highlight.
The album’s namesake song, “Circus,” is zippy fun, where the popster claims control, singing in her thin sex-kitten coo, “All eyes on me/I’m the center of the ring.”
For better or, in this case, worse. C+