Blackout – A Review of an Era

Blackout. To many Britney fans, it’s what they call their favorite Britney album. I can’t lie either – it was the first album of Britney’s that I found myself completely loving from start to finish. That’s not to say I don’t like her earlier albums, but I didn’t really discover how much I liked Britney until I first listened to Blackout. Favorably received by critics, Billboard called it “The Most Influential Album of the past 5 years”, and it’s also currently her only album to be featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Being released in 2007, it was an album that was delivered at a very interesting and dark point in Britney’s life. She had just come out of a divorce and recent “hair” (or lack of) incident, all of which she explained a year later in her documentary For The Record. But at the time, her life was chaos. She was constantly being photographed by paparazzi in what ironically became the year where she took part in the least amount of professional photoshoots since her musical career began. From her heavily criticized 2007 VMA performance to losing custody of her children, it seemed like Britney’s life was spiraling out of control. Behind all the chaos, however, a cutting-edge, musically cohesive album was somehow crafted.

Led by a simple but effective “It’s Britney Bitch” on “Gimme More”, the album is first and foremost a dance album, although there are many different subsets and genres explored. Despite often being hailed as a personal album by fans, Britney only has writing credits on two songs – the sexy club stompers “Freakshow” and “Ooh Ooh Baby”. That’s not to say she didn’t have more input in songwriting on the other songs, they just weren’t acknowledged – Britney has never been one to take very many writing credits on songs she took part in, as evidenced by the uncredited bonus track “Everybody”. She was also listed as the sole executive producer for the album. Blackout surveys many different types of music, from the lush 80’s synthpop sound of “Heaven On Earth” to the funky pop twang of “Hot As Ice” and the chilling electro hip-hop sounds of “Break The Ice”.  The album was one of the first to include the now-popular dubsteb genre on a contemporary pop album, as demonstrated by “Freakshow”, produced by the same producers who crafted her 2004 hit “Toxic”. “Freakshow” merges mutiple genres, blending into an interesting mix of minimalism, dubstep, and pop.

Despite the refined artistry in the music’s production, however, the lyrics of the songs on the album are often highly sexual. This ranges from the cheekily innocent “I get the tingle, I wanna mingle, that’s what I want” on “Radar” to the gratuitously sexy “If I get on top, you’re gonna lose your mind” on “Get Naked (I Got A Plan)”. Other songs on the album appear to serve as a representation of Britney’s life, such as the biographical “Piece of Me” and the post-breakup mid-tempo “Why Should I Be Sad”.

In spite of the album’s critical acclaim, Blackout didn’t receive much proper recognition when released. It became Britney’s lowest selling album and her only one not to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 (peaking at #2). This was heavily in part due to lack of promotion. Musically, the album was a dream come true for fans. Promotion-wise, however, it was a nightmare. The album was only personally promoted by Britney twice, first with her VMA performance and secondly in a short, troubling phone interview with Ryan Seacrest. Music videos for the era consisted of one which was critically panned, another which received lukewarm reviews yet somehow managed to win 3 MTV Video Music Awards the following year, and another which was completely animated.

In the year following Blackout‘s release, Britney quickly managed to get back into a positive light in the public eye. Circus, released in late 2008 and was very commercially successful, but Blackout remains perhaps the most appreciated album in Britney’s discography by fans.

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