Britney Spears' Creative 'Blackout' Britney Spears has had a busy year: A child-custody fight, a much-derided MTV Video Music Awards performance, a public tonsorial meltdown. But she has a new album — Blackout, her first studio disc since 2003 — and the music is what matters, right? Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.
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Britney Spears' Creative 'Blackout'

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Britney Spears' Creative 'Blackout'

Review

Music Reviews

Britney Spears' Creative 'Blackout'

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TERRY GROSS, Host:

In recent years, Britney Spears has become a tabloid fixture for her marital and child custody problems. Her public behavior has overshadowed her music career. Rock critic Ken Tucker says while it's impossible not to think about Spears' current image and image problems, the music she makes on her new album "Blackout," her first studio album since 2003, is well worth listening to.

(SOUNDBITE OF "FREAK SHOW")

BRITNEY SPEARS: END OF SOUNDBITE

KEN TUCKER: It tickles my ears to listen to the clever use of technology amassed to construct Britney's further disquisition on fame and it's hazards, a song called "Piece of Me." Listen to the Swedish production duo that calls itself Bloodshy & Avant. They produce Spears' terrific 2003 single "Toxic." Now they contrast Britney's sly complaint with witty jingle jangles and an inexorable, irresistible beat.

(SOUNDBITE OF "PIECE OF ME")

SPEARS: END OF SOUNDBITE

TUCKER: "Piece of Me" offers sound effects pleasures mingling with Spears mixed emotions. She says with some resentment, or is it pride, quote, "I've been Miss American Dreams since I was 17." She refers to her media over exposure with the phrase "my derriere in a magazine." Derriere used to avoid an FCC fine and make the meter in the line scan properly. Who says she isn't mindful of craft, even if she isn't actually writing the song? Britney's voice is heard in two variations over the course of "Blackout." A low, slurry growl as on "Piece of Me," and a high pitched electronically distorted squeal on a song such as "Hot As Ice."

(SOUNDBITE OF "HOT AS ICE")

SPEARS: END OF SOUNDBITE

TUCKER: To object to the fact that "Hot As Ice," with it's refrain "I'm as hot as ice," makes no sense, is like objecting to the fact that "The Simpsons" are cartoonish. For Britney, lyrics are either undisguised message blasts sent out to those she loves or hates, or mere syllables she uses to make pleasant noises. "Hot As Ice" is one of the later. Her opening exclamations are as crucial to the catchiness as any of the instruments that surround her.

(SOUNDBITE OF "OOH, OOH BABY")

SPEARS: END OF SOUNDBITE

TUCKER: As a portrait of an artist who feels played out, lacking in new life experiences that might inspire new subjects for her music as well as new reasons to live, "Blackout" is thoroughly convincing. It has the very authenticity that Britney haters claim she lacks. It thus makes it impossible to dismiss.

GROSS: CREDITS

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