Britney gives us more

By Amy Shaunette & Peter Valelly

Britney Spears’ fifth album, “Blackout,” was a media event more because everything Britney Spears does is a media event than any reasons having to do with the album’s musical content. Nonetheless, the album’s electropop charms proved wildly addictive to Mac Weekly Arts Editors Amy Shaunette and Peter Valelly. These pop-music experts lend their ear to Brit-brit’s latest to tell you just what happens when an artist with nothing to lose except brain cells (and a similarly microscopic amount of dignity) enters the studio with a small handful of pop’s most esteemed producers. “Gimme More”
AS: The first vocals of this song are a low-pitched warning: “It’s Britney, bitch,” a perfect introduction to “Blackout.” Watch the fuck out – it’s Britney. Immediately, you know you are in for a treat – if you can even make it past “Gimme More” without hitting the repeat button and booty calling whoever’s willing. “Gimme More” is aphrodisiacal. I say this blushing, but without shame. The song is set in a club (a hot, sweaty one la the “I’m a Slave 4 U” video). The first verse: “Everytime they turn the lights down/just wanna go that extra mile for you./Public display of affection/feels like no one else in the room but you.” Clearly this is a sex invitation. Second verse: “Center of attention/even when you’re up against the wall./You got me in a crazy position/if you’re on a mission/you got my permission.” Perhaps I’m just a freak, but the phrase “up against the wall” is kind of turn-on, right? The song rolls, escalating to an inevitable climax (pun intended) that culminates with producer Danja repeating an electronic “danger” over and over again while Britney sings seductive oohs and ahhs. “Gimme More” is a dirty, dirty song. It’s for sex in a nightclub bathroom.

PV: I didn’t like this when it first came out as a single, but as the first track of the album, it makes total sense because it kicks off this ridiculous synth-pop charade. Every track just gets more outrageous from here, both in terms of out-there sonics and lyrics that are questionable both artistically and PR-wise. “It’s Britney, bitch” indeed.

“Piece of Me”
AS: I hated “Piece of Me” when I first encountered the video on MTV, but it’s truly badass. Britney hasn’t had a good year and this is her act of defiance. “A little baby weight and a custody battle are not going to stop me. Get on the dance floor NOW,” she seems to say. The song isn’t perfectly danceable – the second half sounds like a trippy Nintendo game – but it’s a crucial declaration of Britney’s undeniable spot as pop music royalty. She really is shameless.

PV: If it weren’t for the extremely self-referential lyrics (written by Swedes rather than by Britney herself, of course) this could be a song by an indie-electronic outfit, if only the Knife and their ilk were this good. Vacant, robotic, and propulsive, “Piece of Me” is interested in pop allure rather than Pitchfork niche appeal. It’s also the catchiest thing I’ve heard in months and months, my favorite track on the album, one of the best singles of the year, and a state of the art pop record.

“Radar”
AS: “Radar” is a shallow description of Britney’s dream man. “Confidence is a must/cockiness is a plus/edginess is a rush./A man with a Midas touch.” Pretty stupid. Cockiness and edginess? So that’s how she ended up with K-Fed. Later though, Britney hits the nail on the head. “Animal in the sack/his eyes see right to my soul/I surrender self-control.” These are great qualities in any relationship. Britney knows what’s up. Musically, “Radar” is annoying. The song is driven by a high-pitched synth pulse better suited to Depeche Mode, and how many times can one person say “radar” in 3 minutes and 51 seconds?
PV: I think it’s funny that she sounds like a robot on every track of this album because of all of the vocal effects, and here is a song about how she has radar.
“Break the Ice”
AS: Genius. The song has a ridiculously repetitive synth riff, but its eerie and sexual and completely catchy. And the lyrics? Dirty. So dirty. “Got my body spinning like a hurricane/and it feels like you got me going insane/and I can’t get enough so let me get it up.” I love this song. The chorus ends with “Baby, I can make you feel.” followed by three short exhales, one of Britney’s signatures sounds. I interpret her orgasmic breaths as “hot, hot, hot.” How badass is it to sing a song admitting you can make someone feel hot?
PV: This has the cheesiest synth part and the tinniest, flattest drums, but it’s all worth it for that little snatch of rushed melody before the chorus: “Ooh, looks like we’re alone now.” The bit where Britney’s heart is “beating like an 808” should put a smile on any rhythm-fiend’s face, while the profusion of weird sounds towards the end jostles with “Freakshow” for the album’s most futuristic moment.

“Heaven on Earth”
AS: Worst song on the album. Sounds exactly like Goldfrapp, and Goldfrapp is creepy. This is the kind of love song people who kill their significant others listen to right before they pull the trigger.

“Get Naked (I Got a Plan)”
AS: “Gimme More” has a special place in my heart and in my bedroom, but “Get Naked” is something else. Danja’s vocals are wack. It’s like he’s singing into a tube with his mouth open as wide as it can go, producing a deep wail: “Baaaaaaabay baaaabay, baaabaaaay.” His part repeats: “I got a plan we can do it when you want it, baby, baby, baby./As long as you want it come with me we can do it, baby, baby, baby.” Britney chants: “Get naked, get naked. Take it off, take it off,” and Danja moans, drawing it out: “Baaaaabay take it off,” followed by Britney’s hushed confession: “I just want to take it off.” It is the raunchiest pop song I have ever heard, and the beat is infectious. The absolute best line in the entire album happens near the end when Britney taunts, “If I get on top/you’re gonna lose your mind.” The song certainly does not reflect well on Britney. Lyrics like “What I gotta do to get you to want my body?” are far from feminist, but it’s almost refreshing to see a woman assert her sexuality so frankly.

“Freakshow”
AS: “Freakshow” doesn’t do much for me. It’s too fucked up. A freakshow? A peepshow? Gross. I do enjoy the line, “It’s all about me and you/doing what we do,” but if what they do is freakshow material, I would rather not watch.or listen. Plus the bass gives me a headache.

PV: I love this – it’s all off-kilter bass gurgles and wildly clipped and distorted vocals. The best moment is around the two-minute mark when her voice, seemingly possessed by radio static, suddenly welds to this catchy riff that’s been lurking in the background.

“Toy Soldier”
PV: What the ass? I’ve said a billion times how much this album has convinced me that Britney is a robot, and this song is kind of like one of those science fiction stories where the robot goes completely crazy out of human control. It sounds really, really annoying, like some DDR shit.

“Hot as Ice”
PV: This song is written by T-Pain, but unlike “Buy You a Drank,” it kind of sucks.

“Ooh Ooh Baby”
AS: The robot sound effects are absent on this track, replaced with Latin-flavored guitar, and this works to Britney’s advantage. Lyrically, it’s boring. At this point I’m a little sick of the meet-in-a-club-and-screw-all night story. Also, I really don’t think one can name a song “Ooh Ooh Baby.” Try a little harder, Britney’s writers.

PV: This one is insanely catchy, and I love the guitar bit and Gary Glitter rhythm driving the whole thing, but it seems fairly stale next to “Piece of Me,” “Gimme More,” and “Freakshow.”

“Perfect Lover”
AS: Flawless. Britney rattles off pornographic lyrics like a seasoned rapper. This song is sexy in a realistic way. The sleaziness is at a minimum, replaced with sensual sincerity, although lines like, “Baby, I’m yours for the taking/don’t you wanna see me naked,” “Give it to my bumper,” “Jump on me and make love” and “Everytime you touch me there/you make me f
eel so hot” push the limit. Bonus points: The bridge sounds like the Spice Girls.

PV: Britney whispers and drum machines shuffle over an organ-like drone. Filler for sure, “Perfect Lover” nonetheless exudes a quiet poppiness that outstrips most of this year’s radio fare.
“Why Should I Be Sad”
AS: This songs sucks. Britney’s slow songs peaked with “Sometimes.”

PV: Written and produced by Pharell, this proves that the Neptunes phase of ’00s pop is definitively over. “Why Should I Be Sad” sounds outmoded alongside a whole record of what one blogger described as “punitively reductive electropop,” perfect ear candy for this cultural moment.