Idolator Wakes Up From A <i>Blackout</i> Just In Time To Blog About It

blackoutsmall.jpgARTIST: Britney Spears
TITLE: Blackout
WEB DEBUT: Oct. 12, 2007
RELEASE DATE: Oct. 30, 2007

ONE-LISTEN VERDICT: This doesn’t quite qualify as a “leak of the day,” since many of the songs were leaked long ago–good luck with yr lawsuit, Perez–but Blackout has now hit the web in full, supposedly official form.

The good news: it’s not nearly as bad as you may have thought, or been led to believe. Her handlers may be unable to keep her from falling face first into a puddle of her own Frappucino puke outside Wal-Mart, but once she lays down her notorious cat yawp, her superproducers are free to turn it into another squeaky sound effect in their passable, expensive-sounding dance-pop, without fear she’s going to storm the studio, drunken grab the decks, and somehow fuck it up. Blackout is unremarkable, but it’s no trainwreck. Even if the sluggish hip-hop beat on “Rebellion” smothers the fun out of the album’s jumpy tempos. And, major caveat emptor here, there hasn’t really been enough time to start processing the lyrics.

The bad news: None of this equals “it’s way better than you expected.” Blackout avoids trainwrecking by being generic in a very 2007 way, with nearly every track falling into the “trance-pop” sound cemented by Timbaland and protege/Brtiney-enabler Danja as the moneymaker in the latter half of this decade: a buzzing Eurodisco synthisizer riff or bubbling ’80s throwback hook plus crunchy disco-ified drums. There’s no intention to diss Britney’s producers by calling their beats “generic,” either; Spears’ processed-until-they-beg-for-mercy vocals are always the weakest link, but in an age of AutoTune, these shiny rhythms would do any non-singer proud. As for the non-singer that’s non-singing them here: at her best, Britney apes Jennifer Lopez’s husky delivery when she’s in club remix mode, and at her worst…well, it says something that the album’s strongest vocal (on album closer “Let Go”) sounds so little like Brit that you wonder if the record company didn’t just say “fuck it” and bring in a ringer.

The best news: First Britney album ever without a sickly Diane Warren-style ballad. “Keep the beats aggressive,” as Raphael Saadiq might say.

THE BEST TRACK: “Get Back,” where Danja’s alarm-clock synths are loud enough to make Britney’s (actually not that terrible) vocal more superfluous than usual.

idolator
  • loudersoft

    this would be fine, except the title of the album is clearly a reference to the state of alcohol usage she was in while in the studio, y’all

  • Nicolars

    No Max Martin, no credibility.

  • The Van Buren Boys

    If someone with access to the original studio recordings would leak Britney’s non-processed vocals, he/she would be my hero.

    But seriously, if Britney can release something not-terrible at this point in her career, then what could possibly explain the amount of garbage constantly being released? If a producer can make Britney sound decent, then what is stopping record execs pulling anyone off the street and turning them into a singer using whatever studio magic was used on Britney?

  • Cam/ron

    @The Van Buren Boys:

    I’ve heard her non-processed vocals on what was supposedly an old, unreleased DFA track, and her sinuses sounded veeeery congested. I suppose that if she only sang in her natural voice, it would make her very punk.

  • mackro

    Random thought: it is a bit weird to realize that most of the first eight Black Sabbath album titles kinda map out Britney’s life to date. (Ok, maybe the first six… I’ll get to work on Photoshop then.)

  • Chris N.

    Especially “Vol. 4.”

  • narymary

    When I was still living in NYC my band got to record our second album at Sound On Sound, a swanky studio in Midtown where my sound engineer bandmate worked as a tech. Because of her job there we got free studio time at odd hours like starting at 1:00 a.m. When we were in laying down basic tracks my bandmate found out Britney was upstairs recording vocals for what must’ve been her “In The Zone” album. We joked about asking her to do handclaps on the record or something but figured we couldn’t afford it. When my bandmate asked her co-worker who was working on the session if Britney could sing he said the sound of her voice was awful but she was really good at just punching in a bar before her part and getting the notes perfect in a few takes.

    So I felt like, okay, she has some vague shred of talent amidst all of that misery. Too bad she sounds like Cher if Cher were a cat with nasal congestion.