ARTIST: Britney Spears
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.