Britney Spears’ ‘Blackout’ Turns Five: Stan & Deliver
On the momentous occasion of its five-year anniversary, how does one even begin to honor a piece of pop history as great as Blackout? Much has been written about the iconic LP, released in 2007 as Britney Spears‘ fifth studio album, but its legacy is clear: Blackout predicted the dance invasion of the last several years and the importation of dubstep (with a wobbler effect used prominently on the album track “Freakshow” well before Brit co-opted the explosive dubstep break in “Hold It Against Me”) while refining the formula for coolly sexy, tortured pop. It’s probably Spears’ greatest artistic achievement, and one of the top pop albums of the decade.BreatheHeavy‘s Jordan Miller, MuuMuse‘s Brad Stern, and our very own Sam Lansky.
Click through to read each review — and remember, it’s still Britney, bitch, even five years later.
Name: Brad S. | Location: New York, NY | Twitter: @MuuMuse
1. Gimme More: The press has concocted roughly a half-dozen “She’s back!” headlines about the legendary Miss Britney Spears since 2007, but “Gimme More” was, is, and forever will be Britney’s true comeback track. Released 4 years after 2003’s In The Zone, Britney’s dark and chilly opus found the Holy Spearit tucked deep inside a club during the most turbulent time in her life, writhing, giggling and moaning her way around ghostly coos, drippy electronica and a stinging beat that no sound system can ever seem to do proper justice.
Further cemented into pop culture by an infamously shaky performance at the 2007 MTV VMA’s, as well as a hollow-eyed strip tease within the song’s accompanying music video, “Gimme More” is as spooky and game-changing today as the day it first dropped back in September of 2007. That purred opening alone — the most important line in popular culture since Moby Dick’s “Call me Ishmael” — remains one of the greatest pop culture moments of all time. It’s Iconicney, bitch.
Name: Conor B. | Location: Dublin, Ireland | Twitter: @platinumjones
2. Piece of Me: Just because Britney doesn’t sweat over a hot lyrics sheet to come up with her own songs doesn’t mean she can’t deliver a near-perfect summation of how she’s perceived via the perfect pop song. “Piece of Me” nails the media storm around Spear’s famously bleak 2007 with Bloodshy and Avant‘s crunchy, forward-thinking production squawking and whirring all over the track while Swedish-pop queen Robyn coos on backing vocals.
Its single release came at the height of that much-vaunted meltdown but “Piece of Me” is a surly, engaging and sparkling pop single, still one of the spikiest jewels in Britney’s chart crown.
Name: Sam L. | Location: New York, NY | Twitter: @samlansky
3. Radar: It’s the track so nice they released it twice! “Radar” was the subject of an unfairly protracted single release — the song was initially intended to be a single in 2008, following “Piece of Me,” but was then recycled for inclusion on the follow-up to Blackout, 2008’s Circus, and ultimately serviced to radio in 2009, where it peaked at a lackluster #88 on the Hot 100 — but God, remember hearing “Radar” for the first time? Those bone-chilling synths, the vocals processed into strings of robotic squeals, and Britney doing what Britney does best: Pronouncing a completely pedestrian word in a really weird and ultimately iconic way. (Here, “radar” gets turned into “ray-uh-duh,” because, well, why not?)
Even if it took a minute to find its moment in the spotlight, “Radar” endures as one of Blackout‘s most defining tracks — and better still, the video, shot during the Circus era, gives us Breakdownney sounds with Got-Her-Shit-Togetherney visuals. Who could complain about that?
Name: Martin M. | Location: New York, NY | Twitter: @mmrales
4. Break the Ice: Kicking it off with a legendary intro that is second only to the iconic “It’s Britney, bitch,” Britney goes into the first few seconds of “Break The Ice” reminding us that the queen of pop and seduction is back at last (I’ve had chills since 2007). Whether you are listening to the album version or the legendary demo of the track — with Britney chewing on ice and laughing ever so menacingly into the first verse — “Break the Ice” epitomizes the edgy, dark sound that defines this album. Brit has always commanded the stage and the recording studio with her suggestive moves and sultry coos, but much like ice itself, this track just melts sex. And we Britney fans love the power of a woman’s sexuality.
Name: Miles D. | Location: Minneapolis, MN
5. Heaven On Earth: “Heaven On Earth” shines a light on how vulnerable Britney feels in love (“When I look at you, I feel like I’m going to jump into Heaven and no one’s going to catch me. Will you catch me?” — as heard in the early demo of the song), but the lyrics don’t forget how much loving someone is a part of her as her blonde locks are. She’s obsessive about the people she loves in her life, both family and lovers alike (“Don’t know what I would do if I ever lose you”). This song truly delves deep into what makes her heart beat, on top of a cutting-edge trance track no one else was doing in 2007.
Name: Patrik S. | Location: New York, NY | Twitter: @patriksandberg
6. Get Naked (I Got a Plan): Blackout was, without question, the most consequential pop album of the first millennial decade. Its nucleus lives and breathes as track #6, “Get Naked (I Got a Plan)”. The song, produced by Floyd “Danja” Hills, packages the essence of what made Blackout a momentous artistic and cultural moment for Britney Spears, as it soundtracked the peak of her excesses—fueled by the nativity of the meme cycle and the storm of paparazzi that turned her flaws into widespread interactive theater—and her inevitable (though stunningly violent) spiraling descent in the public eye.
Throbbing, cinematic, dark, sexy, frightening and altogether dazzling, it is without question the lost #1 hit of Britney’s catalog. Its lyrics have become iconic: “Baby I’m a freak and I don’t really give a damn. I’m crazy as a motherfucker, bet that on your man.” It’s black magic.
Name: Tynan S. | Location: Madison, WI | Twitter: @TynanBuck
7. Freakshow: When Britney Spears shaved her head, I shaved my head, and I was listening to “Freakshow” when I did it. “Freakshow” completely sums up Blackout for me: gritty, sexy and all attitude. From the ahead of its time, dubstep-esque bass in the beginning, to our Pop Queen/Messiah bringing the sass, almost rapping — “10pm to 4, and I came to hit the floor” — the track lands mid-album to help keep the sledgehammering momentum of the record moving. Throughout Blackout, we hear Britney Christ go from flirty on “Hot As Ice” to coy and sexy on “Perfect Lover,” but in “Freakshow,” we see her as she has always been meant to be seen: calling the shots. During such a when Britney’s life literally was a freakshow, “Freakshow” would serve as a welcome reminder that our B Girl was always in charge.
Name: Adam P. | Location: New York, NY | Twitter: @apyarali
8. Toy Soldier: As with every masterpiece on Blackout, when the beat drops — you know Britney isn’t playin’. “Toy Soldier” is no different, produced by the incredible Bloodshy and Avant, an urban-leaning jam that features sultry vocals from Ms. Spears in her trademarked baby voice. And what about that iconic “City boys from New York” lyric? Whatever confidence Britney lacked at this dark time in her life, there’s no sign of that here.
Name: Sean T.| Location: Singapore |
9. Hot as Ice: “Hot as Ice” is an uptempo electro-R&B song. I’ll give it a 9/10 as the chorus is catchy and has a great hook, but her other one mark is not there because Britney’s vocals are overly processed. If she used her demo acapella in replacement for her studio acapella, I would give it a perfect score.
Name: Jason P. | Location: Mount Juliet, Tennessee
10. Ooh Ooh Baby: The best Blackout song? The one that strikes my fancy is easily “Ooh Ooh Baby”! Britney can seduce: Men, women, gay or straight. She can sell sex better than any artist out there! The greatest part about it? She decides to take a sample of the famous “Happy Together” by The Turtles and delight us with this beautiful piece of mid-tempo pop that digs deep inside and makes me come alive! Oh, baby.
Name: Jordan M. | Location: Las Vegas, NV | Twitter: @breatheheavycom
11. Perfect Lover: Looking back on the Danja-produced track “Perfect Lover,” I thought Britney was cooing about a gentlemen she couldn’t keep her hands off of. Five years later, and numerous reports recently confirmed Britney, at the time, experimented… I’m not so sure her perfect lover was human. “Got me so damn high, can’t come down,” she sings. Now that’s a blackout.
Name: David R. | Location: Los Angeles, CA | Twitter: @17days
12. Why Should I Be Sad: Not only are the lyrics some of the most revealing and regretful of her entire career (thanks, Pharrell!), but her “Sadney” vocals (the muted coos, the breathless “Heaven knows…”) are probably her most knowing and vulnerable.
Not enough positive attention is paid to the instrument that is Britney’s singing voice, but on “Why Should I Be Sad” she proves herself a deft interpreter of song by bringing to life the real-life drama of her personal life in ’06-’07 without ever sounding like she’s trying too hard. The perfect comedown to the never ending after-party that are Blackout‘s preceding 10 tracks.