Backtracking: Britney Spears’ Seminal ‘Circus’ Turns 10

Mike Nied | December 4, 2018 5:01 pm
'In The Zone' Turns 10
We look back on Britney Spears' iconic 2003 LP, 'In The Zone.'

Things got a little chaotic for Britney Spears in 2007, but she rose out of the ashes of near-destruction in 2008. After descending to the depths of the clubs on her throbbing opus, Blackout, the Princess of Pop went through a creative renaissance with the unveiling of her sixth album, Circus. While the former has been recognized as her most forward-thinking to date, its release was nearly lost in a sea of negative headlines and personal struggles. The latter signified a comeback and provided a chance to jump over previous drama and land on her feet. Retreating to familiar territory, it presented a softer version of the living legend. This was evident after a glance at the delicate cover. Dressed in a wispy, blush gown, the hitmaker serenely gazes out of frame. It could not have been more different than the sharp lines and distressing weaves that defined Blackout.

Everything was more polished; this is a trend that carried over to the music. After an initial listen, the album may feel safer than its predecessor. The experimental beats, which helped usher in a new era of dance pop, were largely eschewed in favor of more straightforward bubblegum. However, the era was lush with enduring hits. Chief amongst those is lead single, “Womanizer.” The anthem soared up the charts, netting B-Girl her second #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The accompanying video was a blockbuster that saw her play a multitude of characters. It also emphasized her rebirth, as the nude superstar reclined in a sauna. That was just the beginning.

The title track is literal pop perfection. “All eyes on me in the center of the ring, just like a circus,” Britney announces. “When I snap that whip everybody gonna trip, just like a circus.” Few lines in her discography more accurately describe both her personal and professional personas. Of course, we got another incredible video – sans what appears to be a must-see dance break. Unsurprisingly, the timeless smash went Top 3. It deserved. Meanwhile, Brit got a little naughty on the Max Martin-helmed “If U Seek Amy.” While masquerading as a senseless bop, the chorus amps up the raunch-factor after a closer listen. The single was only improved by its tongue-in-cheek visual, which threw some righteous shade at Fox News host Megyn Kelly.

The era hit its first snag when Team B decided to roll out “Radar,” a bonus track/Blackout left-over as the album’s final single. Not their best move. However, countless other hidden gems remain on the tracklist. “Unusual You” has the distinction of being one of Britney’s best ballads. “Kill The Lights” is a barbed kiss-off to the paparazzi on par with “Piece Of Me.” “Blur” effortlessly bridges the gap between Blackout and Circus. The groggy morning-after anthem almost feels like a nod to her leaving poor decisions in her past. Meanwhile, the lashes of electric guitar on “Mmm Papi” make for a demented but undeniably fun romp.

The same can be said for “Mannequin,” which had a brief moment in the spotlight when Brit performed it on The Circus Tour. But we never got justice for its original choreography. “Lace And Leather,” a flirty delight, got some love on The Femme Fatale Tour. However, few of the album’s deep cuts have been shown love since. Earlier this week Circus celebrated its 10th anniversary. Looking back it is clear the LP withstands the test of time. Overflowing with sparkling pop perfection, it holds up with some of the best collections in Britney’s discography. Give it a listen below!

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