Britney’s Blackout: I dare you not to dance

I realize that writing a music
review of Britney Spears is akin to writing a food review of
McDonald’s. The music snobs and foodies are sure to look down their noses
in disdain. But with over a billion seemingly satisfied fans of both
pre-packaged products served, you simply can’t ignore their cultural
dominance. So with the official leak of “Blackout” on MTV.com, VH1.com and LOGOonline.com (AfterEllen.com’s big, gay parent company) earlier
this week, it’s time to put on the headphones and let Britney hit
us, baby, one more time.

Now, the first thing I do is
sniff out the dance tracks. Because, let’s get serious, that’s the
reason I listen to Brit-Brit in the first place. It’s embarrassing,
and possibly unhealthy, the number of times I’ve danced to “Toxic”
at parties. So I am happy to report that Ms. Oops She Did It Again delivers
the goods and then some.

“Blackout” opens with the
now notorious “Gimme More,” and its first words foreshadow the rest
of the disc’s tone: “It’s Britney, bitch.” Yep, sounds about
right. But it’s the second track that really gets your attention.
In the synth-heavy “Piece of Me,” the media magnet addresses the
insane press vortex scrutinizing her every step. This could be the first,
and only, time I’ve liked a Britney song for the lyrics. Sure, she
doesn’t get all the credit for the sassy smack back at the press and
public since she didn’t write the words. But still, I’ve got to
say it’s a scorcher.

“I’m Mrs. Lifestyles
of the rich and famous/You want a piece of me/I’’m Mrs. Oh my God
that Britney’s shameless/You want a piece of me/I’’m Mrs. Exta!
Extra! This just in/You want a piece of me/I’m Mrs. she’s too big
now she’s too thin/You want a piece of me.”

Wow, that’s pretty pointed
coming from a pop princess. But considering the untold number of hours
spent dissecting her mental health/parenting skills/driving abilities/dance
moves/hairstyle choices on cable news (not to mention the blogosphere),
it’s a more than fair assessment. Why the hell do we all want a piece
of her?

The rest of the CD thumps from
one slickly produced club track to another. “Radar,” “Get Naked
(I Got A Plan),” “Freakshow”” and “Toy Soldiers” should
have you bouncing involuntarily to their pulsing future-pop grooves.
Sure, some of the songs are the sonic equivalent of applesauce (smooth
and sappy). Trite tunes like “Hot As Ice” and “Why Should I Be
Sad” are reminders that this ain’t Mozart we’re dealing with,
as if we needed reminding.

Britney’s breathy come-on
of a voice is engineered to the brink of nonexistence, but that’s
hardly the point. Instead, emerging from the still-smoldering ashes of
her disastrous MTV Video Music Award trainwreck is a performer who sounds
more confident and unapologetic than ever. Is it all smoke and mirrors?
Who knows. What I do know is that “Blackout” has a beat, and you
can dance to it. And that’s all I’ve ever asked, or expected, from
Britney.

Take a listen for yourself
(until the CD’s release on Tuesday, it’s streaming free at Logo, VH1 and MTV) and weigh in. Is “Blackout” Britney’s
triumphant Phoenix or doomed Icarus? Discuss. If you need me, I’ll
be over here in the corner dancing like an idiot.

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