Review #441: Blackout, Britney Spears

Karla Clifton
3 min readOct 9, 2023

#441: Blackout, Britney Spears

Leave Britney alone! Free Britney! Britney with knives on Instagram! All this because of the Mickey Mouse Club. Can you believe that she was only seventeen when …Baby One More Time came out??

Spears was 26 when this album, her fifth, came out. And she had the misfortune of having the most well-publicized quarter-life crisis in history. The timeline of Britney’s 2007 is actually quite insane: mid-February, she infamously shaved her head, kicking off a spat of behavior that the press obsessively documented — some would say caused. In September, she performed at the MTV VMAs — more on that in a bit. Then Perez Hilton (of all people) allegedly leaked parts of it online, which she sued him for. (It was rush-released, so maybe that explains the album cover, which feels a bit first drafty.) Shortly after it’s release, she lost physical custody of her sons.

And in the midst of all that, Spears released Blackout. It’s the only album that she has the executive production credit for, though she calls in others for help, like Kara DioGuardi and the Neptunes’ Pharrell (“Why Should I Be Sad”). And guess what, it received horrible reviews. Maybe people just expected Britney to fail, despite the fact that this album puts her squarely in a place of control. Yet in retrospect, multiple publications have retracted their initial poor reviews, its long afterlife proving them wrong. Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield said it best: “[T]he music industry scoffed [at the album], but then proceeded to spend the next few years imitating it to death, to the point where everything on pop radio sounded like Blackout.”

Case in point: “Gimme More.” It’s Britney, bitch, itself. First of all, it’s sexy, but it’s not about sex — it’s a confessional about her massive fame and the ravenous paparazzi. Cameras are flashing/ While we’re dirty dancing/ They keep watching/ Keep watching, feels like the crowd is saying/ Gimme, gimme (more), gimme (more). And it’s a bop, with a dirty beepy beat and the lowest more you’ve ever heard. It’s a lasting masterpiece, was even used in the trailer for The Idol this year. (It’s also not the only bitter fame confessional — see “Piece of Me.”)

But, man, did people think that this song was the death knell of Brit’s whole career. In fairness, she didn’t make it easy. Her debut performance of the song at the VMAs was disastrous — she seems to not really know the words or choreography. The looks on the faces of people in the audience really says it all. Also, apparently Criss Angel was supposed to be there, and wasn’t??? Additionally, the music video is very un-Britney-like: there’s no storyline, there’s no choreography (despite the stripper pole), and Britney’s a brunette. The make-up artist said some years later that Brit was being intentionally difficult and didn’t follow the plan for the shoot.

So in 2007, this album was unappreciated. But like other albums released in the 2000s, this was ahead of its time. Britney put together a dirty Eurotrash pop amalgamation that primed us all for Max Martin’s dominance. You can practically hear the laser light show in songs like “Radar,” “Heaven On Earth,” “Toy Soldier,” and the freaky “Freakshow.” And the trash gets extra trashy on the two bonus tracks, “Get Back” and “Everybody.” Those were fit for the Japanese version and no one else.

What’s more, Brit’s voice does exactly what it needs to do — she wails and whispers and gets sultry and husky. And this time she’s not messing around with cutesy innuendos. See “Ooh Ooh Baby,” “Perfect Lover,” and the exceptionally frank “Get Naked (I Got a Plan).” (That said, there are not one but two songs that have the word ‘ice’ in the title, “Break the Ice” and “Hot as Ice.”)

So talk about her meltdown all you want. For what it’s worth, though, every single Britney Wikipedia page is full of people praising her work ethic and professionalism. If there’s one pop star that I think is criminally underrepresented on RS’s greatest albums list, it’s Britney, bitch.

Review #440: Coal Miner’s Daughter, Loretta Lynn

Review #442: Beauty Behind the Madness, The Weeknd

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