Britney Spears, CIRCUS

Back in 2008, the Britney Spears album Circus wasn't just another album from the pop star -- it was an attempt to get away from her disastrous public disasters (from the MTV Video Music Awards lip-synced performance fiasco to the shaved head and child custody battle) and return to the music that made her (in)famous. While the scandals and incidents haven't ended, the album did return Britney Spears to pop success.

As one might expect, Circus has Spears venting about being in the public eye with songs like "Kill the Lights" and "Mannequin." This self-awareness of the scandals also surfaces through the album, with lyrics like "You call me crazy/I've got your crazy!" and "Love me, hate me, say what you will about me."

Beyond the scandal, Circus covers some very familiar musical topics for Britney. There are love songs ("Unusual You," "My Baby"), blatant sexuality ("Lace and Leather," "If U Seek Amy"), emotional ballads ("Out from Under," "My Baby"), fluffy pop (the title track, "Mmm Papi") and some good ol' male-bashing ("Womanizer"). The result is, for better or worse, a return to form for Britney. As always, she doesn't exactly stand out when it comes to either vocals or lyrics. What she aims for -- and often succeeds at -- is delivering simple, fairly mindless fun. There's an awful lot of repetition in the songs, and for every song that's a guilty pleasure ("Mmm Papi," "If U Seek Amy") there's one that crashes and burns (the what-happened-last-night "Blur," the synthesizer-heavy "Shattered Glass").

Circus provided a number of hits for Britney Spears, and looking back it's not hard to understand why. This album may have Britney aware of her troubles, but it's less of a confrontation of her problems than an escape through, well, the cliches of pop music. The album is uneven, and hardly a musical masterpiece, but there are enough decent songs to make it sometimes enjoyable.

Overall grade: C+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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