Don’t get me wrong, Circus is definitely not a bad album. It’s better than a lot of pop records that come out these days, and it certainly represents a comeback of sorts for the much maligned Britney. And we can’t really blame ourselves for getting wrapped up in the hype – that’s what people do, especially when a huge artist like Britney Spears releases a new album.
The reality is, though, Circus is a distracted and disjointed album that rides on the success of 5 massive singles. “Womanizer,” “Kill The Lights,” “If U Seek Amy,” “Circus,” and “Radar” are all gigantic tunes, some of which rank up with Brit’s best. A great set of five bumpers that will be enough to keep people spinning Circus in coming years.
The tracks surrounding those hype-worthy songs, spread across a seemingly randomly selected album and bonus disc, are less appealing. Some, like “Shattered Glass” come off as formulaic attempts to mirror previous successes. The beat, from Dr. Luke and Benny Blanco, is catchy enough, but the song is still missing something – emotion, drive, purpose. Instead of a dancefloor hit, it sounds like someone in the studio said “we need a song where Britney yells at a guy who broke up with her,” so they cranked out “Shattered Glass”. It features out of place falsettos from Brit and a few too many effects applied to her voice, and it ends with a shattering glass sound effect. Hmm.
Where “Shattered Glass” is at least formulaically listenable, songs like “Mmm Papi”and “My Baby” are not. In an interview with MTV, Britney said, “"The process was cool, because I got to write a lot of the songs, and in the beginning, I really took part in that.” Ironically, “Mmm Papi” and “My Baby” are the only two tracks on which Britney has writing credits on the album. The songs are gimmicky, uninteresting, and difficult to listen to more than once or twice. I challenge you to find someone who has listened to “My Baby” more than three times in their life. That song is quite literally the worst song I have heard in the last five years.
After letting some of the hype die down on this album, it’s a little easier to see the album for what it is – a pretty good pop album that follows the standard formula of filling space around singles with mediocre tracks. There are definitely a bunch of bangers on Circus, and it has certainly sold a lot of copies, but it’s not the silver bullet comeback album for Britney that everyone said it would be. It’s not her best, nor is one of the best albums of last year. After the dust has settled, I’d give it a 73.