Byline: Adam Mazmanian, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Pop idol Britney Spears puts a bookend on the walking-train-wreck phase of her young career with the release of the relentlessly fabulous Circus.
Part Bronx cheer to her public, part revenge mix tape, part autobiography, Circus is a mash note to life in the center ring.
There's not much by way of contrition for her very public 2007 crackup, which included rumors of drug-fueled excess, attacks on paparazzi and the loss of custody of her two children to ex-husband Kevin Federline. Instead, the message of Circus is that Miss Spears suffers for your pleasure, and it's bad to get thrills from her antics, buy weekly celebrity tabloids and scour the Internet for photographs of her regrettable clothing ensembles - all the while tut-tutting her behavior. On the title track, Miss Spears sings, There's only two types of people in the world: ones that entertain and ones that observe. It's pretty clear from this song and the rest which of the two she considers the higher life form.
Here, the producers adroitly use minor keys to signal a kind of malaise bordering on menace to which Miss Spears' adenoidal but otherwise affectless vocal style is perfectly suited. The single Womanizer - in heavy radio and video rotation for months now - opens with a memorable fanfare of synthesizer that blares with the urgency of a siren. The mix on the Danja-produced Kill the Lights appears to be optimized for play on audio systems modified to handle tooth-rattling bass. If you're driving without a true trunk of funk, consider lowering the bass to a level below the factory settings before pressing play. …