With excitement for Britney Spears’ 8th studio album growing more and more each day, which she says is her most personal album to date including appearances by Naughty Boy, Will-i-am, Sia and William Orbit, its fair to say pop fans across the world are ready for a new Britney album.
But for the sake of this blog entry lets cast our minds back to 2007. Britney was the party girl about town with Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, she was slowly falling out of favour with the media due to her strange and erratic behaviour and she recently released her 5th studio album. I am of course talking about the ‘Blackout’ era.
This album, 6 years on, is considered Britney’s best and most cohesive body of work and is heralded as the most influential pop album of the past decade according to Rolling Stone. But what made this album so brilliant and held in such high esteem by fans and critics alike?
For anyone who has properly listened to this album you will realise one thing; it was way ahead of its time. Released in 2007, ‘Blackout’ predicted the euro pop/dubstep sound that has been the staple of pop music for the past 5 years and Britney did it before anyone else.
The album opened with the 3 most iconic words in pop culture history since Sue Ellen uttered the words ‘I shot J.R!’ on Dallas in 1980. Yep! Thats right! I am talking about ‘It’s Britney Bitch!’. Taken from the lead single ‘Gimme More’, the song was a dark and seductive call to her lover which introduced the world to a new and mature Britney who was no longer all sugary sweet. She was a woman, who has needs and in those three words that open the song she has got your full attention.
Sonically the album was nothing like what was on the radio at the time. Back when ‘Blackout’ came out the prevalent sound was the urban pop fusion that Timbaland was at the helm of. With Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado right alongside him they defined an era of music. But never one to jump on trends Britney had other ideas.
Working with Danja Hills, the two of them introduced so many news sounds to pop music which have now since gone on to be part of the furniture and you wonder how did pop music get so far without them? Like I said earlier, ‘Blackout’ predicted the current euro pop sound of music today with songs like ‘Piece Of Me’ and ‘Heaven of Earth’ but it also introduced a new sound to pop music and that was dubstep. The song ‘Freakshow’ was the first song by any pop artist to even remotely experiment with the dubstep in their music. The heavy bass and and almost like rapping by Spears backed by the recurring ‘Womp womp’ that dubstep is known for makes ‘Freakshow’ the somewhat root for songs that have followed which have dabbled in elements of dubstep. Katy B’s ‘Easy Please Me’ springs to mind here.
One of the lasting changes ‘Blackout’ made to pop music was that it took auto tune away from RnB and Hip and introduced it to Pop. The song ‘Radar’ coined what is now considered ‘Robo Pop’ and open the doors for other girls in pop to follow. This impact can be seen in Ke$ha’s music where every one of her songs includes auto tuned vocals and also in Lady GaGa’s ‘Poker Face’. Now tell me before Britney, who else was using auto tune in their music aside from T-Pain?
While we’re on the topic of Lady GaGa I’m sure a lot of you are wondering if ‘Blackout’ is such a forward thinking masterpiece of pop then why isn’t it celebrated more and Britney given recognition for it? One word; GaGa. What you have to remember is that Britney released ‘Blackout’ at the height of her downfall which resulted in sloppy promotion, lack lustre performances (2007 VMA performance of ‘Gimme More’ anyone?) and the general media against her.
Lady GaGa was presented to pop music as this shiny new artistic being who was going to save pop music with her debut ‘The Fame’. She was crowned the sole person who opened the flood gates for other singers with an electro pop sound to make their mark such as La Roux/ Little Boots/ Pixxie Lott/ V V Brown et al. But what people fail to realise is that sonically ‘The Fame’ is heavily influenced and based on ‘Blackout’. You can see elements of ‘Blackout’ in ‘The Fame’ and even the song ‘LoveGame’ when it was first released was considered by many as a Britney song.
And sadly because Lady GaGa was the media’s new shiny toy to play with at the time and ‘Blackout’ was hardly promoted aside from Britney’s personal life all over the news everyday, the former’s album was more successful and reached a wider audience. Funnily enough ‘Blackout’s influence on Lady GaGa has been seen time and time again. Her song ‘Telephone’ was actually written for Britney and a demo of her singing it came to surface and when you hear it, it sounds as if it could of been a bonus track on ‘Blackout’.
Don’t be fooled into thinking there isn’t a lasting legacy behind ‘Blackout’. The complete opposite in-fact. Since it’s release fans have urged Britney to make a sequel to ‘Blackout’. What ended up being her 6th studio album ‘Circus’ was a complete U-Turn in the progressive and gritty sounds of ‘Blackout’ which was expected as her management were trying to re-introduce her to the word as America’s sweetheart. Not single mother of two with bi polar. The trends #HappyBirthdayBlackout and #Blackout2.0 have trended multiple times and even Britney teased fans with the following tweet;
It’s become a cult classic and the most critically acclaimed album of her career. Her producer Dr Luke tried to re-hash the magic of ‘Blackout’ in 2011 with Britney’s 7th album ‘Femme Fatale’ which explored more elements of dubstep in pop but it failed to receive the same acclaim. ‘Blackout’ is just one of those rare albums in pop where everything was just right. The busy and erratic theme of the album acted as the perfect soundtrack to Britney’s life in 2007 and was the album that most reflected her at the time. It’s influence and impact has gone beyond Pop and got the attention of urban artists such as Cassie who was impressed with the track ‘Perfect Lover’ and urged producers to mirror it’s urban appeal for her own work. And when you think about it could Beyonce have made an electro pop song like ‘Sweet Dreams’ without Blackout? Probably not.
At a time when Britney could of played it completely safe and made music that harked back to her glory days of ‘Oops I Did It Again’ she chose to take a risk and make an album that she wanted to. With complete creative control ‘Blackout’ showed us that Britney is more than just a pop singer, she has an ear for trends and it always one step ahead of her peers and instead of following trends she sets them.
Until the day comes when Britney finally releases her much anticipated 8th studio album I think this homage to Britney’s ‘Blackout’ album can be summed up perfectly in 3 little words.
It’s Britney Bitch!