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Cynical vocodered mediocrity

Rating: 4 / 10

Patrick Freyne, 10 Dec 2008

Why does Britney sing like that? I know it’s meant to sound sexy, but the way she sings through her nose and the back of her throat makes her sound like she’s doing an impression of an angry duck. Are ducks sexy now? Is duck-love what the kids crave? Maybe ‘duck’ is good in the same way ‘bad’ means ‘good’? It just sounds weird to me. I don’t know. I feel old.

But then Britney sounds kind of old too. I think she’s slowly turning into Miss Havisham from Great Expectations – jilted at the altar by her potential, sitting by a huge rotting wedding cake and training a generation of young girls to be passive aggressive sex objects in an act of cosmic revenge. She certainly has the same misplaced sense of her own importance as a tragic Dickens character. “Our very own pop princess, now Queen of Pop, has a special announcement she would like to make,” intones a DJ before ‘Kill The Lights’, and “There are only two types of people in the world, the kind that entertain and the type that observe,” she sings rather ungraciously in ‘Circus’.

And if it’s tempting to listen to this album and project subtexts about the paparazzi, child social services and mental instability, this is largely because Britney and her cynical collaborators play with these tropes like they’re studio effects. I mean ‘Blur’ features the lyrics “I can’t remember what I did last night. Everything is just a blur... what happened?” and ‘My Baby’ is a song about, well, her baby (it’s made entirely out of sugar). And then there’s the incest-pop of ‘Hmm Papi’ – which is just creepy and disgusting. Anyway it all could easily be solved by some good melodies and original production. But it’s not.

Key Track: ‘Out From Under’

Rating: 4 / 10
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