on 14 September 2013
Britney Spears' 5th studio album was released at the most trying time of her career: she had finally cracked under the monotony of her superstar life, and, seeking a "normal" life of marriage, children, and perhaps most importantly, privacy, her search for answers and fulfillment was plastered all over the newspapers and celebrity gossip websites as a "meltdown." Indeed, many things had happened in her life until that point which left Britney heartbroken and confused, and this vulnerability led her to make some poor choices in her quest for fulfillment: Britney's first love, Justin Timberlake, broke up with her for being unfaithful; Her aunt died; her management gave her a far too demanding schedule; and she wanted, more than anything, to live a "normal" life, and often confided in her team that she fantasized of having her own little businesses, such as cute little cake shops. She became bored with the pop star life-style, and dreamed of having a husband and kids. She would marry, but it would end in disaster, and although she would have children, her search for meaning would consume her so much that her ability as a mother would be questioned. Britney had showed signs of depression and anxiety long before the public was made aware of it... exactly how deep her pain runs, we can only speculate.
Britney was considered a pop legend before she became known as the "little girl lost," and this album proves that, even in turmoil, Britney Spears can deliver an iconic era. "Blackout" is strong, fierce, and unflinching. Like its predecessor "In the Zone," "Blackout" offers an urban Britney that oozes sexiness and confidence. I cannot help but wonder what this era would have been like, had Britney not suffered the way she did... had she remained the same. I suspect it would have been an incredible success, and would have been considered her best work since the "Oops... I Did it Again" era of 2000. Many thought her star was falling, as sales had dropped since "Britney," but if this album was delivered with iconic videos the likes of "Toxic," "Slave 4 U" and "Me Against the Music," a tour, and memorable live performances similar to the VMA performance of Slave 4 U in 2001, all suspicions that her star had stopped shining would have been put to rest. You could argue that this album did put those suspicions to rest, that it was an incredible success, and that many do consider it her best work... but it must be said that the Britney we have now is not the same Britney we used to have. Britney does not show the same sharp, flawless choreography that she used to; she no longer appears happy and calm in interviews; and, upon closer inspection, Britney seems a shell of her old self. It is almost as if the old Britney is gone, and the new Britney is just the ghost of her. Many fans disagree with this, and although I love Britney still, I can't help noticing that Britney is very, very different since her troubles. The reason for Britney's dance moves - once so celebrated - now being absent from her shows, is a question left unanswered. There are many theories, but fans continue to speculate, as though Britney is a riddle that must be solved. In interviews, Britney's once goofy, sweet, girl-next-door personality now seems to be held back, almost as if Britney is afraid to let her out. She appears anxious and uncomfortable where she once appeared open. This does not make me like Britney any less. On the contrary, I feel compassion for her, as a sufferer of depression and anxiety disorders myself. I don't know if Britney has a diagnosed disorder, but I believe that going through a particularly troubling time in one's life can change a person, and leave them debilitated in some ways. I can only guess the innermost feelings of Britney like everyone else, but, at the very least, I believe Britney's confidence has lowered considerably. I also believe there is more to it than that... but we can only continue to guess as to what it may be.
It makes me sad to think that there was no "Blackout" tour, and when I listen to this album, I picture Britney when she was at her most awe-inspiring best. All of the songs on this album could have had amazing choreography, and I imagine Britney from her Onyx Hotel Tour dancing to "Hot As Ice," "Get Naked (I Got a Plan)," and "Perfect Lover" with the legendary precision dance moves we all loved so much from what some fans call "old Britney." And I can't help but wonder, what pain lay beneath the elaborate concerts of the "Britney" and "In The Zone" eras, waiting to be unleashed. It makes me sad to realise that the Britney I adored and admired so much when I was younger, may have been suffering inside.
Despite the sadness behind this album, it is arguably some of the best music of her career. Whether you're a fan of "old Britney," "new Britney," all Britneys or not a fan at all, you will find something enjoyable here. Amidst the madness, Britney reminds us why she's considered a legend.