Britney Spears - Circus album
Released November 28, 2008
Genre Pop, electropop, dance R&B
Length 46:15 (Standard 13-track Edition), 53:05 (U.S. Deluxe Edition)
Producer Teresa LaBarbera Whites and Larry Rudolph (executive), Bloodshy & Avant, Benny Blanco, The Clutch, Nate "Danja" Hills, Dr. Luke, Fernando Garibay, Greg Kurstin, Guy Sigsworth, Let's Go To War, Max Martin, The Outsyders, Harvey Mason, Jr., Rob Knox
Circus is the sixth studio album by American pop singer Britney Spears. It was released on November 28, 2008 by Jive Records. Spears started working on the album earlier that year with a range of new producers, as well as with Bloodshy & Avant and Danja, combining the electropop and urban sound from her previous album Blackout with producers of her first early pop hits such as Max Martin.
The album received mostly positive reviews from music critics. After its release, the album debuted at number one in the Billboard 200, making Spears the youngest female artist in history to have five albums debut at number one, thus earning a place in the Guiness Book of World Records. It also debuted at number one in United States and became the 15th best selling album of 2008 worldwide.
The album's first single, "Womanizer", was an international hit, reaching the top of the charts in ten countries, including the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. The second single, "Circus", debuted at number three in the US and reached top ten positions in seven countries worldwide. Other single releases include "If U Seek Amy" and "Radar". Spears promoted the album with a series of live performances, including her first world tour in five years, The Circus Starring: Britney Spears.
In May 2008, it was confirmed that Spears was in the first stages of a new album. Spears's manager, Larry Rudolph, announced in a July 2008 press release that Spears would be working on the album during the summer and "[they]'re very excited about what she's accomplished so far." In an August 2008 interview with OK! magazine, Spears said that the album is "more urban. I'm working with producers who are just amazing . There is this fresh new energy." "I'm writing every day, right here at the piano in this living room... This is my best work ever."
Rolling Stone magazine's fall music preview stated that Spears had recorded around thirty tracks for her sixth studio album. Spears continued, "I came into the studio because I had some free time, but once I started working, I was like, 'This is cool!' It just happened." Shannon Holtzapffel, a dancer in the leaked video of Spears dancing to "Mannequin", told The Daily Telegraph, "When we were finished rehearsing, they'd take the CD and put it in a safe. I've never experienced anything like it before."
In the United Kingdom, the album was in direct competition with the new Take That album, titled The Circus, released on the same day. Take That's manager claimed the album's title choice was a coincidence, and that the band had worked months in advance and would not be changing the title.
Spears said that she wrote a lot of songs at the early stages of the album and she experimented with pop producers from her earliest albums. For example, Max Martin, who produced Britney's first hit single "...Baby One More Time", produced "If U Seek Amy" for the album. Guy Sigsworth, who previously produced the singles "Everytime" and "Someday (I Will Understand)", spent time in the studio with Spears in June 2008. "Out from Under" and "My Baby" were both produced by Sigsworth. Danja and Bloodshy & Avant, who produced several tracks from Blackout, both announced independently that they were recording with Spears again. Vocal producer Jim Beanz told Us Weekly that he had also been in the studio with Spears. He said of Spears: "Everyone has personal stuff, but a true professional doesn’t bring it into the studio." Nicole Morier, who co-wrote Blackout's "Heaven on Earth", wrote several songs with Britney in spring 2008, including "Mmm Papi" and "Rock Me In".
In her interview with OK! magazine, Spears revealed that she "wanted to experiment with producers I haven't worked with much before, like the Underdogs, who have a Timbaland kind of sound." Dr. Luke produced songs for the album, including the title track, with up-and-comer Benny Blanco. Another notable collaborator is The Outsyders, an Atlanta-based production team, who produced the album's first single. Fernando Garibay revealed on his official website that he was working on two songs for Spears, "Amnesia" and "Quicksand", which both became bonus tracks.
Danja reported that he worked on the tracks at Chalice Recording Studios in Los Angeles, and Spears recorded them at Glenwood Place Studios in Burbank. He said he was inspired by Hans Zimmer's scores, such as Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks.
Lil Jon, Rodney Jerkins, Sean Garrett, and Taio Cruz, among others all announced they were working with Spears, but none of their tracks appear on the album or as bonus tracks.
Style and lyrics
Circus takes influence from a variety of pop genres, such as electropop and dance and has been called a sequel to Spears' previous album, Blackout. She described the album as more lighter than its predecessor, which was more urban sounding. The songs of the album have been compared to the styles of many artists, such as Madonna, Janet Jackson, Eurythmics, New Order and the songwriting of Prince, Leiber & Stoller and Phil Spector. To a lesser degree, the album draws elements from other genres, such as a 1960's go-go rock guitar in "Mmm Papi".
Circus focuses on different themes and Spears "does double duty as a dance diva and brokenhearted balladeer". Lyrically, it has been compared to Blackout, due to the fact that they are "fiery" and "confrontational". In songs such as "Circus" and "Kill the Lights", the lyrics discuss fame, a theme she has previously acknowledged in "Lucky" and "Piece of Me". The album's opening track, "Womanizer" as well as "Shattered Glass" are songs that talk about a womanizing man. The third track, "Out from Under", chronicles the end of her relationship with Kevin Federline.
"Womanizer", one of the last songs to be recorded for Circus, was chosen as the lead single and was described by Spears as a girl anthem. It became the album's best-selling and most popular single, and peaked at number one in the Billboard Hot 100, becoming her first single to do so since her debut "…Baby One More Time". Its accompanying music video was made as a sequel to 2004's "Toxic" video and shows scenes of Spears naked in a steam room. The song received generally favourable reviews, most complimenting its hook and naming it a "comeback single". The second song, "Circus", talks about Spears' feelings as an entertainer and the emotions she feels while performing. It received positive response from music critics; commercially, it charted equally well and reached the top ten in eleven countries, peaking at number one on the Mainstream Top 40. Its music video was shot by Francis Lawrence.
The third track, "Out from Under", was well-received by critics, with one reviewer referring to it as Spears' best ballad since "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman". The song is believed to be about Spears' relationship with ex-husband Kevin Federline. "Kill the Lights", the fourth track, is a dance-pop song that talks about the paparazzi and draw comparisons to "Piece of Me". It received positive reviews and Spears called it one of her favorites song from Circus. An animated music video was produced for the song but it was not released as a single. The fifth track, "Shattered Glass", is a pop song produced by Dr. Luke and Benny Blanco and was positively reviewed by music critics.
"If U Seek Amy", was released as the third single from the album. The song received positive reviews and cause controversy for its double entendre name. It peaked at number nineteen on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached the top twenty in twelve countries. The seventh track, "Unusual You", is a synthpop song, that deals with a woman finding unexpected love. It was compared to Eurythmics's work during the 1980s and was called one of the standout tracks of the album. "Blur", produced by Danja, recalls a morning after a party. It was compared to In the Zone 's "Early Mornin'" and was well received by critics. "Mmm Papi", the ninth track, received mixed reviews, some saying the latin dance hall track was fun, but panning it for appearing to "revisit the Lolita persona of …Baby One More Time". It has been suggested that its lyrics deal with either her father Jamie Spears or paparazzi Adnan Ghalib.
"Mannequin", was produced by The Underdogs. The song received mixed reviews, some critics praising it for being risky and futuristic, while some others saying her vocals sound "lifeless" on it. "Lace and Leather", the eleventh track, received good reviews and was compared to a Vanity 6 track from the 1980s. The closing track, "My Baby", written by Spears and Guy Sigsworth about her sons, received mixed reviews, some saying it's not as sophisticated as the rest of the album.
Circus received generally positive response from contemporary pop music critics, earning a rating of 64 out of 100 on Metacritic. Billboard reported that the album "gives Brit pop a whole new meaning" and when working with the right producers, "she is in a class of her own". Sputnikmusic called it a "top-rate pop album" that can rival her first two albums in single material, with the exception that Circus doesn’t have any fillers. They continued saying that the album has the simplicity of her earlier records and "it’s the most straightforward pop rock record she’s put out in years". Jam! called it "unoriginal and predictable as its title". The Sun expressed the opinion that the album had similarities to Madonna's Hard Candy. The Hartford Courant did not feel that it was her best performance, writing "It's too bad the best songs here don't really match up with her best performances, but that's nothing new for Spears." Slant Magazine gave an unfavorable review as well, writing that Circus "doesn't quite feel like a comeback".
The album was heavily compared to her previous album, Blackout. The Guardian commented that Circus was not a bad album, but it was "substantially less edgy and exciting than its predecessor". The Sunday Times said that while the album is not as good as Blackout, " knocks for six recent efforts by rivals such as Madonna and Beyonce". According to Nick Levine of Digital Spy, it has many similarities to her last studio album, although she sounds more confident and there is less reliance on the vocoder. Vibe (magazine) and Jam! agreed and added that Spears sounds more engaged. Allmusic was in a similar agreement with The Guardian, writing that the album "never feels as sleek or addictive as its predecessor".
Circus debuted at number-one on the US Billboard 200, moving over 505,000 units in its first week. It earned Spears a place in the 2010 Guiness Book of World Records for being the youngest female artist in history to have five albums debut at number one. The feat made Spears the only act in Nielsen SoundScan history to have five albums debut with 500,000 or more copies sold. It also moved 219,000 units in its first day of release, making it the sixth fastest-selling album of 2008. In addition, the album sold 486,000 worth of digital track downloads, with 11 tracks on the top 200. In the first three months of US release, the album had sold over 1.5 million copies. The album has spent nine weeks in the top 10, making it Spears' longest-running top 10 album since Oops!... I Did It Again, which spent twenty-three weeks in the top 10 in 2000. Circus was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America on January 29, 2009. According to Nielsen SoundScan, as of September 2009, the album has sold over 1,601,868 copies in the United States.
With over 51,000 units sold, the album opened at number-one in the Canadian Albums Chart, her best sales effort since Oops!... I Did It Again, which racked up 95,000 copies in May, 2000. In less than a month, Circus became the ninth best-selling album of 2008, with 143,000 copies, and one of the top ten selling digital albums of the same year with over 10,100 downloads. In March 2009, Circus was certified 3x platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association, denoting 240,000 shipped copies to retailers. In Mexico, the album debuted at the top of the international chart and at No. 3 in the overall chart, selling over 46,000 copies and going gold in its first week.
Circus first appeared on the European Top 100 Albums chart, where the album had its earliest release. The album debuted at number one on the chart. In France the album sold 18,319 copies in its first two days of release, debuting at number five on the French Weekly Album Charts. The following week the album moved up two places to a new position at number three. In Ireland, it debuted at number two. The album debuted at number four on the UK Albums Chart, moving over 76,000 copies in its first week. It has since sold over 300,000 copies, and was certified Platinum by the BPI.
In Oceania, the album has been a top ten hit. It debuted at number three in Australia and was certified Platinum after three weeks, selling over 70,000 copies. In New Zealand, the album debuted at number eight and was certified Platinum after selling 15,000 copies. In the albums fifth week, it reached a new peak at number six becoming her highest charting album since Oops!... I Did It Again. The album spent eighteen weeks on the chart.
Circus was ranked as the 15th best-selling album of 2008, according to IFPI. Worldwide, Circus had sold over 4 million copies.
In order to promote the album Jive Records set up a hotline where fans could leave a message for Spears, with some of the callers receiving a return phone call from Spears. Some tracks off the album were previewed via the website of the New York radio station WKTU and Amazon.com. MTV aired a 90-minute documentary titled Britney: For the Record November 30, 2008. The show was about her return to the pop music spotlight. Spears's official website released a series of posters to promote Circus. On December 3, 2008, a pre-taped holiday greeting from Spears was shown during the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. In May, 2009, Jive's official website held a Britney Spears Global Fan-Fiction Contest, in which requires a fan to submit a 200 word story based on one of the songs from Circus. Other people would vote for their favorite and the winner would get their story turned into a short animated music video. The winner was announced shortly after. The winning story was based on "Kill the Lights." The video premiered on July 27, 2009. The video can be viewed here.
Spears' live comeback began on November 6, 2008 with a cameo appearance at the Dodger Stadium show of Madonna's Sticky & Sweet Tour. Midway through "Human Nature", Spears joined Madonna on stage. The week before the release of the album saw a string of performances in several different countries with the Circus Promo Tour. On November 27, 2008 Spears performed "Womanizer" live at the Bambi Awards in Offenburg, Germany, where she received an award for "Best Pop International Artist". The following day, Spears again performed the song live on French show Star Academy. In addition, she performed "Womanizer" on The X Factor, in the United Kingdom, on November 29, finishing the European pre-release promotional tour. Her performance on The X Factor was watched by an average of 11,880,000 UK citizens.
Spears premiered her second single "Circus" on the Big Apple Circus at the "Good Morning America" in New York, and also performed "Womanizer" on December 2, 2008 which coincides with her 27th birthday and the release of Circus album, most fans often considered it as her official comeback. On December 15, 2008, Britney visited the popular musical variety show in Japan, "Hey! Hey! Hey!" and performed "Womanizer" there. The following day after that, she performed on NTV Japan's-3000 "Best Artist of 2008"
The album received further promotion with The Circus Starring: Britney Spears, her first tour in five years, which began in New Orleans in March 3, 2009. The tour reached North America and Europe, and also marked the first time that she toured Australia. It is currently the highest grossing tour of the year in the United States and the third highest grossing worldwide.
|3.||"Out from Under"||3:54|
|4.||"Kill the Lights"||3:59|
|6.||"If U Seek Amy"||3:37|
|11.||"Lace and Leather"||2:48|
|13.||"Radar" (Standard editions bonus track)||3:49|
Deluxe Edition tracks
|14.||"Rock Me In" (Deluxe Edition bonus track)||3:17|
|15.||"Phonography" (Deluxe Edition & Britney.com bonus track)||3:35|
|16.||"Amnesia" (UK Deluxe Edition, Japanese & Britney.com bonus track)||3:56|