Blackout (2007) The nasty custody battle. The hair-razing meltdown. The trips to rehab. The abysmal VMAs performance. Shall we go on? All of 25-year-old Britney Spears' recent… 2007-10-30 Britney Spears Pop Rock
Music Review

Blackout (2007)

Britney Spears | 'TOXIC' AVENGER Amid a storm of drama, Britney Spears shines with Blackout , a booty-bumpin' dance CD
Image credit: Ellen von Unwerth
'TOXIC' AVENGER Amid a storm of drama, Britney Spears shines with Blackout, a booty-bumpin' dance CD
EW's GRADE
B+

Details Release Date: Oct 30, 2007; Lead Performance: Britney Spears; Genres: Pop, Rock

The nasty custody battle. The hair-razing meltdown. The trips to rehab. The abysmal VMAs performance. Shall we go on? All of 25-year-old Britney Spears' recent setbacks suggest that her fifth CD, ominously titled Blackout, would fan the flames of her hot mess of a year. Well, brace yourself for the biggest shock yet: Blackout — a collection of well-produced, thoroughly enjoyable dance songs — may just put this once-celebrated pop star back on top.

Spears has always been a performer who's valued image over creative output. It's interesting, then, that periods of introspection — albeit those penned primarily by hired hands — yield Blackout's finest moments. ''Piece of Me,'' produced by Bloodshy & Avant (''Toxic''), is a rump shaker that finds Spears venting: ''I'm Mrs. most likely to get on the TV for slippin' on the street when getting the groceries/Now, for real, are you kidding me?'' Later, on ''Toy Soldier'' — another fiery B&A creation, which echoes the sass and substance of ''Soldier'' by Destiny's Child — she blasts ''weak'' tomcats (like K-Fed?) to the beat of a lively military drumroll.

For the most part, Spears puts up a brave front by relishing her newfound independence. That is, until a chink in her armor appears on the heavy-hearted closer, ''Why Should I Be Sad.'' Produced by the Neptunes and written by Pharrell Williams for Spears, it's a deeply personal, midtempo groove — the closest thing to a ballad on Blackout — that unfolds like an open letter to her babies' daddy. ''I sent you to Vegas with a pocket full of paper and with no ultimatums on you/I thought, What could separate us,'' she sings. ''But it just seemed that Vegas only brought the playa out of you.''

Of course, we know all too well that Spears has a little playa in her, too. So it's no surprise that she flaunts her fondness for late-night carousing on fluffy dance tracks. Take the ubiquitous ''Gimme More'' or the shameless ''Freakshow'' (co-written by Spears), where she coos, ''I'm bout to shake my ass/Snatch that boy so fast/Make dem other bitches mad.'' Her seemingly insatiable libido is likewise the driving force behind Blackout's preponderance of breathy come-ons, such as ''Get Naked (I Got a Plan),'' ''Perfect Lover,'' and ''Ooh Ooh Baby,'' which she also helped to write.

Poetry it's not. Still, there is something delightfully escapist about Blackout, a perfectly serviceable dance album abundant in the kind of bouncy electro elements that buttressed her hottest hits (''I'm a Slave 4 U,'' ''Toxic''). Say what you will about Spears' personal life, but there's no denying that the girl knows how to have a good time. B+
DOWNLOAD THIS: Hear ''Heaven on Earth'' and the entire Blackout album at VH1.com

Originally posted Oct 23, 2007 Published in issue #962 Nov 02, 2007 Order article reprints