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  • Muzik First

ALBUM THROWBACK: BRITNEY SPEARS | BLACKOUT (2007)

2007 was a challenging year for Britney Spears that included a divorce from Kevin Federline and an exhausting custody battle over their two kids, a shotgun Vegas wedding to childhood friend Jason Alexander and a general struggle to maintain agency over her own life unavoidably climaxed in a heavily publicized breakdown. Although somehow she worked on her fifth and most foreboding album "Blackout." Released on October 25, 2007, "Blackout" is the first album to credit Britney as the executive producer—which makes sense, given that it has Britney all over it. Lyrically revolving around womanhood, insatiable media voyeurism, being horny and getting battered, it's a whirlwind of denial dressed up as the best night of your life. Retrospectively, "Blackout" has been hailed as one of the most influential pop albums of its time, impacting the sonics of pop as it would continue to evolve through Lady Gaga and Kesha.

With the release of the first single, "Gimme More," it was the moment Miss American Dream was forever shelved and replaced by a fabulous hoe in a black wig and fishnets moaning the phrase "IT'S BRITNEY, BITCH" while doing the absolute least with a stripper pole. Elsewhere in the video, three high society-looking blonde women (one of whom is also Britney) are excitedly making eyes at Britney and her dancers from across the room. The second single from Blackout was "Pieces Of Me," She was at her most self-aware, sticking two fingers up at everyone who tried to break her down. "You wanna piece of me?" she asks, making it sound like a threat, an invitation and an accusation all at the same time. "YOU WANT SOME?" One of the standout tracks on the album is "Radar," which oozes with the lust that permeates "Blackout" at a cellular level: hear it in the vocal performance and in the quickened heartbeat of synths so metallic they hurt your teeth. "Radar" was initially planned to be released as the third single from "Blackout," but "Break the Ice" was released instead, and "Radar" was chosen as the fourth single. However, the release was pushed back when Spears began recording new material for her sixth studio album, "Circus."

A lesser pop album, front-loaded with the early singles, would usually begin to run out of steam by track four. Also serving as the third single, "Break the Ice" comes around on "Blackout," however, it's only getting started. It's a boastful story of sexual prowess, with Britney taking great pleasure in her abilities. The heavy breathing on the chorus doubles as an emblem for the unchained emotion of the entire album," the unashamed desire that it pulses. But it was "Piece of Me" that was the peak of the album – and maybe Britney's career – produced by the Swedish duo Bloodshy & Avant, who also did "Radar," "Toy Soldier" and "Freakshow," not to mention 2003 classic "Toxic." But it's ironic that of all the turmoil Britney went through in 2007, the one thing people remember today, the thing that turned out to be lasting, is the music. The trilogy of "Blackout," "Circus," and "Femme Fatale" is the summit of Britdom. Pop artists keep building whole careers on the "Blackout" sound.

When people think of pop music, everything is perfect, on cue, hitting the right notes. On "Blackout," Britney was disrupting that. The lyrics and production felt dirtier — the quality wasn't so clean — adding effects like the stutter on "Piece of Me" to emphasize the digital sound in her voice. Some of the decisions made on that album were so visionary for pop music. "Blackout" holds a cult status among her fans. It's what "Ray of Light" is to Madonna fans; even years later, it's' still her strongest album. Whatever control she needed, she found it in her music.