After the public antics and erratic behavior displayed by Britney Spears to the general public made headlines, filled tabloids in newsstands and generated speculations on whether her career was over, she proved wrong with the release of Blackout, which depicted Spears going for an edgier urban-pop territory, excluding her personal struggles most noticeably, instead focusing on the club scene and strictly relating the physical to the pleasure principle.

A year past and the anticipation and hype for Spears’ new material is shut down with Circus, a perfect blend of classic Brit pop with the new wave of the music of today, rousing a little In the Zone, and borrowing a dose of Blackout’s novelty to present a fresh set of tracks, concreting Spears’ personal return to the industry, because musically, she was never gone.

The record is playful, energetic and engaging, and features Spears bringing her first ballads in years since the release of ‘Everytime’ in 2004 and ‘Someday (I’ll Understand)’ as a promo single in 2005, with the sincere ‘Out From Under’ and the dedication to her boys, ‘My Baby’; Spears closing note in the latter takes one back to her …Baby One More Time days.

Striking numbers of Britney’s circus top are of course the exhilarating ‘Womanizer’, the Dr. Luke produced title track, it is incredible with its eerie synths and the whip cracks throughout which demand the listener’s attention, the feisty and ingeniously written double entendre ‘If U Seek Amy’ (which suggests nothing but truth lying beneath a vibrant beat and a seductive set of rushed la la la’s), the phenomenal bass lead ‘Lace and Leather’, the 70’s pool party tinged ‘Mmm Papi’, the doped ‘Blur’ and the indeed unusual ‘Unusual You’, as it happens to juggle between being a strange mix of a ballad and a chilled dance midtempo. In short, the whole disc is just remarkable from start to finish. The closest to Blackout in Circus is the Danja Hills produced ‘Kill the Lights’, being the typical ‘Britney-paparazzi song’ (channeling ‘Piece of Me’), and the inventive ‘Mannequin’, which could be cataloged as rigorously urban. The addition of the previously scrapped single, ‘Radar’ is a nice touch, as it allows those who did not give Blackout a chance to reconsider.   

Although Spears raised the bar with her 2007 release, by integrating synthesizers, slotting in dub step yet still adding personality to the rowdy sound of the record, which resulted in an infectious electronic stir, it does not mean Circus is not as good. With rough comparisons Circus may seem bland, but on the contrary, the album takes the underground-dark side of Blackout to its opposite, and instead of surpassing it, it polishes it to appeal to a broader audience. Blackout was unrestrained and ‘in your face’, declaring Spears interests transparently whereas Circus is more controlled, and prescribed. It is by no means ‘low bar’, it is exceptional and solid, but its only flaw is it is too calculated. Nonetheless, it is certainly worth a front ringside seat.

★★★★1/2

C.Perez