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TEN YEARS OF BLACKOUT - a look back at a pop masterpiece

It was 2007 and anyone with a tv was well aware of Britney’s troubles that year—the shaved head, the alleged drug use, the rehab, the divorce, the custody battle. Countless internet outlets every day provided daily accounts of famous women behaving badly which have always been easy targets for our fascination. Yes, 2007 was the Paris DUi, the Lindsay rehab, Anna Nicole’s descent into oblivion and of course the spectacular crucifixion of Britney Spears. Amy Winehouse also fell from grace that year, amid drug troubles and mayhem. She was supposed to rise back up, Britney was not. She was supposed to be another Hollywood casualty.

Then came “Blackout”….

On October 25, 2007 Britney released Blackout, her fifth studio album. With no support from media outlets, her miss mash management, and most notably her record company ( who chose to funnel finances into her ex- boyfriends album promotion instead of hers), she had an uphill battle on her hands. What people didn’t know was how good the album was.  Blackout changed the pop landscape, gone were the pop structured Max Martin gems, in its place a stark, metallic, electro futuristic masterpiece that would be hard to replicate. Ten years on, the album is still one of the best pop albums ever made and is highly regarded as the blueprint for modern pop music. Blackouts influence is apparent on many of the music that came after its release. Without "Blackout" there would be no "The Fame". It changed the game for pop. The album was rumored to be called "Black" or "Black Curtain" or even "Piece of Me" as confirmed also by Jive Records, but the project that would ultimately be called "Blackout”. It was the album Madonna wishes she made. Beyonce would never be able to carry it off...


Songs from Blackout, especially “Gimme More” and “Piece of Me,” were everywhere in 2007. "Toy Soldier," "Get Back" and "Hot As Ice" were all rumored to be the Blackout lead single, but Britney chose Gimme More. They are also many versions ( some unreleased ) of the video, which included more nudity, a funeral scene, and a sexy Britney playing with a cat on a bed. “Gimme More” and “Piece of Me were the soundtrack to many a gay dance floor all over the globe. “It’s Britney, bitch!” became one of the most famous lines in music history. Some critics praised the album for its bold and innovative sound, others panned the album saying it was a mishap of sound that bordered on boring electronica. Pitchfork gave it good rating which is crazy considering how limited their musical scope is . The Times named it as the fifth best pop album of the decade.Blackout was originally scheduled to be released on November 13 in the United States, though it was ultimately rush-released after several unauthorized internet leaks, all of which Perez Hilton took to posting on his site for the world to hear. It was meant to fail .

Oh how wrong they were…


Britney is the credit as an executive producer on Blackout. Britney’s was in complete control of the sound and the album's execution. Her only time til the “Glory” album in 2016. Producers Nate “Danja” Hills, Jim Beanz, Sean garrett & Swedish duo Bloodshy & Avant were responsible for the album’s futuristic production, Pharrell for the smooth grooves. After her failed attempt at complete control in the form of the “Original Doll” sessions ( with some amazing tracks like Mona Lisa, Guilty - which samples Prince’s Kiss- and Love 2 Love U). Many felt that she would be better off giving the control to others. But Britney had this under control ( if that was the only thing she had control in her life at the time). Writing credits from Keri Hilson, Pharrell, Danja and Kara DioGuardi to name a few, ensured that the top writers would be heavily supported with impeccable production and THAT voice.


The booklet shot by Ellen Von Unworthy is the topic of much debate. Many fans hated the cover. The model Caultor John, who plays a priest in some shots of the album's booklet, said in an interview that there were pictures of him and Britney shot during the photo shoot that were more extreme than the two proposed in the booklet. When he was asked about the photos, he said: "There was definitely chemistry between me and Britney on the set and those pictures were pretty good, because there were even some kisses". Many fan versions of the album cover were made... Most much better than the end result...

 

Blackout appeared on Rolling Stone's decade-end poll, where it was voted the 7th best album of the decade by their readers.The Guardian writers' list of favorite albums ever also listed Blackout as favorite. The Times named it the fifth best pop album of the decade. Online its been called “the gay mans Sgt Peppers” and The Observer stated that Spears "delivered the best album of her career, raising the bar for modern pop music”... No other album that decade had been so talked about and discussed as Blackout.


BREAKING IT DOWN 


1. Gimme More
The iconic  “It’s Britney, bitch!”… Genius electro RnB from Danja and the closest we will ever get to a Timbaland production. Sexy as all hell, Gimme More delivers the punch in the face that starts the Blackout era.

2. Piece of Me
Electro genius, thanking in part by Swedish songstress Robyn ( on backing vocals too). The most confrontational of tracks, the production, and robot-like vocal treatment equal genius

3. Radar
The track that keeps on giving ( it was also a single from Circus ???). Electro-pop jam that could be on repeat in any soft top jeep in west Hollywood…basically she tells us what she wants in a man… and we wholeheartedly agree

4. Break The Ice
Bouncy dance track that sticks in the brain and can only mean one thing … dance. The production is pure electronic ecstasy ...

5. Heaven on Earth
Dreamy pop dance, something not out of place in a Kylie back catalogue. A fan favorite and just a stunning song from start to finish,….. it was hard for Britney to record it, due because at that time she broke up with Kevin, still Britney liked the song and recorded it, at the end of the song you can hear Britney's voice breaking because she cried after she recorded it..

6. Get Naked (I Got A Plan)
GREAT song to get the party started. Like that song you play when you want everyone to start dirty dancing.

7. Freakshow
Britney raps, not gangsta but very seductively. She coo’s her prey and makes him her “bitch’ .. not hard to see why its still in her show 10 years later.

8. Toy Soldier
pure amazing. military hip-hop dance odyssey. She commands her audience in military style fashion. major fan favorite... 

9. Hot As Ice
T-Pain produced hipster track that is basically telling people that she is the sh*t. The original demo leaked in a higher key and a slightly different vocal delivery... the album version is better though.

10. Ooh Ooh Baby
fun pop song, within cheeky edge

11. Perfect Lover
Great Danja track that still holds today. The brilliant production showcases how individual the record was.. urban, electro, dance and some of the best vocal production ever... excellent phrasing.

12. Why Should I Be Sad
Pharrell laments her K-fed marriage breakdown in this softer track .. detailing that even when a woman gives her all.. its sometimes not enough…

BONUS TRACKS


- Everybody
SHOULD HAVE BEEN ON THE ALBUM- with a slick Eurythmics sample, this is one of the strongest tracks on the record , and a great use of a sample . The song was originally intended for Rihanna's sophomore record, but after producer/writer J.R. Rotem began collaborating with Britney ( and dating ??), he pitched the electro-pop jam for Blackout instead. and the demo was also recorded by the Cheetah Girls . was dropped from the main album when she stopped dating him.

- State of Grace
SHOULD HAVE BEEN ON THE ALBUM AND POSSIBLY A SINGLE - eventually covered by Christophe Wilhem, this is the dreamscape pop moment that had number 1 written all over it - massive missed opportunity

- Sugarfalls
Pharrell - not his best- but she saves it with a great vocal.

- Get Back

STRONG song that was considered as a single then pushed as a bonus track. Its classic pop urban gem that only Britney can shine up...

- Tell Me What You're Sippin' On
featuring AC ( who?….) a nice hip-hop track, but not Blackout worthy. Very American
 
- Let Go
Britney Unplugged- no effects, just a piano and her ( you can even hear her turn the paper pages halfway through). Stunning and poignant
 
- Out of this World
cute song- great little bonus track. and super fun…
 
-"Kiss You All Over"
Brilliant track.. great production, maybe a little to “happy” for Blackout , but a great jam none the less.

 

It should be noted that even a b-side or bonus track of this era is generally better than most peoples lead single off a new album… yes they are THAT good …

 

Britney in 2017 said this  about the album….“The magic of Blackout was actually pretty simple. It just wasn’t so thought out. I just did what I felt and it worked. Sometimes less is more I guess,” she told a magazine. “I still perform ‘Freakshow’ in my Vegas show—it’s one of my favourite songs that was never released as a single. It’s so much fun and it gives me the chance to get the audience involved. Oh yeah—it’s sassy. And I love sassy!”

 

BLACKOUT is the closest we will ever get to the real Britney. Unfiltered and brazen, “Blackout” is the career-defining album most artists dream about. Take away the personal turbulence and drama. What you are left with is a body of work that is far better than most Grammy-nominated “Album Of The Year’ entrants. Its a sonic, electro and soundscape masterpiece with one of the iconic figures of music smacked into it . Its catchy, sexy and downright hedonistic for a modern pop record. Its earns itself a the term “iconic” without having to dress like a Halloween creature, stir up any social commentary or slander other artists for inspiration (cough*Taylor) ..Blackout is possibly the most influential pop record of the last 20 years to which it was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library in 2012.

 

Join the Britney Spears Group here.

 

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We dance in the moonlight with Damien Mancell

How are you?… and where are you ?
I’m at home in Sydney , finishing off some music . Im really good by the way…


Tell us about the new single “Moonlight” ?
“Moonlight” was written about a big night out in Sydney. its semi autobiographical. I wrote the words on a napkin in a club one night and sang them into my phone. Then I created the idea with my collaborator Steve Mellare, and we just crafted the song very quickly. I was so happy with it , i knew it had to be a single. It was the final track written for the album, along with another song “Roll The Dice”, which sounds nothing like “Moonlight”. It's my dance pop moment on the record. 


You’ve got an album in the works, what can you tell us about it?
The album is a long time coming, BUT it is coming in the next few months . I have about 17 songs already to go. The album is very electronic. quite old school dance, massive 90’s influence. I was listening to a lot of Pet Shop Boys and 90’s Rave at the time. Steve (Mellare), my producer is a massive fan of New Order and a lot of electronica. We meet somewhere in the middle. I also love the pop sensibilities of Kylie Minogue, Britney… good pop, well-written pop, so I have a healthy dose of that in there too. I have my collaborations with Chunky Astronaut and a hot feature with a female rapper MZ Sammy G, who slayed her verse in the track “Round N Round”… 


Is there a video planned for “Moonlight”?
yes Im doing it in a week, without giving too much away , think projections, lots of colours in darkness... Moody, sexy... 


You have Chunky Astronaut again remixing your track , and also DJ James Tobin. How did that come about?
I always have the “Chunky Man” on a single, as i think he’s awesome, and he delivers kickass remixes. The remix by James Tobin is brilliant. Im a big fan of his work as a remixer and a DJ. He’s an amazing DJ, so I just sent him a request and he said yes. Some remixers have a little ego about doing work, but he was amazingly easy to work with, and he delivered the goods. Its getting good spins in Europe, which is all I can ask for . He’s very talented, and I’m glad Ive got him now before everyone wants him. His remix of Greg Gould is hot. I would love to have him do more remixes. Who knows?


Its a great remix. Who is on your wish list of people to work with?
I would love to work with heaps of people in the dance scene in sydney but I feel its a little closed here with people not wanting to collaborate. I would love to do a track with Mark Loasby again. I would love US DJ corey Craig to do a track with me, because not only is he a friend, but he has amazing dance sensibilities. He knows dance music backwards and is frighteningly talented. DJ Andrew Gibbons from the US as well, because he’s a phenomenal DJ. 


You always have remixes on all your singles, why are they important?
I think Ive always wanted them to show a different side of what i do. I also like to showcase the DJ or remixer. Like Chunky Astronaut have their own following, and to dip into their world is fun. The same with Robot Diaries, they are nuts, but I loved the remixes I had done from them. Mark Loasby remixes are pretty spectacular to. He gets the LGBT dance floor and nails it every time. I was so happy for him when his remix of “shine” (Damien’s 2010 pop hit) went well in gay clubs in some european countries..


Where are the majority of your fanbase based?
mainly use and selected European countries, not much in Oz yet, but I hope to change that. It would be nice to break my homeland. Its good to get support from people like JOY FM, and Queer Radio here though. Im beyond appreciative.


You recently became a target for evangelical groups. What was that about ?
Keyboard warriors with too much time on their hands really. They go after “OUT” artists by flooding their emails , twitter DM’s …etc… with thousands of emails with pro christian stuff. At first it makes you angry but after a while you just get used to it. They have tried to break into my website a couple of hundred times this year. Its annoying, and makes me want to go further to piss them off. Give them something to “really” complain about. 


Do you feel that , as an out LGBT performer , doors close because of your disclosure?
its closed doors in the mainstream, with  major labels saying they don’t know where to “place me”, or they don’t know how to promote me. I think that’s a bit backward, but I see what they are promoting and I may not be bland enough for them. But i do feel that its probably better for me artistically that I get to do what I want. I write and produce myself, I commission my own remixes, I style myself, and do my own visuals. I have complete control on what I do.I love collaboration, and by owning what I do , I get the confidence to work with established people. I’ve had labels try and “straighten” me out over the years to no avail. 


Would you ever play Mardi Gras?
Love totoo... Its on the bucket list. Though Im not sure Im on the MG radar. I've always gone to the party, since 1994, so to even get 5 minutes up there would be a dream. I’ve had my remixes played there before, but as for a live show… sadly no.


Who are you currently listening to?
I love the new STEPS record, I think its one of the strongest records in years. I like the new Goldfrapp, and Im loving a lot of the remixes coming from Britney’s “Glory” album . There are some amazing bootleg mixes out there. 


any message for our readers ?
yeah, thanks for everything , head over to iTunes and grab “Moonlight”, or to any of my socials to keep up to date with my goings on.

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Interview: Chaz Robinson

Emerging artist Chaz Robinson has been making waves in the USA since his debut album dropped a couple of weeks ago - signed to Spectra records, he has appeared on MTV's America's Best Dance Crew: Season 5, MTV's MADE, the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Disney's Shake It Up, La Grande Cabaret du Monde: France, and Broadway's Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy.

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Tina Arena Resets Her Set List

 

tina setlist poprepublic

Tina Arena is about to embark on her national ‘Reset’ tour – a self-produced trek that will see her play 18 dates around Australia in support of her latest album. Arena has been teasing fans with word that she will be performing lots of new material, along with delving into the archives.

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WHO PLAYS WHITNEY’S VOICE IN BIOPIC?

WhitneyAngelaIn case you hadn’t heard, the Lifetime TV network are currently filming a biopic based on the tumultuous life of Whitney Houston.

While many recent TV movies have been train wrecks – Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor and Gina Gershon as Donatella Versace to name but two – there have also been triumphs, like ‘Coco Chanel’ and ‘Behind The Candelabra’.

When news broke of a Whitney biopic we were unsure which way it would go, but with the announcement of Angela Basset as director we’re preparing for something memorable. The actress knows a thing or two about re-creating the essence of an icon. In fact she lays claim to arguably the greatest example of this on film – her Oscar nominated portrayal of Tina Turner in ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’. In the TV world she turned in a beautiful performance as Katherine Jackson in ‘The Jacksons: An American Dream’.

In what will be her directorial debut, Bassett will now pay tribute to a legend she had a working relationship with – having starred opposite Houston in the 1995 film ‘Waiting To Exhale’. While Whitney’s family will have no input, Bassett says she will ensure that the film will respectfully honour her former co-star while not shying away from the singer’s troubles: "I really just want to tell a story about a boy and a girl who fell in love, and I want to be as honest as I can about doing that. We know that drugs were a part of their story and that's certainly an element of their story. We can't tell their story without that. It's involved, and I hope we can unpack it gently."

Angela has cast newcomers to portray both Houston and Bobby Brown, explaining "I want you to fall into the world of Whitney and Bobby. And I don’t want to stop you at the gate with the image of something familiar, someone you’ve seen from something else."
WhitneyBobby
Adding another major shot of credibility to the project is the latest announcement that the fabulous Deborah Cox will be providing Whitney’s singing voice in the film. Besides being one of the only vocalists in the industry with the chops to do Houston proud, Deborah also has a history with the late singer. Like Whitney, Deborah was discovered by industry legend Clive Davis. Both singers were label mates on Arista and collaborated with many of the same writers and producers on their music – Diane Warren, Rodney Jerkins, David Foster, etc.
WhitneyDeborah
For Houston’s ‘Greatest Hits’ project, Deborah was chosen to join forces with Whitney for the breathtaking duet ‘Same Script, Different Cast’ – where their voices intertwine flawlessly. Fans and critics agreed it’s the only time Whitney was ever truly matched on record with a sparring partner who wasn’t outshone vocally.

Deborah says she is “honoured” to lend her voice to this latest project. The film is currently shooting and is due to premiere next year.
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Interview: Elysium's Sharlto Copley

Sharlto-Copley

Sharlto Copley (“Kruger”) from the smash hit Elysium (now available in stores on DVD - and as a giveaway on POPrepublic.tv!) sat down with us during the Summer of Sony event in Cancun to chat about his career and the fantastic movie starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.

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