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
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.
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…
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
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.