Executive producers: Larry Rudolph, Theresa LaBarbera Whites
Track listing: Womanizer / Circus / Out from Under / Kill the Lights / Shattered Glass / If U Seek Amy / Usual You / Blur / MMM Papi / Mannequin / Lace and Leather / My Baby / Radar
December 20, 2008
Circus, Britney Spears’ fifth chart-topping album, couldn’t have been more aptly titled. Even before the pop starlet’s previous effort, Blackout, became her first proper album not the debut at Number One, Spears personal life and career had literally become a circus with an ever-changing list of ringmasters and tabloid reporters and the paparazzi chronicling every ill-advised move.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when Spears reached rock bottom, as she hit numerous personal and career lowlights before rebounding with Circus. Few could forget her disastrous 2007 appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards where Spears not only lip-synched and danced poorly, but she appeared out of shape and just plain out of it. Before that, there was the inexplicable head-shaving incident.
Finally, in early 2008, Spears, locked herself in a room with one of her young children, while her other son had already been placed in a car to return to the home of Spears’ ex-husband Kevin Federline. Eventually Spears was coaxed out of the room and taken to the hospital via ambulance. After a psychiatric evaluation, a Los Angeles court ordered conservatorship of the troubled pop star to her father, Jamie Spears, and a restraining order against Sam Lutfi, who had been acting as Spears’ manager during her slide into the abyss.
In a December 2008 interview with Rolling Stone‘s Jenny Eliscu, Spears complained that her life had become a bore under her father’s care. “I feel like an old person now,” she told Eliscu. “I do! I go to bed at, like, 9:30 every night, and I don’t go out or anything, you know what I mean? I just feel like an old fart.”
Nonetheless, those restrictions undoubtedly help Spears settle down and focus on making Circus, which critics hailed as a return to form. “Britney’s vocals on Blackout sounded phoned in,” Rolling Stone‘s Caryn Ganz observed, “but on Circus, she put in real studio time, actually singing some slow jams.”
Fans got their first taste of Circus with the release of “Womanizer,” an electro rave-up presumably aimed at Federline. Upon its release in September, the single topped the Hot 100 paving the way for Circus.
Released on December 2, Spears’ 27th birthday, Circus features the pop star reuniting A&R woman Theresa LaBarbera Whites and Larry Rudolf, the manager who discovered her in 1995, but was sacked in 2007 after Spears lashed out at him for allegedly plotting with her parents to send her to rehab.
Several musical collaborators also returned, including Max Martin, the Swedish producer behind Spears’ first chart-topper …Baby One More Time, and Guy Sigsworth, half of the duo Frou Frou and known for his work with Madonna and Bjork. Other collaborators included Dr. Luke, known who penned Katy Perry’s then-hot “I Kissed a Girl” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone.”
Of course, a Spears album wouldn’t be complete with some sort of controversy. The song “If You Seek Amy” had some parents in an uproar, since the chorus sounds as if Spears is spelling out the F-word followed by the word “me.”
Controversy or not, with the release of Circus, Spears comeback seemed complete. The album sold 505,000 copies in its first week of release, according to Nielsen SoundScan, giving Spears her fifth chart-topper. It also made Spears the first artist to debut with four albums selling more than 500,000 copies, since SoundScan began tracking sales data in 1991.
THE TOP FIVE
Week of December 20, 2008
1. Circus, Britney Spears
2. Fearless, Taylor Swift
3. I Am…Sasha Fierce, Beyonce
4. 808s & Heartbreaks, Kanye West
5. Dark Horse, Nickelback
Here’s Britney’s video for “Womanizer.”