Review: “Circus” by Britney Spears (CD, 2008)

Today’s POP RESCUE from an uncertain future, is the 2008 6th album Circus by Britney Spears. Is this album full of entertainment, or does it sound like a bunch of clowns? Read on…

Britney Spears - Circus (2008) album cover
Britney Spears – Circus (2008) album

The album opens with hit single Womanizer, ushered in by wonderful and apt snarling electro synths, before Britney comes in with some very catchy vocals that hit out at a cheating male. We’re off to a perfect start.

Next up is second single and title track Circus, which is slower in pace, with some elements of RnB, and some great vocal harmonies, as the lyrics focus on ‘fame’. This is a really strong pop track, with some great vocal samples. The chorus has the type of synth stabs that remind me of some of Backstreet Boys more up-beat hits. Britney is joined on backing vocals by none other than Toxic co-writer, Cathy Dennis.

Acoustic guitar opens Out From Under, which gives Britney a much more gentle landscape to pitch her vocals against. This track is a nice mellow track, which builds perfectly with warm vocal harmonies over a gentle beat.

Kill The Lights opens with a breaking news-style introduction, before we’re back into some great sounding fat synths that have given Britney so many hits. This track sees her singing about her relationship with the press and photographers.

Shattered Glass follows this, and the trademark snarly synths are out to play again. The track builds with Britney’s vocals, beat, and synths. At times it reminds me of (I Just) Died In Your Arms by Cutting Crew, but there’s also a lot of vocal samples, and at times this becomes too destructive and disorientating. As songs go, this is far from the strongest.

Thankfully, the very catchy and controversial single If U Seek Amy is up next. This is classic Max Martin songwriting territory – a long-term writing force behind Britney’s career. The track is up-beat and fits perfectly on this album’s rebellious streak. Parenting outrage (fueled by the media pointing big fingers at it) swamped Britney again, as parents realised what the not-so-hidden message was.

The seventh track, Unusual You, begins with some chugging guitar and some rockier Britney vocals. The track turns into quite a mellow track – definitely an album track. Whilst it sounds nice musically, the lyrics are a bit weak and a bit unmemorable. Next up is a track called Blur. Again, this is another gentle track, but the beat is far more biting, led along by some nice sounding guitars. This track is better than Unusual You.

This is followed by Mmm Papi, one of three tracks co-written by Britney herself. This is an up-tempo track with some really nice synth and fun and light-hearted vocals. It has a strange 60s feel to it.

Up next is Mannequin – another Britney co-write. There’s some unusual vocals on this track, complete with some familiar synth and vocal samples that this album, and its predecessor will have made familiar. It’s catchy, and might have fared well as a single – I can certainly imagine it having a suite of remixes as there’s a lot here to play with.

Track 11 is Lace And Leather and this has a distinct 80s feel to it – musically and lyrically. I could easily imagine this one being recorded as a Kylie Minogue album track. This track is co-written and produced by Dr Luke, and features Kesha on backing vocals.

This is followed by the beautifully gentle track My Baby, the third and final Britney co-written track with Guy Sigsworth (Bjork, Diana Vickers, Alanis Morissette). The delicate guitar and vocals are joined by a sympathetic beat, some gentle piano and synth strings. This is a wonderful little track, and feels like it means a lot to Britney too – and most likely for her sons (who appear in the artwork of the album).

I love the synths on penultimate track Radar, which was the fourth and final single from the album. This is probably one of the best Britney tracks, and a highlight of the album, which it should be considering it has seven songwriters!! This track is quite simple, but I think that it’s that and it’s radar-esque sound that makes it so damn catchy.

Final track Amnesia is heavy with beats and bass and not much else, carrying Britney’s vocals along. Vocally it reminds me of Gwen Stefani, but it’s unlikely that she’d bother recording this. The track feels weaker than Radar, but it does the job of closing the album perfectly well.

Britney Spears – Womanizer single.


Overall, the album is a bit mixed, and there are a couple of filler tracks. The hits really stand out here though, and the strength of those really helps the album, and all 14 of its tracks, feel okay.

I’d have trimmed a couple of tracks (Unusual You and Blur) to bring it down – and this would have likely earned it an extra star.

Rated 4 stars - You're missing a treat!
  • POP RESCUE 2014 RATING:  4 / 5
  • 2008 UK CHART POSITION: #4, certified Platinum
  • POP RESCUE 2014 COST: 99p from an Oxfam store.

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