This week marks the tenth anniversary of the release of Britney Spears’ fifth studio album, ‘Blackout’. An album that, at the time, seemed a near impossibility. Following a year of divorce, rehab and that hair-shaving incident, unexpectedly, what would emerge was a set of work that helped shape the sound of the pop landscape for years to come.
In a year where Spears’ meltdown played out in front of baying paparazzi, it all made for uncomfortable viewing, and an uneasy fear that it all wasn’t going to end well. A seemingly unending appetite for her antics allowed the internet to turn her into some kind of clown, turning her personal troubles into a soap opera. It’s no coincidence that 2007 was also the year that ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ debuted.
The messy canvas of Spears’ personal life didn’t lend itself to the traditional blueprint of anticipation and fan excitement that precedes an album release. By putting ‘Blackout’ on global music release schedules Spears’ label found a way to channel the confused energy that radiated from the superstar into an album that nobody saw coming.
If the cynics were prepping to give this new album a critical drumming, they were beyond disappointed. The production work of Danja and Bloodshy & Avant ensured an assault of bold sounds and dance influences that helped Britney’s vocals rise to the occasion. On ‘Blackout’, if it wasn’t already clear from her tabloid antics, Spears had fully moved on from her bubblegum past and was taking her loyal fan base with her, poking an ironic stick at her less than ideal life on ‘Piece Of Me.’
This was never going to be an album that Spears would flog around the world on a promo trip. She was never going to announce a tour, and it all came close to going down the toilet when she performed first single, ‘Gimme More’, at the MTV VMAs just weeks before the album’s release. The one-time princess of the MTV stage turned in a car crash of a show that should still come with a warning for any repeat viewing.
Blackout marked a notable shift from the familiar pop sounds that had dominated the first half of the decade, allowing a new era of electropop and dubstep to dawn on radio. The immediate influences were apparent with the arrival of Lady GaGa’s ‘Just Dance’ one year later and were still impacting with Taylor Swift’s ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ in 2012. It’s a sound that Spears herself has also revisted with her singles ‘Hold it Against Me’ and ‘Work Bitch.’
Ten years later, as Spears continues to enjoy the routine of her Vegas residency, the pitfalls of 2007 seem a distant memory. The odd reminder comes courtesy of the popular meme: ‘If Britney survived 2007, then you can make it through today.’ For a reminder of how ‘Blackout’ still holds up, then give the tracks ‘Get Naked’ and ‘Hot As Ice’ an outing and admire how far she’d come, so soon after picking up those hair trimmers.