Circus, Britney Spears' sixth studio album, is a supremely satisfying dance record, stylistically cut from the same cloth as last year's (also excellent) Blackout. Both are jammed with top-tier, glossy electro-pop songs.
There are some missteps: The inclusion of "Radar" (previously released on Blackout) is a puzzler--it's a good track, but it's not included-on-two-consecutive-albums good. "Mmm Papi" is a silly mess, and Circus' ballads, "My Baby" and "Out From Under," are dull treacle.
Per usual, the high energy, clubby tracks are where Spears shines, and Circus delivers one after another, with "Kill the Lights," "Circus," "If U Seek Amy" and "Womanizer." None of them break much new ground, but all deserve to receive heavy rotation on the club circuit. The standout track--which actually does show another side to Spears other than hard-edged vamp or "little girl lost"--is the ethereal synth-pop stunner "Unusual You." No surprise that Bloodshy and Avant wrote and produced the track, the same team behind Spears' 2004 monster hit "Toxic." With "Unusual You," they manage to create something delicate and beautiful while retaining the requisite accessible, dance-friendly vibe.
It's hardly news that Spears' albums are really producers' shows. Her voice is so heavily manipulated that she functions more as a conduit for her producers' creativity, or a piece of expensive studio equipment, than an artist. And yet, if major studio trickery keeps Spears churning out more albums like Blackout and Circus, then long live the Brit-bot.