“Do I know my life is weird?” a subdued Britney Spears repeats to herself in front of a prying camera in her documentary For the Record, which aired recently on MTV. “It’s all I’ve ever known.”
And indeed, that’s true, since Spears has spent her life confronted by flashing cameras and squished under the weight of the public eye.
Some have speculated that Spears suffers from bipolar disorder, but it’s never been publicly admitted nor denied. Whether her condition has a name, it’s clear that the constant pressure Spears has lived under since the age of 16 didn’t do much to help her fragile mental state.
“I have some days where I feel really well,” she says, “and then I have bad days. Sometimes it’s too much.”
Also in the documentary is a frank admission that marrying Kevin Federline was a mistake. She refers to him as “my babies’ daddy” and blames their marriage’s demise partly on Kevin’s solo career.
“I was devastated,” she says about her tumultuous year. “I’m not gonna sugarcoat it and say I was OK.”
Spears says she feels trapped in her current situation. Her father, Jamie, makes most of the decisions for her under court order. She looks dead behind the eyes from time to time, completely isolated from reality by the blankets of people protecting her from the outside world.
“I’ve always wanted to feel free,” she says. “I can’t even go to the supermarket with my kids.”
For the Record gets flinchingly personal when it looks at how volatile Spears has recently been.
“Sometimes it feels better to feel nothing at all and to have hope,” she says sadly. She begins to cry when speaking of her new life. “There’s no excitement. There’s no passion.”
Spears begins to cry when speaking of her new life. “There’s no excitement. There’s no passion.”
In recent interviews for Rolling Stone and Glamour magazines, reporters encountered a changed Spears. She seems to have lost some of her easy laughter and appears nervous and guarded. Her manager, Larry Rudolph , sits in on interviews to protect Spears from the journalists’ meddling.
So how does Spears’s latest public persona match up with the Spears packaged in her latest release, Circus?
Circus—Spears’s sixth studio effort—is a more cohesive album than 2007’s Blackout, which, though it was full of fun dance-floor-packers, was obviously a record Spears had very little to do with. She relied on a vocorder for the majority of Blackout, and though she uses it again with Circus, it’s less intrusive.
Too many of Blackout’s songs dealt with how sexy Spears is and how much sex she’s having, while Circus is slightly more varied in its song topics. It’s catchier and poppier—pure, sugary enjoyment.
In For the Record, Spears claims that Circus is a more personal album. However, since we know she writes very little of her material, that statement doesn’t quite ring true. Songwriting credits aside, in Circus, Spears actually feels present—her essence is there. Plus, Circus is a collection of what Spears does best: slightly sweet dance pop.
“Mmm Papi,” despite its absurd title, would’ve been at home on the Austin Powers soundtrack, perfect for a go-go girl. “Unusual You” sounds like an outtake from Spears’ trip-hop influenced record In the Zone, and the oh-so-cleverly veiled “If U Seek Amy” (say it fast to figure it out) is silly, flirty fun. “Lace & Leather” is what a Spears ’80s-era Prince studio session might have produced.
Circus‘s title track should have been the first single in lieu of “Womanizer,” as it’s a stronger song better suited to Spears’ “comeback” and doesn’t feature the same word repeated over 30 times. Compared to the other songs on the record, “Womanizer” is only average, and hopefully KDWB will put it to rest.
As with every Spears record, there are a few missteps in the form of down-tempo ballads. The mopey, dragging “Out From Under” should’ve been replaced by the international release-only “Amnesia,” which is perfect candy sweetness. Spears’s voice has never been strong enough to carry a ballad.
But Circus is easily Spears’s most solid work. Will she pull off this “comeback” and follow in the footsteps of her heroine, Madonna? Spears’s legions of fans and supporters will be behind her, that’s for sure. We hate to see a star fall.