It seems to me the game plan for Britney Spear’s latest album “Blackout” was, channel Janet Jackson. It’s not a bad idea. Britney and Janet are very similar. Neither are stellar singers, they’re both about a package. Sexy female singer with awesome choreography. Like other misguided female artists before her, Britney (or her people) chose the wrong version of Janet to emulate. Britney was in the perfect place to recreate the excitement of Janet Jackson’s “Control” album. You know, “This is a story about control. Control of what I say. Control of what I do. And this time, I’m going to do it my way.” But no, oh no, again we have to witness a female pop tart tragically struggle to achieve the “Janet” album…and not hit the mark.
Everyone knows the “Janet” album, even if you think you don’t. It’s the album with the cover picture of Janet topless with a man’s hands covering her breasts. It’s a masterpiece album, littered with intelligent, danceable songs filled with subtle and not so subtle sexuality. In the recent past we’ve witnessed two women attempt the Janet reinvention with variable success. There was Christina Aguilera with her “Stripped” album, where she introduced the world to her alter ego X-tina. Of course, a big difference here is that Aguilera can sing, the woman has a power house voice. So even though the “Stripped” album was a hollow shell compared to the “Janet” album, she came out the other side okay. Then there is Nelly Furtado, an insanely talented singer/songwriter who had experienced moderate success, who decided to sex up her music and image, and now is a top 40 darling. Yes, her album “Loose” is successful, but it didn’t have the organic eventuality that the “Janet” album had. First Janet released “Control”, an album where she took the reigns of her destiny. Then was “Rhythm Nation 1814” where she introduced a legion of pop radio listeners to the concept of social consciousness, including yours truly. By the time “Janet” came out, Janet was a whole woman, so although shocking to some, “Janet” seemed like a natural progression, not a ploy to reinvent herself or to cause controversy.
There is nothing natural about “Blackout”. Now I don’t know who to blame, Britney, her people, her label, I just don’t know. The album is a fairly adequate dance/R&B album. The production values are fantastic, and you can tap your toe to every song. But who do I complain to that every freakin’ song on there is about sex? And not in a way that gets you hot, and not in a way that’s smart, but in a way that says “Please say you love me…I’ll put out.” Her first sing “Gimme More” does make some clever allusions to the idea that media attention prods her to make a spectacle of herself. I wouldn’t be so bitter about this album if there wasn’t this one bright shining example of opportunities missed….”Piece of Me”.
Britney didn’t help with the lyrics, but they sound like she could have. It’s a confrontational war anthem. It’s Janet’s “Control”. This should have been the first single, not the second. The video should have been tighter and more aggressive than it was. And “Piece of Me” should have been the inspiration for the rest of the album. Seriously, why couldn’t they have talked to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the architects of “Control”? “Piece of Me”, in my opinion is Britney’s best song ever, and a fantastic song when put up against other pop/R&B tunes. If only she had picked the right Janet…..