Friday, December 19, 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: Britney Spears' "Circus" vs. Lady Gaga's "The Fame"

I realize everyone's claiming that Christina Aguilera has been poaching 22-year-old New York native Lady Gaga's style and sound, but since she's on-the-rise to take the presently vacant throne of the Queen of Pop, I thought it would be fitting to compare her to her predecessor, Britney Spears, who is actually making a successful comeback.

Britney Spears' Circus
Last year there was a lot riding on Britney's first album attempt in four years, Black Out. She had been deeply involved in tabloid-worthy behavior (i.e. shaving her head, getting rushed to the hospital, dating a paparazzi, etc.) instead of wowing us with her dance moves and bubbly personality. While all of the singles ("Gimme More," "Piece of Me," "Radar," and "Break the Ice") were dance-worthy, that didn't exactly guarantee that Britney was, in fact, back. And her latest album, Circus, doesn't exactly prove that either.

As many critics have pointed out before, the title isn't really a metaphor for what her life has turned into--flashing bulbs and tabloid fodder--or indicative of what the tracks have to offer, but there are a few that are revealing and a few that are club-worthy. What more do you want from a recovering addict and mother-of-two? Geesh! Besides the singles "Womanizer" and "Circus," download these:

• "Out from Under" is a slightly depressing, heart-wrenching ballad. I wonder if when she goes into the studio to record songs that she hasn't written, if they ask her what she wants the song to be about or if they study up on her and give her songs they think describe her life, because this one just screams "Britney!" It's about someone who feels trapped in a relationship that's going nowhere...which kind of sounds like all of her past relationships. I think it would be awesome to interview the person who listens to all of her raw emotions and turns them into lyrics.
• "Shattered Glass": On several of the songs she sounds like her old "Lucky" self, especially this one. It's a nice mix of her emotions with dance music.
• "Unusual You": This is my favorite ballad off the album, even though it sounds like it would be perfect for a stripper slow jam. But it's actually about the wonder of new love and how it changes all the rules--her best ballad yet.
• "Mannequin": This should be her next single. It would make for a rocking dance video, where maybe she could dance more than strut and pose.

Honorable Mentions: "Kill the Lights," which incorporates paparazzi allusions, is bearable until the semi-high-pitched chorus; "If You Seek Amy," which most reviewers loved, is supposed to be a play on words--say it fast enough and it's "F-U-C-K me!"; "Blur," which explores the night-after-drinking experience, but doesn't feel as genuine since she doesn't address her drug-abuse in public; "Mmm Papi," which has a hot psychedelic beat, but gets murdered with the lyrics; "Trouble," an iTunes preorder bonus track, that's kind of catchy; "Amnesia," a UK & Japan bonus track, that is soooo 80s; and "Quicksand," a Euro iTunes bonus track, which was actually co-written by Lady Gaga, that doesn't sound half bad.

Lady Gaga's The Fame
Instead of starting out with her real name, like Beyonce, and gravitating towards a stage name, Stefani Joanne Germanotta debuted as Lady Gaga, a reference to Queen's "Radio Gaga." The Italian-American, ectropop/hip hop sensation was signed by Akon after running back-up vocals for his other artist, Tami Chynn. She's slowly rising to the top with her wild-child style and unorthodox music videos. However, there are still a few people who are on the fence about her image and her agenda, but I'm sure after they listen to her first album, The Fame, they'll start to give in, since her songs can be slightly addictive. Most of them have elements of Gwen Stefani (especially on "Summerboy") and 80s Madonna (on "Fame"). Besides her first single, "Let's Dance," download these:
• "MoneyHoney" admittedly sounds kind of like a sampling of Salt-n-Pepa's "Push It," but it's fun and could easily be added to the Shopaholic's movie soundtrack.
• "Again Again" I like because it shows that she's not just ruled by one sound, but it annoys me that it ends so abruptly. Plus, she sounds the most like Aguilera here.
• "Starstruck," which features Flo Rida, is my favorite. It has the perfect mix of electro, pop, and hip hop to make for a great club song. Maybe with this track she can seem a little less robotic on stage and wow us at the Grammy's...if they give her a shot.

Honorable Mentions: "Beautiful Dirty Rich" is danceable, "Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)" is a very light Caribbean song, "Poker Face," the second single, and the "Material Girls"-like "Fame" are pretty catchy, and "Paper Gangsta," a Euro-track, is a tolerable attempt at rapping.

All in all, I'd say Gaga has started her career off nicely. Now all she has to do--to beat Rihanna to that throne--is gain a more active public presence and score better producers.

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