New Britney’s on a mission

With a new record and a new life, is Britney really back?

Brit-Brit looks better, but will it last?

Ashley Goetz

Brit-Brit looks better, but will it last?

Photo Courtesy Jive Records Britney Spears ALBUM: Circus LABEL: Jive âÄúDo I know my life is weird?âÄù a subdued Britney Spears repeats to herself in front of a prying camera in her documentary âÄúFor the Record,âÄù which aired on MTV on Sunday night. âÄúItâÄôs all IâÄôve ever known.âÄù And indeed, thatâÄôs true, since SpearsâÄô 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 itâÄôs never been publicly admitted nor denied. Whether her condition has a name, itâÄôs clear that the constant pressure Spears lived under from the age of 16 onward didnâÄôt do much to help her fragile mental state. âÄúI have some days where I feel really well,âÄù she said, âÄúand then I have bad days. Sometimes itâÄôs too much.âÄù Also in the documentary is a frank admission that marrying Kevin Federline was a mistake. She refers to him as âÄúmy babiesâÄô daddyâÄù and blames their demise partly on KevinâÄôs solo career. âÄúI was devastated,âÄù she said about her tumultuous year. âÄúIâÄôm not gonna sugarcoat it and say I was OK.âÄù Spears said 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. âÄúIâÄôve always wanted to feel free,âÄù she said. âÄúI canâÄôt even go to the supermarket with my kids.âÄù âÄúFor the RecordâÄù gets flinchingly personal when remembering how volatile Spears has recently been. âÄúSometimes it feels better to feel nothing at all and to have hope,âÄù she said sadly. She begins to cry when speaking of her new life. âÄúThereâÄôs no excitement. ThereâÄôs no passion.âÄù In upcoming interviews for âÄúRolling StoneâÄù and âÄúGlamourâÄù 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 journalistsâÄô meddling. So how does SpearsâÄô latest public persona match up with the Spears packaged in her latest release, âÄúCircusâÄù ? âÄúCircusâÄù âÄî SpearsâÄô sixth studio effort âÄî is a more cohesive album than 2007âÄôs âÄúBlackout ,âÄù which, though it was full of fun dance-floor packers, was obviously a record Spears had very little to do with. She relied on the vocorder for the majority of âÄúBlackout,âÄù and though she uses it again with âÄúCircus,âÄù itâÄôs less intrusive. Too many of âÄúBlackoutâÄôsâÄù songs dealt with how sexy Spears is and how much sex sheâÄôs having, while âÄúCircusâÄù is slightly more varied in its song topics. ItâÄôs catchier, poppier and pure, sugary enjoyment. In âÄúFor the Record,âÄù Spears claims that âÄúCircusâÄù is a more personal album. However, since we know she writes very little of her material, that statement doesnâÄôt quite ring true. Songwriting credits aside, in âÄúCircus,âÄù Spears actually feels present âÄî her essence is there. Plus, âÄúCircusâÄù is a collection of what Spears does best: slightly sweet dance pop. âÄúMmm Papi,âÄù despite its absurd title, wouldâÄôve been at home on the âÄúAustin PowersâÄù soundtrack, perfect for a go-go girl. âÄúUnusual YouâÄù sounds like an outtake from SpearsâÄô trip-hop influenced record âÄúIn the Zone,âÄù and the oh-so-cleverly veiled âÄúIf U Seek AmyâÄù (say it fast to figure it out) is silly, flirty fun. âÄúLace & LeatherâÄù is what a Spears âÄô80s-era Prince studio session might have produced. âÄúCircusâÄô âÄù title track should have been the first single in lieu of âÄúWomanizer,âÄù as itâÄôs a stronger song better suited to SpearsâÄô âÄúcomebackâÄù and doesnâÄôt feature the same word repeated over 30 times. Compared to the other songs on the record, âÄúWomanizerâÄù 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 âÄúOut From UnderâÄù shouldâÄôve been replaced by the international release-only âÄúAmnesia,âÄù which is perfect candy sweetness. SpearsâÄô voice has never been strong enough to carry a ballad. But âÄúCircusâÄù is easily SpearsâÄô most solid work. Will she pull off this âÄúcomebackâÄù and follow in the footsteps of her heroine, Madonna? SpearsâÄô legions of fans and supporters will be behind her, thatâÄôs for sure. We hate to see a star fall.