Daily B: Blackout, Five Years Later

by Bradley Stern

Blackout was, and likely will always be, Britney‘s most thought-provoking record.

Not because of what it was about, thematically speaking–songs like “Get Naked” and “Ooh Ooh Baby” don’t exactly provoke a lot of head-scratching–but because of how it came about: The late night drives, the high-speed paparazzi chases, Starbucks Frappes, Britishney, “You’re better off being homeless than being me, sir,” Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, panty-free partying, the OK! photoshoot disaster, the head shaving incident, the tattoos, “Go to the light and see Jesus!”, the umbrella attack, pink wigs, pole dancing, TMZ, Sam Lufti, Adnan Ghalib, the Ryan Seacrest call, the 2007 MTV VMA’s.

And in the middle of this whirlwind, an album was released: Blackout, executive produced by Britney Spears.

Locked inside a studio, hidden away from the public eye, Britney seemingly found solace within the pulsating 808 drums and scorching synthesizers provided by the likes of Danja, Bloodshy & Avant and The Neptunes. Yet there–buried beneath robotic vocoders, processing and layering–remains the undeniable essence of Britney: Within the haunting giggle on “Gimme More,” the happy-go-lucky “Da-da-da” of “Radar” and the playful brattiness of “Hot As Ice.”

That’s not to say there’s nothing personal about Blackout: “Piece of Me” is Britney’s ultimate middle finger to the paparazzi (and the public), while “Toy Soldier” found Britney angrily marching her way toward 2008 as a newly single mother. And the criminally underrated “Why Should I Be Sad?”, a scathing ode to Kevin Federline (“It just seems that Vegas only brought the player out of you”), gave us just the slightest, rarest glimpse into Britney’s genuine pain for the first time since “Everytime.”

The album has since become a fan favorite for many of Britney’s biggest fans, and deservedly so: It’s arguably her most hard-hitting, forward-thinking and relentlessly danceable collection to date. And while it may not be her most intimately crafted offering (to that, there’s In The Zone), no other Britney record feels so intrinsically tied to what was happening outside the studio.

Without getting too speculative, I’d venture to say that many fans identify with Britney’s struggle while making this record. I remember the feeling of dread each time she’d head out at night, and the heartbreak of seeing her crying on a curb while the camera lights flashed away. At the time of the breakdown, I still remember seeing fans shaving their heads in solidarity. Nobody knew exactly what was happening–just that she was visibly hurting. But she made it through, and she’s smiling today.

For anyone who’s ever felt lost, hopeless, fed up or fucked over, the Blackout era seems to speak to something much larger than an album full of incredible club cuts. Just as it seemingly was for Britney during the most turbulent period of her life in 2007, the album remains a dark, chilly escape from the world for fans today.

On the eve of Blackout‘s 5 year anniversary, it’s only too eerily fitting that Sam Lutfi, Barry Weiss, Jamie and Lynn Spears have been inside a courtroom this past week, bickering over exactly what happened and pointing fingers regarding her erratic behavior. It all seems useless and frustrating, given that the one person they’re fighting about isn’t even sitting in the same room.

Truthfully, we’ll never really know what happened during those terrifying months (that is, unless she writes that “good, mysterious book” one day.) We can only speculate–through paparazzi videos, court testimonies and perhaps even some insight gleaned from Britney’s unreleased work (“‘Cause in rebellion, there’s a sparkle of truth.”) But in the end, only Britney knows. After all, people can take everything away from her…but they can never take away her truth.

And so, a toast to Blackout, Britney’s mysterious masterpiece.

Blackout was released on October 26, 2007. (iTunes)

  • http://fersoyyo.tumblr.com/ deguananonli

    the funny thing is that no one compared the video piece of me with video jennifer lopez jenny from the block hahaha lol

    love Blackout, my favorite album.

  • http://twitter.com/teblue Teo

    5 years already!

    Those times for me are like a blur (no pun intended) because I avoided to read everything with details. I didn’t watch every paparazzi video that got release or every set of photos, I just noticed the things that were inescapable, the thing I remember the most is Blackout.

    I love how Blackout without being so literal represents exactly that time of her life. Also, I love “Get Naked (I Got A Plan)”.

    Fun fact: I played so much “Gimme More” in my house (It’s my all time top track on my last.fm profile) my mom started saying that the chorus sounded like she was singing “Que me queme, que me, que me queme” (I got burned, I got, I got burned). It matches perfectly and sometimes I hear it like that. Thanks mom!

  • Tommy Thompson

    06-’07’ was when I truly fell in love with Britney. I don’t know if it was the constant spotlight from the paparazzi that pulled me or what, but there was something about her. Everyday I went into work the first thing I did was checked X17 for daily B photos. I always enjoyed her music before, but the constant photos gave me a view into her life. I felt like she became a part of me and in a lot of ways I was able to relate to her. I agree with you on every single thing said in the article.

  • Alex

    maybe the comparison was never made cause the videos aren’t even remotely the same?

  • ruben


  • FND74

    my favorite Britney album.I dont like any of her other stuff sorry to say but this was mayjah. And yes Why Should I Be Sad is so cool.

  • Tanay

    Ditto! I became a full blown Britney fan in 2006, when she was going through this phase. And yeah X17 during hose times as well lol

  • Tanay

    Ditto! I became a full blown Britney fan in 2006, when she was going through this phase. And yeah X17 during hose times as well lol

  • Tanay

    Ditto! I became a full blown Britney fan in 2006, when she was going through this phase. And yeah X17 during hose times as well lol

  • Galli

    There was something so disturbing and nihilistic about that era. It was like this album was an emblem of Britney’s mind just as it was her external environment. You can actually give this album a backdrop that is rooted in our world, which makes it something of a HISTORICAL artifact of popular culture. Britney’s other albums take us to a world BEYOND time and space – a Britney as delightfully unattainable as the red sprite on Mars in Oops I Did It Again, but Blackout was very much down in the trenches with the everyman – she is here with us in the grime and the foul night air of the city. With Blackout, I can practically TASTE those shiny landmarks of Hollywood as much as I could visualize the rainy streets of Manchester when listening to The Smiths. In that understanding, Britney captured a distinctive aesthetic of Los Angeles – a symbol of a time and place – making Blackout literally her most iconic record. Blackout is unmistakable EVIDENCE that Britney can say “I WAS HERE” in ways Beyonce never could be. And by GOD(ney)… how she WAS:


  • jevin

    I wonder what Brad has to say about Britney, herself tweeting about doing Blackout 2.0

  • http://fersoyyo.tumblr.com/ deguananonli

    I know, not the same video, but the theme of “the paparazzi taking pictures, making news and magazine covers with that little information, to distort reality” is in both video.

    I love Britney and I love piece of me, don’t get me wrong.

  • http://jaybot.tumblr.com/ Jaybot

    Nicely written article. Happy birthday Blackout!

  • Dan

    I remember being really surprised she had this album in her
    at that time, I was expecting a hot mess and instead we received her best
    album. I doubt she will ever top it.

  • ghenzie

    so true…no one can take away her truth…i so love her