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Blackout is Britney Spears's fifth studio album which was released on October 25, 2007 by Jive Records.

Album BackgroundEdit

In November 2003, while promoting her fourth studio album, "In the Zone", Britney Spears told Entertainment Weekly that she was already writing songs for her next album and was also hoping to start her own record label in 2004.

Henrik Jonback confirmed that he had written songs with her during the European leg of The Onyx Hotel Tour, "in the bus and in her hotel room between the concerts."

Following her marriage with Kevin Federline in October 2004, she announced through a letter on her official website that she was going to "take some time off to enjoy life."

However, on December 30, 2004, Spears made a surprise appearance at Los Angeles radio station KIIS-FM to premiere a rough mix of a new midtempo track, "Mona Lisa." Spears had recorded the song live with her band while on tour, and dedicated it to all the "legends and icons out there."

The lyrics lament the fall of Mona Lisa, calling her "unforgettable" and "unpredictable", and cautions listeners not to have a "breakdown". She also revealed she wanted the song to be the first single of her upcoming album, tentatively titled The Original Doll, and hoped to release it "probably before summertime [2005], or maybe a little sooner than that."

In January 2005, Spears posted another letter on her website, saying: "I think I should rephrase myself from my previous letters when I was talking about taking a 'break'. What I meant was I am taking a break from being told what to do. ... It's cool when you look at someone and don't know whether they are at work or play since it's all the same to them. The things I've been doing for work lately have been so much fun, because it's not like work to me anymore. I've been even more 'hands on' in my management and the business side of things, and I feel more in control than ever."

A representative for Jive Records stated that although Spears was working in the studio, "no album is scheduled at the moment" and that "there are no plans to service 'Mona Lisa' to radio."

"Mona Lisa" was released in a bonus CD included with the video of Britney and Kevin: Chaotic." Spears gave birth to her first son, Sean Preston, on September 14, 2005.

In an interview with People in February 2006, Spears explained that she was anxious to resume her career, commenting she missed "traveling [...] the road, seeing different places and being with the dancers and having fun. That feeling of being on the stage, knowing it's your best – I love that. I needed a break. I needed to be hungry again."

When asked about her next album, Spears said she had been experimenting in her home studio with live musicians, stripping down her sound and playing the piano.

She wanted the album to represent her Louisiana roots, explaining that she grew up listening to blues, stating: "When I was little, I would listen to myself [...] But the record label signs you, and you're just thankful to get a hit song. You can't really show off your voice and where you came from. I would like to try to have more influences of that sound. Not that I'm going to be like frickin' Tina Turner. But you never know."

She also said that she hoped the album would reinvigorate the current pop scene, adding that "It's been boring. Nothing's been wow to me."

On May 9, 2006, Spears announced she was pregnant with her second child. A few days later, producers such as J. R. Rotem and Sean Garrett told MTV News they were working with Spears. On September 12, 2006, she gave birth to her second son, Jayden James. She filed for divorce from Federline on November 7, 2006, citing irreconcilable differences.

After the divorce, Spears' partying and public behaviour drew attention from the worldwide media, and ended with two separate stints at Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu, California in February 2007. Her manager Larry Rudolph released a statement on March 20, 2007, saying that she "successfully complet[ed] their program."

RecordingEdit

The recording for "Blackout" began in 2006, according to a Spears' representative. Spears first met Rotem in Las Vegas, Nevada in March 2006 and enlisted him to work on the album after listening to Rihanna's song "SOS." They wrote and recorded four songs together, including "Everybody" (which was originally offered to Rihanna and The Cheetah Girls).

In July 2006, she started working with Danja, who contacted songwriters such as Keri Hilson, Jim Beanz, Marcella Araica and Corte Ellis to work with him. The team wrote seven tracks for Spears: "Gimme More", "Break the Ice", "Get Naked (I Got a Plan)", "Hot as Ice", "Perfect Lover", "Outta This World" and "Get Back."

Danja explained that the creative process was not difficult at first since he was "left to do pretty much whatever I wanted to", and "if she felt it, she was gonna ride with it. If she didn't, you'd see it in her face."

Hilson wrote "Gimme More" with Spears in mind after Danja played her the instrumental, saying, "I just started singing, 'Give me, Give me' and added a little more in and just having fun and messing around really."

Spears began recording with them at Studio at the Palms in Las Vegas in August 2006, while she was seven months pregnant with Jayden James. Recording continued at her home in Los Angeles, three weeks after she gave birth. Hilson commented that "She gave 150 percent. [...] I don't know any other mother that would do that."

Danja added that despite all her problems in her personal life, "As far as her work ethic, I haven't seen anybody come in like that and do what you go to do." Regarding the sound of the album, he deemed it as bigger, more mature and "a new Britney", explaining: "I come from hip-hop, so it's underlined with [it], but I throw it down."

Kara DioGuardi (who also worked on "Heaven on Earth") co-produced and co-wrote "Ooh Ooh Baby" with Spears while she was pregnant with her second child. DioGuardi said that Spears "worked really hard" and called her "unstoppable."

In September 2006, Rotem told MTV News that he and Spears were trying to innovate the current sound of radio at the moment, exemplifying Nelly Furtado's song "Promiscuous".

On November 8, 2006, the day after she filed for divorce from Federline, Spears recorded "Radar" with Ezekiel Lewis and Patrick M. Smith of The Clutch at Sony Music Studios in New York City.

Lewis had wanted to work with her for a long time and was motivated to produce something for her that was going to "help her project become a great project to come back with".

Smith stated that the team tried to create a record "for the Britney Spears that we know and love" and that it did not "touch on anything that was really dealing with all the stuff that she was dealing with."

Both commented that although Spears arrived late to the recording sessions, she caught them off guard with her efficiency and professionalism, with Lewis adding, "It was absolutely nuts, and she took directions very well. [...] I don't know what I was expecting because we went in to cut that record the day after she filed divorce from Kevin [Federline]."

"Heaven on Earth" was written by Nicole Morier, Nick Huntington and Michael McGroarty, (the latter two known as Freescha). Although Morier had been writing songs with Greg Kurstin and other artists, she felt she "hadn't really found [her] niche" until she wrote "Heaven on Earth", which she described as "a very honest song".

After she played the song to her publisher, they met with Spears and her A&R Teresa LaBarbera Whites, who both loved it. Morier described "Heaven on Earth" as the song that transformed her career.

T-Pain (who co-wrote "Hot as Ice") was in the studio with Spears in February 2007, and stated that one of the three songs they recorded was finished in only an hour. He said that he "thought she was going to be sitting on the couch eating Doritos or nachos or something [...] but she came in, shook my hand, gave me a hug and went right in the booth. She got in there and put it down."

Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, known as Bloodshy & Avant, co-wrote and co-produced "Radar", "Freakshow" and "Toy Soldier" in late 2006.

When the album was considered to be finished, they were persuaded by LaBarbera Whites to work on a new track. Winnberg commented that it had always been "an unwritten rule" to not write songs about Spears' personal life since "Sweet Dreams My LA Ex" (an answer song to Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River") was rejected by her record label; however, the duo wrote "Piece of Me" with Klas Åhlund anyway as an answer to Spears' critics, and sent it to the singer who "loved it."

Winnberg stated, "We knew that the song broke all the rules we had, [...] When she came to the studio, she was extremely psyched, had learned the lyrics by heart in the car, and recorded the song on half an hour."

Before the album's release, LaBarbera Whites told MTV News that the album "shows a lot of growth as a performer. [...] She was very involved in the songs and how they turned out. It's her magic that turns these songs into what they are."

Among the producers who worked on "Blackout" but didn't make the album were Scott Storch, Dr. Luke and Ne-Yo.

TracklistingEdit

  1. Gimme More 4:11
  2. Piece Of Me 3:32
  3. Radar 3:49
  4. Break The Ice 3:16
  5. Heaven On Earth 4:52
  6. Get Naked (I Got A Plan) 4:45
  7. Freakshow 2:55
  8. Toy Soldier 3:21
  9. Hot As Ice 3:16
  10. Ooh Ooh Baby 3:28
  11. Perfect Lover 3:02
  12. Why Should I Be Sad 3:10

Chart PerformanceEdit

According to Nielsen SoundScan, "Blackout" sold 124,000 copies during its first day of availability in the United States.

Jessica Letkemann of Billboard compared the sales favorably to those of the number-one album of the previous week, Carrie Underwood's album, "Carnival Ride" (which sold 49,000 copies). Letkemann also estimated that Blackout would possibly debut atop the Billboard 200.

On November 6, 2007, Billboard announced that even though The Eagles's first-week sales of "Long Road Out of Eden" had handily surpassed Spears, they would not debut atop the chart because of rules forbidding albums exclusively sold at one retail outlet (Walmart in this case) from entering the Billboard 200.

The magazine's senior analyst and director of charts Geoff Mayfield explained he was frustrated by the situation, saying: "I can believe the Eagles sold more, but I'm not seeing anything that verifies for me that they outsold her and anything we see otherwise might be from people with a stake in suggesting that."

During the afternoon of the same day, Walmart issued a press release announcing that "Long Road Out of Eden" had sold 711,000 copies.

At night, it was announced through an article on Billboard.biz that after an agreement with Nielsen SoundScan, Billboard would allow exclusive album titles that were only available through one retailer to appear on the charts, effective that same week.

Hence, "Long Road Out of Eden" would top the Billboard 200, while Blackout would debut at number two, with sales of 290,000 copies. It became Spears' first studio album not to debut at number one; however, the album set the record as the best-selling digital album debut by a female artist in a week at the time.

Following the release of her album, "Circus" in December 2008, "Blackout" re-entered the chart at number one-hundred-and-ninety-eight, with sales of 4,600 copies.

As of March 2015, the album had been certified Platinum in the United States for shipments of 1 Million copies. platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

In Canada, "Blackout" debuted atop the Canadian Albums Chart with sales of 29,000 units, becoming her first number-one album there since "Britney."

It was certified platinum by the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) for shipments of 100,000 copies.[116] In Australia and New Zealand, Blackout debuted at numbers three and eight on the official charts, respectively.

The album was certified platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) indicating shipments of 70,000 units. It debuted at number two on the UK Albums Chart with sales of 42,000 units, (behind "Long Road Out of Eden").

"Blackout" stayed on the chart for twenty-eight weeks. The album was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for shipments of 100,000 copies. In Ireland, the album debuted atop the Irish Albums Chart (replacing Bruce Springsteen's album, "Magic").

The album also debuted atop the European Top 100 Albums, holding off Long Road Out of Eden and Eros Ramazzotti's album, "e²" from reaching the top of the chart. The album reached the top ten in ten European markets, including debuting at number four in Switzerland, number six in Austria, Italy and Denmark, and number ten in Germany and Portugal.

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the album was the thirty-second best-selling album of 2007. By the end of 2008, Blackout had sold 3.1 million copies worldwide.

Critical ReceptionEdit

"Blackout" received a mostly positive response from music critics. On music review aggregator Metacritic, the album holds a score of 61 out of 100 (indicating "generally favorable reviews") based on 24 reviews.

Retrospective reviews, however, have praised the album and cited it as a strong influence over the music of the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine (senior editor of AllMusic) described the album as "state-of-the-art dance-pop, a testament to skills of the producers and perhaps even Britney being somehow cognizant enough to realize she should hire the best, even if she's not at her best."

Dennis Lim of Blender deemed it as "her most consistent [album], a seamlessly entertaining collection of bright, brash electropop."

Margeaux Watson of Entertainment Weekly commented that while the album is not poetry, "there is something delightfully escapist about Blackout, a perfectly serviceable dance album abundant in the kind of bouncy electro elements that buttressed her hottest hits. Xtina could never!!"

A reviewer for NME said that the heavily treated vocals make Spears sound robotic, adding that "it could really do with a few more human touches."

Pitchfork's Tom Ewing called "Get Naked (I Got a Plan)" the centerpiece of the album, and added that "like most of Blackout, is superb modern pop, which could probably only have been released by this star at this moment. Britney as walking catastrophe makes for great car-crash copy and her record can fit into that if you want it to."

Ewing also compared the relationship between Spears and "Blackout" with the TV series, "Twin Peaks" saying that what made the show "so great wasn't the central good-girl-gone-bad story, it was the strangeness that story liberated. And Britney's off-disc life is both distraction from and enabler for this extraordinary album".

Mike Schiller of PopMatters said that "Right down to its utterly garish cover, Blackout is utterly disposable and ultimately forgettable."

Melissa Maerz from Rolling Stone explained that Blackout "is the first time in her career that she's voiced any real thoughts about her life" and that "she's gonna crank the best pop booty jams until a social worker cuts off her supply of hits."

Rob Sheffield of the same magazine described Blackout as "one of the most influential albums in modern pop".[93] Slant Magazine writer Sal Cinquemani compared the album unfavorably to In the Zone, saying that although Blackout "scores well, and its hotness quotient is remarkably high, [it] isn't much of a step forward for Britney following 2003's surprisingly strong In the Zone, for which she received a writing credit on a majority of the songs (as opposed to a scant three here)."

Andy Battaglia of The A.V. Club said Blackout "counts both as a significant event and as a disquieting aberration that couldn't be more mysteriously manufactured or bizarrely ill-timed" in which "every song counts as markedly progressive and strange."

Alexis Petridis from The Guardian called it "a bold, exciting album: the question is whether anyone will be able to hear its contents over the deafening roar of tittle-tattle." He elaborated that when faced with a public image in freefall, an artist has two options: making music "that harks back to your golden, pre-tailspin days" to "underlin[e] your complete normality" or "to throw caution to the wind: given your waning fortunes, what's the harm in taking a few musical risks?"

Petridis commented that Spears opted for the latter and the results were "largely fantastic."

Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times said, "The electronic beats and bass lines are as thick as Ms. Spears's voice is thin, and as the album title suggests, the general mood is bracingly unapologetic."

Sanneh added that said Spears became a spectral presence in her own album, explaining that when compared to her previous records, "[she] cuts a startlingly low profile on Blackout [...] Even when she was being marketed as a clean-cut ex-Mouseketeer, and even when she was touring the country with a microphone that functioned largely as a prop, something about her was intense."

Peter Robinson of The Observer stated that Spears "delivered the best album of her career, raising the bar for modern pop music with an incendiary mix of Timbaland's Shock Value and her own back catalogue."

The Phoenix's Ellee Dean said the album "may be more a tribute to the skills of the A-list producers who guided her through the disc than to any of her own talents. But at least she was smart enough to accept that guidance."

In his consumer guide for MSN Music, critic Robert Christgau gave the album a B+ and said that "From 'Gimme Mores 'It's Britney bitch' hiya to 'Piece of Mes single-of-the-year sonics, from 'Ooh Ooh Babys 'feel you deep inside' to 'Perfect Lovers 'touch me there', this album is pure, juicy, plastic get-naked."

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