Both pop princess Britney Spears and pop princes The Backstreet Boys released albums on Oct. 30. Spears and the Boys both tried to mature musically. One succeeded while the other failed.
Britney Spears is about to shock the world again, not because she bombed another award show or shaved her head, but because her fifth album, Blackout, is actually good. Blackout is a wicked mix of “Toxic” and “I’m a Slave 4 U,” with an honest, sexed-up, crazy spin.
Her first single, “Gimme More,” is a sexual anthem that has already created tidal waves on the charts. It is No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100, but the single will always serve to remind the public of her dreadful VMA performance. Not even the catchy hook will be able to escape that association.
Wisely, she has completely banished the innocent schoolgirl image from earlier in her career. She now sings openly about her sexual escapades with breathy background noises, especially in the song “Freakshow,” which she co-wrote.
One of the only mid-tempo songs is a shout-out to ex-husband Kevin Federline, “Why Should I Be Sad?” The lyrics are clearly a personal jab at the man she’s battling for custody of their children: “Why should I be sad, heaven knows / From the stupid freakin’ things that you do / I shouldn’t get mad, or sad, who knows / Just take it all as a sign that we’re through.”
Spears is no longer relying on silly, safe songs about the changes going on in her life. She is brutally honest, especially in “Piece of Me,” with lyrics: “I’m Mrs. lifestyles of the rich and famous / I’m Mrs. Oh my God that Britney’s shameless / I’m Mrs. Extra! Extra! this just in / I’m Mrs. she’s too big now she’s too thin.”
She knows what the people want and gives it to them. The lyrics are not profound but they are entertaining, which is all fans could ask from Spears. For a woman whose life seems to be spiraling out of control, she knows how to put together a great dance album that will have
Unbreakable is an ironic title for the Backstreet Boys’ sixth album, because former-member Kevin Richardson broke away from the group last year. According to the band’s official Web site, Richardson left the group saying, “It was a very tough decision for me, but one that was necessary in order to move on with the next chapter of my life.”
Maybe the rest of the boys should too, since their original audience out-grew them years ago.
The Backstreet Boys make an attempt to update their sound while staying true to their origins, but the album falls short. The vocals are still as solid as ever, but that does not make up for the lack of originality in the lyrics or the hooks.
The songs are just as bubbly as their early works about the unrequited love of women too good for them, like “One in a Million.” The song is about a girl who doesn’t see how beautiful she really is: “Wish I could tell her / You’re one in a million / You’re going the distance, babe / You’re gonna work it out some day / Wish I could tell her.”
“Everything But Mine,” another song sporting the same message about a girl they wish was theirs has lyrics like: “Oh, you’re the calm when my world is crashing / My heart, my blood, my passion / Why, tell me why / You’re everything but mine.”
Unbreakable is too safe to be original. If the Backstreet Boys come out with a seventh album, they will have to take some risks to make a successful comeback.Grade: C