Grading Britney: how she’s rated through the years
She has a another hit album. On March 3, she began her world tour in support of 2008’s “Circus.” The Times’ Ann Powers is in New Orleans, and her review from the concert can be found on the Pop & Hiss blog.
With Spears embarking on a massive tour, one that brings her to Los Angeles on April 16, we take a look back at how The Times has rated her past albums and live performances.
Is Britney in the flesh better than Britney on record? (Peter Kramer / Associated Press)
Album review: ". . . Baby One More Time”
Released in January 1999, ". . . Baby One More Time” followed the massive success of its title track. Nevertheless, The Times was mixed on Britney’s first offering, writing, “The 17-year-old former Mouseketeer’s debut recalls ‘80s-vintage Madonna and Mariah Carey, with peppy dance tunes, emotionless ballads and an updated Sonny & Cher song. There’s real bubble-gum appeal to the Jackson 5-style ‘Soda Pop’.”
Spears’ sophomore effort was an international hit, but it was panned in The Times. Her live performances from the era received better marks (see next slide).
In its review of the album, The Times cited a “dearth of emotion,” blaming the “almost fully automated music, but Spears doesn’t even convey the sense of fun she exuded the first time around. Some interludes of chatty dialogue about cute boys and poor little rich girls seem intended to inject more personality into the mix, but they sound every bit as hollow and fake as the songs.”
Live review: 2000 “Oops ... I Did It Again” world tour
The Times’ Robert Hilburn reviewed Spears’ stop in Irvine in 2000 and found it was probably better through the eyes of an 8-year-old.
“Trust me, this show isn’t designed for anyone who is old enough to ever have stepped into a DMV office,” he wrote. “It is put together as an entry-level concert experience for little girls, most of whom were dressed Saturday in Britney-inspired halter tops and jeans or shorts -- and those girls spent most of the evening waving little green glow sticks in salute to their pop heroine.
“On that level, Spears and her team have put together a bull’s-eye of a show.”
Her 2001 concert stop in Anaheim won comparisons to Broadway, and received overall favorable remarks from The Times’ Randy Lewis.
Lewis wrote, “Most shows by teen-pop performers develop into nothing more than random acts of hyperkinetic choreography, but Spears’ work ethic and genuine charisma infuse much of her lightweight material with a sincerity her peers can’t touch.”
Robert Hilburn attended Spears’ 2004 trek and found this was no longer kid’s stuff.
He wrote, “In the past, Spears has had the luxury of having critics try to look at her show through the awe in the eyes of the 8- to 12-year-olds who made up her target audience. And it was easy to be charmed by the teen innocence and action-girl hero stance.
“In keeping with Spears’ attempt to elevate her target audience from 12 to, say, 22, she has moved to a more torrid mix of sensual imagery and dance-floor heat -- and requires to be judged by adult standards.
“ ‘I don’t wanna be a tease,’ she sings in one song. ‘Will you undo my zipper please.’ ”
The Times’ Ann Powers reviewed “Blackout” in 2007 and found it an enjoyable ride, but at what cost?
She wrote, “ ‘Blackout,’ the new album from Britney Spears, is as intoxicating as a snort of high-grade white powder. Like that nightclub indulgence, it’s an expensive ride, crafted by a team of top producers exploring the outer reaches of cybernetic pop. Its dazzling studio effects, rhythmic reconstructions and vocal shape-shifting drag the listener in, as each song elaborates on the power of desire and desirability. It’s hard to resist ... But maybe it’s time to start just saying no.”
Spears’ return on the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards has gone down in Brit history as one of the singer’s odder moments, to say the least. The Times’ Ann Powers noted she was “sleepwalking” through her performance, but the whole show felt like little more than an advertisment for MTV.com.
Spears’ 2008 album received two stars from The Times’ Ann Powers, but she was already looking forward to the tour. Wrote Powers: “ ‘Circus’ already has given her a big hit, the ‘Cabaret'-meets-'Flashdance'-flavored ‘Womanizer,’ and considering the expensive production credits neatly lined up on each track, more seem inevitable. Then there will be the tour, which should be great.”