Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008

A Bona Fide Britney Spears Comeback

By Evan Rytlewski
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Even those with little tolerance for commercial pop have got to appreciate a comeback story of this magnitude: It was less than one year ago that Britney Spears was fresh out of rehab and still enducing a barrage of brutal tabloid coverage for her myriad displays of questionable judgment. Her career had been dead for years, and each comeback attempt proved more embarrassing than the last. People hated her. Her downward spiral literally threatened to prove fatal.

And yet this week she lays credit to the country's number one single, "Womanizer," her first chart-topper since her seminal breakthrough, "...Baby One More Time." "Womanizer" just jumped 95 slots on the Billboard Hot 100 to occupy the top slot, a historic first. Spears is a beloved star again, and a record-breaking one at that.

So what happened?

Although Spears' 2007 album Blackout had been a commercial success, thanks largely to tabloid interest, that record's pieced-together nature prompted many critics to joke (and honestly speculate) that it was recorded without her, subjecting Spears to further ridicule. But that album succeeded in the crucial task of at least putting Spears back on the radio, making a more full-hearted comeback possible. It also aggressively trumpeted Spears' spin on her situation: She's a victim of the press, so leave her alone. The message stuck, and after a few clean months free of trainwreck, hillbilly antics, the public warmed to the fallen starlet again.

Now she's returned with a perfectly timed single. "Womanizer" charges with Katy Perry's brashness; its super-fun video recycles the singer-as-multiple-characters conceit of Avril Lavigne's similarly fun "Girlfriend," and the song even chops and screws the occasional lyric, just to remind listeners that its 2008.

It is, in other words, pop music as its finest, Spears' first great song since "Toxic," and a comeback well earned.

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