Welcome back to TGJ Replay!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ features, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s yet another reflective segment to act as a written quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday. Unlike its TGJ retrospective predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits.
(Photo courtesy: Daily News)
By 2007 Britney Spears was at a personal and professional crossroad.
After selling over 27 million albums on the backs of four consecutive chart-toppers (in the United States alone) the pressure to meet or exceed her prior accomplishments in a changing music industry was ever-mounting. That difficulty was only heightened by the abundance of bad press the megastar had been slammed with after a weekend marriage in Vegas followed by a two-year tumultuous marriage to backup dancer Kevin Federline, public drunkenness, rumors of drug abuse, and documented demonstrations of mental instability and breakdowns (see: February 2007 shaved head/car attack). The aforementioned not only took a toll on her brand, but also led many to question if she could ever recapture the glory days of yesteryear.
To respond to the challenge, Spears and co. collected The Neptunes, Timbaland protege Danja, Bloodshy & Avant, Sean Garrett, and more of the day’s hottest producers and songwriters to craft a follow-up to her most critically acclaimed and artistically adventurous album at that time: 2003’s ‘In the Zone’ (read more about that here). Unknown to them at the time the body of work they were assembling would go down in history as her most critically prized offering…eventually.
However, it didn’t exactly start that way:
Just months after her highly publicized breakdown, Spears opened the 2007 MTV VMAs with the first taste of what fans could expect from the era: the Danja & Keri Hilson-penned ‘Gimme More.’ A shambolic showing (especially for a performer with a decorated history of over the top, jaw-dropping performances at the award show), the incident – highlighted by unenthused lip syncing, misfired choreography, and a vacant look that suggested she wanted to be anywhere but there – only fueled speculation that the singer was battling some serious problems. Easily becoming the talk of the night, reports on the performance would top headlines for the weeks following.
Hopes to capitalize on the buzz (or redirect it) came in the form of the tune’s official accompanying music video. A racy affair featuring Spears as a stripper, the visual was panned by fans and critics alike for its lack of a storyline. Yet, for all the visual lacked, that did little to deter fans from wanting more of ‘Gimme More’ – an undeniable bop.
Thanks to strong digital sales and radio play the song peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 less than a month after its official release. Its sales would go on to hover slightly south of the 2x platinum mark and to date remains one of the best digital sellers of her career.
Thanks to the success of ‘More’ and growing fears of additional unauthorized leaks of the album, the label pushed up ‘Blackout’s release from November 13 to October 25, 2007. Set to be her fifth consecutive #1 album with 290,000 copies sold its first week (which would’ve secured her then-standing record among female singers), a last minute Billboard 200 ruling that allowed album sales provided from only one retailer to chart [i.e. Wal-mart] saw her bumped to #2. Needless to say, fans didn’t take the news of her first album to miss the top spot well.
Undeterred, Spears and team would follow ‘Gimme More’ with moderately successful singles ‘Piece of Me’ and ‘Break the Ice’ (Hot 100 peaks of #18 and #43 respectively).
Fans cried foul over the lack of promotion afforded the project, something – at the time – unknown of the singer who usually accompanied each album with an onslaught of media appearances, performances, and television specials. While many accepted her absence on television as a clear way to dodge any questions about her mental health, love life, and other inquiries that could be potentially damaging, her supporters did not take lightly to the lack of label support for such a gem of a project.
When the dust settled, ‘Blackout’ was shut out from nominations and/or wins at major award ceremonies (see: Grammys, American Music Awards, etc.). But, it still would go on to have the last laugh in the long run. Going on to sell an impressive 3 million copies worldwide, ‘Blackout’ was eventually added to the archives and library at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – a major accomplishment for any album (especially one released this century).
From where we and many others stand, ‘Blackout’ is the epitome of pop perfection. Lyrically daring and sonically progressive, fans continue to call on Spears for a follow-up fully worthy of comparison to it. We’ll admit, ‘Glory’ is the closest she’s come to date…but personally I want her to gimme more of what she was serving on ‘Blackout.’
Until she does (if she ever does), tell us: