Is it weird to talk about an album's anniversary a mere three years later? Maybe. But Britney Spears' Circus was an anomaly in and of itself, so it seems fitting to mark its birthday with this commemorative little homage to the pop star/professional abyssal spiral's sixth studio album.
Released on December 2, 2008, Circus accomplished something that no one thought possible: A full-fledged resuscitation of Spears' career. Her previous album, Blackout, led us all to believe that she had just done that--blacked the fuck out. Compounded by a catastrophic performance of "Gimme More" at the 2007 VMAs, it was around this time that the seeds of her imminent mental breakdown were planted, a rumor that seemed more than likely considering that Blackout generated just one truly memorable/hit-worthy song.
Still, Spears managed to keep her crazy to a minimum, suppressing it in time to put the material together for Circus just one year after Blackout. How she found the extra hours to be hospitalized and raise two children is beyond me. Forcibly admitted to Cedars-Sinai in January of 2008, Spears "recovered" (though I have my suspicions that she might be a pod person now) in time to complete Circus for the holiday season. The collection of songs amounted to a return to her dance pop ways, but also established an uncharacteristically reflective tone that comes across as more genuine than on prior tracks like "Sometimes" or "E-Mail My Heart" (which appeared on Baby One More Time and Oops...I Did It Again, respectively).
Perhaps what sent the singer into her frenzied state of emotional upheaval was a lack of intensive touring for Blackout, as she only performed briefly under the name M+Ms in House of Blues venues throughout the country. The setlist for the tour was just five songs long. After recording Circus, Spears noted,
"Dancing is very important to me. Dancing is my life. As far as dancing goes, I'm dead if I don't dance. I seriously, um, I can get really depressed and the only thing that can, you know, get me out of depression or get me out of my head or anything like that is when I get with people and I dance."
Hence her devolution toward dementia? In any event, the musical vibe of Circus is nothing if not a dance extravaganza. Part of what motivated Spears to include only two ballads ("Out From Under" and "My Baby") was the idea of touring the album with a circus-inspired concept that would showcase some of her best choreography.
The sultry, "come one, come all" nature of tracks like "Kill the Lights," "Shattered Glass," "Lace and Leather," "Mannequin," and, of course, "Circus" were ideal for the tour that Spears had in mind. Her vision proved very profitable indeed as The Circus Starring Britney Spears was her highest grossing tour to date. So successful was her Circus album and tour, it makes sense that Spears would wait three years (see? So this three year anniversary is significant) to release her seventh album, Femme Fatale.
While Femme Fatale is a decent, equally as dance-packed follow-up, it does not quite possess the magic and pageantry of Circus. The Femme Fatale Tour also seems to be a reflection of that when comparing its ticket sales to those of The Circus Starring Britney Spears. But it's okay, because we can go into the tent and inhabit Spears' world of fantasy and yes, insanity, anytime we want just by listening to Circus--unequivocally, to quote the singer herself, her "best work ever."