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Revisiting Circus on its 10th Anniversary

Updated: May 6, 2019

Written by Griffin Smuts

Bush is on his way out. Bitcoin on its way in. Kim’s making curvy cool again. Kanye’s emo af.

The year is 2008.

But it’s not campaigns, cryptocurrencies, Kardashians, or even Kanye capturing the country’s attention. Instead, Americans have their eyes on the bubble gum-popping, platinum perfect, Hot 100 ingénue emblazoned into national memory a decade before with a schoolgirl skirt and dishwater do.

Britney’s gone batshit.

Some suspected the shaved head of 2007 was rock bottom. That was before she kicked off ‘08 with a stint in the hospital for substance abuse. Before she lost custody of her two sons, just a day later. Before the psychiatric hold.

Oops. Had America done it again? Made another Marilyn or Michael. Another Lindsay.

So it seemed. Until Circus.


“There’s only two types of people in the world,” Britney growls in the title track. “The ones that entertain, and the ones that observe.” Circus is a declaration. An assertion of Britney’s identity with a ferocity that was previously hidden from the world. Perhaps because she worried that if the world knew the “real” her, they’d stop loving her.

So when they actually did stop loving her, she had nothing left to lose.

With Circus, Britney’s done hiding the grit that got her from Mississippi to Malibu. Done hiding what she is. Scrappy, self-made. A circus of her own. “Well baby I’m a put-on-a-show kinda girl,” she hisses, “Don’t like the backseat, gotta be first.”

And therein lies the record’s brilliant originality. Unlike Marilyn, Michael, or Lindsay, Britney never did attempt to reinvent herself.

She found herself, bitch.


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