‘Rolling Stone’ Magazine Heaps Great Praise On ‘Blackout’ By Britney Spears


Earlier this week, much ado was made over the Internet leak of a Britney Spears recorded demo of the song Telephone (which was originally written for her but ultimately passed on to Lady Gaga) … ado that is still making headlines today. Rolling Stone magazine published an article online that not only praises Britney’s demo version of Telephone over Gaga’s mastered version of the song but goes on to hail Britney’s album Blackout as “the most influential pop album of the past five years”. I have to say, I kinda agree … read on:

Ever since Britney Spears’ demo version of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” leaked this week, fans have been buzzing. Producer Rodney Jerkins quickly confirmed that it really was Britney singing, but any seasoned Britneyologist could already identify it by ear within a couple of bars — nobody else pronounces the consonant “r” or the long vowel “e” like our girl. It has all the distinctive vocal tics of Britney, or at least the laptop that does her singing. At this point, I’ve come to love Britney’s demo even more than Gaga’s already-brilliant hit version. Even though it’s a more bare-bones production, it amps up all the seething rage in the song, stripping it down to the killer combo of a plucked harp and a jaded party girl strung out on Auto-Tune and paranoia. “Telephone” actually sounds a lot like Britney’s 2007 hit “Piece of Me,” proving yet again how much impact Britney has had on the sonics of current pop. People love to make fun of Britney, and why not, but if “Telephone” proves anything, it’s that Blackout may be the most influential pop album of the past five years. The demo is lighter than Gaga’s production, cutting out all the rock bombast, but that just makes the song more linear and urgent. It reduces “Telephone” to a drum machine, that harp, a magic box of vocal effects, and the concept that a girl’s soul and a magic box of vocal effects can sometimes be the exact same thing. Britney uses Auto-Tune the way Bob Dylan used his harmonica — for punctuation, for atmosphere, for an alienatingly weird sound effect. It’s a blast of vocal distortion, harsh on the surface, but expressive, capable of sounding wildly funny or abrasively pissed-off or seductive. In “Telephone,” as in “Piece of Me,” the Auto-Tune does for her voice what the harmonica does for Dylan’s in “It Ain’t Me, Babe” — a way of telling the world to keep its hands off you. Britney is talking to her phone, talking to the boy who keeps calling, talking herself out of compulsively checking her phone. The way her voice fades in and out of Auto-Tune — mostly in — is totally brilliant. Like Bob Dylan (and I swear this is the last time I’ll mention his name right now, despite the millions of things he and Brit have in common) Britney loves to cross-fade between a human voice (hey world, take a look at me, I’m a star, I’m somebody, pay attention) and a machine voice (hey world, fuck off, you can’t reach me, I don’t believe you, you’re a liar). The point isn’t whether Britney is punching the buttons herself. (When is that ever the point with a pop star?) It’s the romance going on between the voice and the machine. Part of what makes Britney the perfectest of perfect pop stars is the way she expresses her personality most passionately when she’s turning herself into a machine — surrendering to the beat, disappearing into the thrill of the pop moment, singing like a robot. That’s what makes her sound so human after all. In “Telephone,” she doesn’t want to think any more, talk any more, feel any more — she just wants to hit the floor and dance to the rhythm machines until she turns into a machine herself.

Truth be told, not even I would make a Britney Spears comparison with Bob Dylan but I can’t say that the argument isn’t at least a valid one. But Rob Sheffield, the author of this piece for Rolling Stone, isn’t finished with his argument that Britney’s Telephone is a sonic masterpiece. He goes on to make the claim that Britney’s version even echoes punk music of the early 80’s. Trust me, you’ve got to read the rest after the jump …

Nothing could express the Britney cosmology like a phone song, since phone songs are usually a place where singers distort their vocals to sound like they’re on the line — my favorite might be ELO’s “Telephone Line,” Kraftwerk’s “The Telephone Call,” or maybe Missy Elliott, Timbaland and Nicole Wray’s “Make It Hot.” But it’s ideal for Britney — especially when the phone song doubles as an “I’m out on the club jumping on strange boys” anthem. She’s kind of biz-zaaay. She’s kind of biz-zaaay. You can’t hurt her, can’t even touch her, because she’s kind of biz-zaaay. Call all you want but she’s not at home, and you’re not gonna reach her telephone. I’m definitely not disparaging Gaga’s version — I couldn’t live without it, especially not her Beyoncé video epic. But “Telephone” has so much Britney in it, it’s no big surprise to learn that Gaga may have written the song for her. Since Britney is the perfect pop star, and songs about telephones are always excellent, it’s a just plain mathematical fact that Britney’s “Telephone” is a perfect pop song, and the world is an infinitely better place because it exists.

Bizarro note: despite all the advances in phone technology over the past 25 years, both versions of “Telephone” end with the same recorded message from the Replacements’ 1984 punk rock classic “Answering Machine.” That Britney — she is so punk.

OMG, how much do I love this article!! Even tho I am the BIGGEST Britney Spears fan around, even I think Sheffield is reaching a bit in this treatise but you gotta give the man credit for having the cojones to write something like this for Rolling Stone. As I mentioned before, I am not a huge fan of the Telephone song at all … but I have been listening to the Britney version repeatedly since the demo made its way to the Internets. Whether that has anything to do with my intense love for all things Britney or, as Sheffield argues, because the Spears demo verion is superior to the Gaga mastered version is anyone’s guess. I have always maintained that Britney Spears and her music are very influential on modern pop music. Haters will dismiss this but it is true. Her music makes an impact … even when it isn’t meant to be heard by anyone outside the recording studio.


  • Shawna

    i agree <3

  • Very true, indeed. That album is the core of what pop music is. And what’s funny is that it’s her most unappreciated album.

  • jen

    I absolutely agree, Blackout was an incredible album but it came at a bad time for her. Every song on that album had hit potential.

  • Kendra

    Ahh..I love Britney..She could record a fart into the mic and I would love it..I liked her version of Telephone way better than CaCa’s..The comparison to Bob Dylan is out there, but he totally makes some great points..

  • Patrick

    i love britney, but i don’t think blackout can touch anything that lady gaga or beyonce have done in the last three years. the argument that it has influenced anything in the past little while is one i find really hard to buy, what about circus?

  • nicole

    i’ll be the first to admit that blackout was good…but i wouldnt say it was that good.
    @Patrick – comming from a non-britney fan…i have to disagree…i’ll take blackout over anything beyonce or lady gaga anyday.

  • mccraemalcolm

    I hated this demo at 1st, but it truly is way better than the Gaga version. I love it now. And is it weird I wanna frame this article!? lol

    oh and Trent… I AM Britney’s BIGGEST fan. ;)

  • Mr. Gyllenhaal

    I totally agree!! I love that CD and all the songs are awesome. Miss Brittney really is the bomb!!!

  • Vanessa

    (MY PERSONAL OPINION, not to offend anyone)

    I don’t LOVE Britney, but I definitely DON’T hate her. This album was better than Circus for sure, but I feel like it’s not truly Britney Spears that deserves the credit. I feel like she is a product that others direct and mould and edit to pieces. She is like play doh where everyone gets their hands on her and moulds her to what they feel is best for her at that time.
    It just doesn’t seem like she has the creative control anymore.

    I’m not saying Britney has no talent, because she most definitely does, but IMO this album is definitely NOT the most influential pop album in the last five years.

    – But who am I to say anything?? ;)

  • Manda

    I agree Vanessa.

  • nicole

    @Vanessa- very well said.


    I don’t understand why people don’t give Britney the credit. Do you know that Britney MAKES the songs? I mean, even if she doesn’t write them herself, her voice MAKES the songs a hit. A lot of artists could record pop songs, right? And they can also release them to the public. Are they going to be a hit? It’s hard to say. However, Britney can record the very same songs and it’s guaranteed to be a hit because there’s just SOMETHING about Britney. If anyone disagrees and says this album is the least influential pop album in the past 5 years, you are strongly mistaken. This album is so innovative and just…amazing. I don’t think Lady GaGa’s albums could touch “Blackout” in all honesty. Plus, comparing Beyonce to Britney is totally not fair to Beyonce sing Britney squashes her in pretty much EVERYTHING without half the press coverage, half the endorsement deals, half the advertisement. Don’t make me laugh, BB. “BDAY” sucked, and “Sacha Fierce” was NOT good, but better than her previous album. It’s definitely one of the most underrated Britney album EVER. I love Britney’s version of “Telephone” and I like GaGa’s too. However, we all know who wins. That is all.


    P.S. Britney pretty much started electro pop (the thing that is HOT now) with the album “Blackout”. Also, I meant to say “Plus, comparing Beyonce to Britney is totally not fair to Beyonce SINCE…” not sing. Ha

  • krissy

    This sounds more like a love letter for Auto-tune than anything else, and Piece of Me was far from the first song to use it heavily. I agree with Vanessa.

  • pitnb

    i definitely 100% agree !! blackout was one of Britney’s Best album…and to @Vanessa < Britney was the Executive Producer of the album while she had no Larry no one…she did this album with some of unknown producers who are the biggest in the music industry now like Danja !!!
    she also wrote so many songs in this Era..but they didn't make it to the album !!!
    and so many celebrities said that it was their best album [Madonna/paris hilton/rihanna/kelly clarkson…etc] and there are videos to prove that !!!

    enough said…

  • pitnb

    oh…and i prefer Britney’s Telephone btw !! <3

  • Laura Jayne

    I think Britneys best album is In The Zone, she had a lot of creative control with that album, wrote a lot more songs. It’s a brilliant pop album. I just wish it would receive the praise it so deserves. Blackout was better than Circus. I think Circus was a creative step back for Britney. I think she makes the most interesting music when she has a say. That Dramatic leak is brilliant – it’s so unique and something that only Britney can do. Britney is the only one who can sing Britney songs! This is why she’s the worlds greatest pop star.

  • Tim

    Rolling Stone lost there Credibility when they put the likes of Jessica Simpson,Clay Atkin and Ruben Studdard and others on the cover…and they once said Back Street Boys” I Want It That Way”was one of the best pop songs of the 90s.

  • Tina

    The only thing the Telephone leak said to me was what little effort Britney puts into her music. Her vocals sound so weird that there’s no way even if she wanted to sing live she could never pull it off..Vocals never sound human.

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  • nicole

    @pitnb – umm Danja was known before he worked with britney…
    Sexy Back,What Goes Around & My Love – JT
    Say It Right & Promiscuous – Nelly F
    and a few songs with Timbaland
    thats just the few i can remember off the top of my head..so he was well known before blackout came around.

  • Malcolm McCrae

    @Nicole Danja was known, but he was known as the guy who works with Timbaland. And if I’m right most those songs he did with help from Timbaland. Blackout was when he stepped away from Timb and did his own thing and he got all the fame and success he has now. Blackout (Gimme More) definitely made him.

  • Kitti

    Blackout is like a greatest hits collection.

  • Chris


  • Amy C

    OMG I’m so happy to read this! I LOVED Blackout–still do–and never got why it wasn’t more popular. It had an edge to it that Circus didn’t.

  • Snorri

    The only good songs on Blackout were the ones produced by Danja. The rest are kinda meh. Piece of Me was kinda cool but flawed. Break The Ice is genius. But I don’t really think Britney should get the credit. Its the hired guns who really shine here.

  • mccraemalcolm

    Just FYI most of Blackout was made during Britney’s pregnant/Marriage years. When she was not accused of being insane/party girl. She was fully involved in the whole album and even made it with out the guidance of a manager… heck the guidance of anyone. Danja & others have said many times how much work she puts into the songs she makes, she just doesn’t take credit for it. Most people don;t know this because they choose not to hear this type of stuff when it comes to Britney.

    So all these people saying she doesn’t deserve credit for this album are wrong. She deserves all the credit she is being given.

  • paranel

    There is only one Britney. No one can come close to her in the world of pop music. She has already left her huge impact. Love her style. It is cool for some to bash her, that’s Ok. Who cares? Talent is talent and she is it.

  • LisaW

    I am a HUGE Britney fan and Blackout is definately her best album and 1 of my all time favorite albums period. It’s a bummer it was so overlooked because of the release during her “crazy” days!

  • Lo

    blackout is great and yesi have always said who ever britney works with need huge huge praise because every song this girl comes out with is badass. but to say her telephone is better then the way lady gaga did it is crap. first off lady gaga wrote the song, so it was hers that she gave to britney, britney said no and it is now a huge huge hit for lady gaga, honestly if britney did it i dontthink it would have been a single and how can autotune be considered better then someone actually singing it. i think its sad that all it takes for someone to be famous in the music world is a nice ass and a nice face but yet no vocal ability which is what singing is. no voice how can she be famous?? thats what gets me. and if you honestly think this girl actually can sing then you must be deaf. she doesnt sing live ever because if you heard her voice you would know right away its different from her cd. she is like a milli vinili (sp?) they could sing but not great so they had others sing while they were the image. same for britney im sorry.

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  • mccraemalcolm

    And there are countless number of vids of her singing live. From early in her career up to ITZ era. (even Circus era… “You Outta Know”) She can sing.

    I don’t mean to be a stan, but sometimes you just have to. :)

  • J

    Blackout & In The Zone alllll the way Baby!
    They are both nearly identical if you look at it. Britney co-wrote like 80% of In the Zone which explored sex and maturity. Her growing up to be a sexual woman. Blackout continued that, about being that sexual woman.

    Each have their own sound; Urban > Electro.

    I don’t like hating on Xtina even though i’m not a fan like i am with Britney, but one could say she is copying Blackout. But i know that isn’t the case at all.

    I wouldn’t go around saying Blackout is one of the msot influential, mainly cause a lot of critics used her personal life to give negative reviews and not many people bought it or paid much attention, even though it deserved the most attention of ANY of her albums.
    But at the same time it is very influential. A lot of other artists have gone electro since and yes, a lot of artists had gone electro BEFORE blackout. But it is seriously her greatest work along with In The Zone (Oops and Britney are great, but thats previous Britney era). And i couldn’t agree any more saying that Blackout is a true Pop Album that really stepped up the game, even if no one paid much attention.

    RS heart Britney so much; its gold!

  • pitnb

    Madonna : “I actually love Britney Spears’s new album,” she told New York’s Z100-FM Thursday. “I usually work out to her record. I do a combination of pilates and dance aerobics.”
    William Orbit on Madonna : “She’s into Britney Spears’ last record. Not the last one, the one before. That Britney record with ”Piece Of Me” on it. She wants that brilliant sound. I absolutely adore the sound of ”Piece Of Me” and so does she. It’s one of my favorite tracks when I DJ and I play it.”

  • pitnb

    and watch this video where beyonce, Rihanna, Kelly clarkson & Avril lavign talk about “Blackout” : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsnQDqSNX1I

  • Ryan

    “which was originally written for her but ultimately passed on to Lady Gaga” no trent. LADY GAGA WROTE TELEPHONE (and she writes all of her songs, which is something britney hardly ever dose), it was never “passed on to her” it has always been HER song. Gaga offered to give the song to britney, and SHE turned it down. thus, gaga used it and made it a hit.

    I dont even know how anyone could possibly compare britnyes auto-tuned, robotic sounding, soft vocal, demo version of telephone to lady gagas outstanding powerhouse club hit. thats like comparing rocks to diamonds. Hands down, lady gagas version of telephone prevails over britneys awful version of the song. dont get me wrong, britney is great and all… but lets be real here. She is nothing more than a completely manufactured, cant dance or sing as good as she used to, sorry ass excuse for a pop star. She was awesome at one point in her career, but somewhere along the line (maybe after her two marriages, kids, going crazy, flashing her vagina to the world, and god only knows what else) it almost seems like she just gave up. She is nothing like the artist she used to be.

    Im aware that Lady Gaga has not be around very long, but in my eyes, shes truly the definition of what “influential on modern pop music” SHOULD be. Original, daring, exciting. Lady Gaga is a TRUE performance artist. I suppose only time will tell how her career will pan out, but lets look at the facts. Britney has had only 2 actual #1 songs in over 10 years. In the two years Lady Gaga has been around, she has had 6 consecutive #1 songs. In my eyes, SHE is the one who will be taking over as the Queen of Pop in the aftermath of Madonna. Thats just my two cents.

    • @Ryan — “Gaga offered to give the song to britney, and SHE turned it down. thus, gaga used it.” That’s exactly what I said, it was written for her and she turned it down. I can appreciate your fandom of Gaga but I find her neither inventive nor interesting.

  • gen

    Blackout & The Fame & Fame Monster are my favorite pop albums. Ever.

  • Lappyhunt

    @ Ryan Your comments just show how young you really are, Gaga original? Her sound is nothing new, oh you’re talking about her image? Have you ever heard of MADONNA? or Roisen Murphy? Gaga is far from original, she just came out at the right time, where a whole new generation doesn’t recognize that madonna. Britney has was more orignality than Gaga. And yes Gaga can sing, but she aint no christina, she can’t dance and her music is the most generic pop out there. Britney has a huge part in the production of her music, she doesn’t take credit for it, as many producers have said. she could easily put her name in the credits, shes done earned it, she just doesnt. Gaga will fade trust me, people are getting sick of her pretty quickly

  • Lappyhunt

    BTW also, if it weren’t for Britney, Gaga wouldnt exist.