I’ve been meaning to properly recap 2009 (a good year in pop indeed), but recapping 2009 has meant writing up Britney’s Circus tour, which is an act that I’ve put somewhere down around ‘tax return’ and ‘check if I have diabetes’ on my ‘to-do’ list. Because what is there to say really — it was awful. Stunningly awful. But bizarrely, not at all enjoyable. If I’d spent $200 on a spectacularly entertaining debacle, that would have been fine (such as I imagine Victoria Beckham gigs would have been, if they’d happened). But this was deeply boring, which is quite an achievement — to create a spectacular that fails to entertain. There’s a long essay in why these sorts of shows often fall over (their alienating slickness for one thing), but to wrap this up quickly, and to provide an outline of the show using effort levels similar to that which Britters put in to the show, dot points are in order:
- Proceedings started dubiously with a series of people with disabilities performing circus tricks. On one level empowering to see such amazing physical achievements, but then, this is the opening of the ‘Circus’ tour. I’m not sure Britters’ fully thought through the cultural baggage attached to that…
- Rather than dancing per se, Britters’ tended to strut, shake her shoulders and point to the ground, all the while lazily miming. As in opening and shutting her mouth with no apparent relation to the words…
- Occasionally you’d lose her on the stage, and then realise the person you thought was a slightly tipsy backup dancer was actually the star.
- The show had no taste or subtlety. Even William Baker’s efforts on costume design seemed tainted by tack.
- Each tack sounded the same. The show was relentless. Tim fell asleep.
- Many 12 year old girls were in attendence. They took over the men’s toilets, leading to an unfortunate experience in which I was literally urinating in front of 12 year old girls.
- She didn’t bother performing 3, the single she was, like, promoting.
- Britney Spears has absolutely no star quality in the flesh. The end.
I somehow got a hold of a physical copy of Shakira’s new She Wolf album, even though the release has now been pulled until 2010, which suggests record company disarray and panic. Very sad. But anyway, the album is strong, although only nine tracks (if you exclude the Spanish version of She Wolf), which puts it in The Fame Monster mini-album territory. Men in this Town is by far the highlight, with its heartwarming disco yelps, soaring chorus, bizarre lyrics about Matt Damon and suicide. Shakira at her best has a pleasing obtuseness, and here it’s perfectly fused into the album’s electro-disco template, unlike some of the Pharrell Williams tracks which could have turned up on Hard Candy with only slight modulation. (In an album of nine tracks, how can there be filler?). But this is good, good, good.