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Blackout 33 1/3 AMA (ask me anything) with author Natasha Lasky


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2 hours ago, NatashaL said:

Hi!!! This is a great question and one i was super interested in while writing the book. While from my research it seems that the songs on OD had been shelved entirely, Bloodshy and Avant (who wrote Mona Lisa w/ Brit) worked on a ton of Blackout. They saw how Britney was being treated in the media, and experienced it firsthand themselves (running away from the paparazzi with her in hamburg). They wanted to write songs that felt more grounded in Britney's perspective and experience -- like when they wrote "Sweet Dreams My LA Ex" for Britney to respond to "Cry Me A River."  When developing "Piece of Me," they talk about wanting Britney to have an idgaf kiss-off song that reframes things from her perspective much like OD. So I think the vision -- at least from B+A's involvement was definitely there. 

Very interesting. Thanks so very much, Natasha!

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2 hours ago, RebellionSparkles said:

Agree on Get Naked and Break the Ice!

LOL…but sometimes I feel stans overlook Gimme More! GM is THE G.O.A.T. first song of any album of all time. “It’s Britney, BlTCH” sets an amazing tone for the rest of the album.

F ucking FACTS! Period. GM is unmatched. Every song could be a single (even though GM is THAT *****) and sounds so unique yet the album is cohesive as f uckkk! Raw, edgy, dark, hard-hitting bangers that don't give you time to breathe. The song order flows beautifully and I LOVE that WSIBS closes it out as it feels like a hazy morning hangover after a killer night out. 

Unpopular opinion but Blackout IS her most personal album imo. POM and WSIBS are literally as personal as it gets. Gimme More was her unapologetically telling the world to F off. All the tracks have this raw emotion in the production but specifically how she sings. Lyrically no but I feel her when I listen. It's a vibe. Not to mention those unreleased and bonus tracks. Let Go, Baby Boy, Outta This World, State of Grace. Tell me which album is more personal?

And as you said. That opening line...iconic isn't strong enough of a word. It's truly next level beyond. So much love and respect for Blackout! I had never loved an entire album or stanned music that hard until BO. It's just perfect. Like literally lol.

Ugh and why is Sugarfall such a vibe? It's that song I play in the still of the night at 3am and chill. I honestly can't with this flawless masterpiece. I dont know how tf she pulled off an album that perfect. It's astonishing. Again UNMATCHED. Blackout is really Jesus and Mary and Satan and the bible, and GOD. 

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3 hours ago, Ghoulia said:

I just love the chapter titles:

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. A Sicko Producer's Dream
2. Bimbos of the Apocalypse
3. Just Real *****es in a Fake-*** World
Coda
__________________________________________________
 

MOAR questions

1. What was the creative process for writing this?

2. What was the hardest part of writing this book?

3. Are you doing any other promo for the book? I'd love to see an interview if you give one.  

lol thank you re: chapter titles. tried to channel blackout's idgaf energy!

1) so a lot of work was done in the pitch process to outline what I wanted to talk about. I was going to split the three chapters into six mini-chapters, but I thought it'd be more satisfying to make a longer argument. I wish I had a more interesting thing to tell you but it was a pretty by-the-book process -- I had a pretty good vision in my head of what I wanted to book to be, and then I worked on each chapter in order giving myself deadlines along the way. I definitely procrastinated quite a bit though and had to really sprint towards the end 

2) Definitely including all the information I wanted to while keeping the book cohesive! There are songs I wanted to talk about and moments in Britney's trajectory that simply didn't fit in with the larger structure of the chapters/book as a whole -- especially for readers who aren't as familiar with Britney and don't care as much about the minutia. It was also stressful that there was so much new information about Blackout and Britney in general coming out over the past two years I wrote it -- there's already some parts of the book that are obsolete (for example when I turned in the final draft, B was engaged; now she's married). It felt like the research process was never done -- I was incorporating new info up until the last minute.

3) I hope so! I did an interview for Bloomsbury's podcast which should come out sometime soon, but I would love to do more. 

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2 hours ago, RebellionSparkles said:

Agree on Get Naked and Break the Ice!

LOL…but sometimes I feel stans overlook Gimme More! GM is THE G.O.A.T. first song of any album of all time. “It’s Britney, BlTCH” sets an amazing tone for the rest of the album.

I totally agree! I think it's so widely acknowledged to be a classic that people forget about it so it's weirdly underrated. Not only is "it's britney *****" iconic (even people who have never heard of blackout know it!) but the song is also incredibly weird for a pop song, structurally speaking. Like you get verse/prechorus/chorus/verse/prechorus/chorus and then the whole rest of the song is the outro! A total 180 from the max martin stuff from earlier in her career. The production is so lush -- I feel like i hear something new every time I listen to it. I could talk about this forever. 10/10

 

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4 hours ago, NatashaL said:

So I wanted to let you guys know before they get the book! If that doesn't sound like the book for you -- that's totally fine. I get it... i feel like a lot of britney media I consume i'm like "ok! well that didn't give me any new info!" bc so much of it has been picked over already. 

 

Hi, I just wanted to say - it is SO important that you have written this book, and that a publication like 33 has published it. It gives the album so much credit, and I'm sure it will make a lot of people discover it. You work is sooo important!

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57 minutes ago, TakeYourHand said:

F ucking FACTS! Period. GM is unmatched. Every song could be a single (even though GM is THAT *****) and sounds so unique yet the album is cohesive as f uckkk! Raw, edgy, dark, hard-hitting bangers that don't give you time to breathe. The song order flows beautifully and I LOVE that WSIBS closes it out as it feels like a hazy morning hangover after a killer night out. 

Unpopular opinion but Blackout IS her most personal album imo. POM and WSIBS are literally as personal as it gets. Gimme More was her unapologetically telling the world to F off. All the tracks have this raw emotion in the production but specifically how she sings. Lyrically no but I feel her when I listen. It's a vibe. Not to mention those unreleased and bonus tracks. Let Go, Baby Boy, Outta This World, State of Grace. Tell me which album is more personal?

And as you said. That opening line...iconic isn't strong enough of a word. It's truly next level beyond. So much love and respect for Blackout! I had never loved an entire album or stanned music that hard until BO. It's just perfect. Like literally lol.

Ugh and why is Sugarfall such a vibe? It's that song I play in the still of the night at 3am and chill. I honestly can't with this flawless masterpiece. I dont know how tf she pulled off an album that perfect. It's astonishing. Again UNMATCHED. Blackout is really Jesus and Mary and Satan and the bible, and GOD. 

Lol totally! It's funny -- I use the "morning after a night out" metaphor for WSIBS in the book! Speaks to what a cohesive arc blackout has. 

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3 hours ago, Daniyaal said:

Why do artists and albums such as Lady Gaga and 'The fame monster' get credited for changing the way pop music was whereas Blackout gets no acknowledgement? Didn't blackout come out before the fame? 

You're right -- the fame came out in 2008 and the fame monster came out in 2009.

My take on this is that cultural criticism of all kinds -- whether that's reviewing an album or talking about trends in music generally, both in the moment and in retrospect -- is more about fitting the music into a larger narrative than about the music itself. Part of the reason that it took so long for Blackout to be acknowledged is that it doesn't fit the conventions of a conventional "comeback" album. even though critics could see it was a good album, they couldn't square this very polished and lucid and self-aware Britney on Blackout with the "trainwreck" they were seeing in the news. Critics have also discounted B's artistry from the beginning for a whole host of reasons I discuss in the book.

Meanwhile lady gaga is the new kid on the block, an artsy fartsy auteur -- it's easier to slot her into a narrative of innovation. Granted, I know less about Gaga's trajectory and there could be nuances I'm missing. (I'm also a huge fan of her -- she was my first concert I ever saw)

But yeah crediting the fame monster for changing pop music w/o acknowledging britney... u can't ignore that "Telephone" was originally for Britney 

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8 hours ago, Tear the floor up up said:

I guess an obvious question would be: is Britney aware of this book's existence? And did you attempt to reach out to her whilst writing this? (I haven't read any other books from the 33 1/3 series, so I'm just genuinely curious)

I'm not sure! My publisher reached out to her team to try and send her a copy, and I might try myself. But I also would totally understand if she never wanted to read anything about herself ever again....

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5 hours ago, BlackoutITZ said:

Hi Natasha, thanks for taking the time to answer questions from us!

1. In your opinion, what is Blackout's legacy in pop music, in relation to where it stands today?

2. Considering that Blackout is often regarded as one of the most influential pop albums of the 21st century, does Britney get enough credit for the fact that she was the executive producer of the album and the fact that she took creative control over the project? It's quite poignant that it remains her only album to date that was created in her career while not under the management of Larry Rudolph and her former team, and it's often cited as her greatest work.

3. In your opinion, is it a testament to the quality of the album that it was well received by critics even back in 2007, while Britney was being regularly torn apart by the media and they would have undoubtedly enjoyed being able to declare a new album from her as a disaster? If it was released later would the critical reception have been even stronger?

1) Lol I spent an entire book trying to answer this question! But to attempt to summarize: musically speaking, Blackout was using looser, more groove-based song structures than songs at the time (like EDM). Also the clear digital alteration of her singing voice, paired with the idgaf vibe of the album was definitely new -- you weren't seeing those kinds of alienating, "ugly" vocal effects in the top 40 and this inspired the avant garde (PC music, for example), mainstream (kesha, etc) alike. I would even trace the current hyperpop pitched-up-vocal vibe that's all over TikTok to Blackout. 

Also, while at the time it was more profitable for pop stars to be likeable and middle-of-the-road, Blackout was dark and raw and weird, appealing to smaller but more devoted groups of fans, and addressed directly how hard it is to be surveilled by the public. I think this was also super ahead-of-its-time. Now lots of pop stars cash in on dark aesthetics and attempts to be raw and real, and I also see pop stars making the emotional effects of fame and public scrutiny central to their music. Off the top of my head I think of Billie Eilish and Halsey and The Weeknd and Taylor Swift (in some moments) 

2) The short answer is no. Britney does not get enough credit! I talk about this at length in the book but I think this has a lot to do with critics' discomfort with a more industrialized pop industry in the early 2000s, where the stars are "just" vocal personalities and producers/labels do all of the work. Obvi this is a super limited and wrong way of looking at pop music and I think critics' inability to take Britney's executive producer status into account is further evidence of this. Also it's v gendered -- like no one was saying "Justin Timberlake has no talent, it's just Timbaland and Danja and Pharell pulling the strings" even though that's lowkey true

Also yeah I agree with you -- seeing what a breakthrough this album was in the absence of larry rudolph and "her team" makes me wonder what could have been if she was given more freedom

3) Yeah I think this is a good take! What makes Blackout great imo is that it is complicated and multifaceted just like Britney is. It's hard to slot into a neat narrative of downfall or redemption. It's hard to know how the album would be received if it were released later -- like I doubt an album like this could've been made during the conservatorship. I also think we're living in the world Blackout created so it's hard to imagine "what if"

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1 hour ago, Lemon said:

 

Hi, I just wanted to say - it is SO important that you have written this book, and that a publication like 33 has published it. It gives the album so much credit, and I'm sure it will make a lot of people discover it. You work is sooo important!

thank u :')

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6 hours ago, petermaxforreal said:

Hi Natasha! I haven't had a chance to read the book yet and my question is... was there anything you uncovered on Blackout during your writing process, that really surprised you in a positive/negative way?

Hi! Thanks for the q! 

Some of the most surprising things I found while researching the book:

1) kevin federline's one and only album is actually not that bad?????? I hate to acknowledge this because I would rather tear out my own eyes than say even one positive thing about kevin federline... but I attribute any of this album's mild artistic success to Britney who executive produced. And as we know from Blackout she's a great executive producer!

2) That bloodshy and avant not only co-wrote the zoey 101 theme song with Britney but also wrote the "Toxic" parody in the rom-com Music and Lyrics with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. I think it's so interesting that b+a were so deeply enmeshed in Britney's career and were so invested in her as a person -- enough that they could parody their own work!

3) Speaking of bloodshy and avant, I learned about the song "AM to PM" by Christina Milian in researching them. It's such a great -- and weird -- song and foregrounds a lot of what would go on to make songs like "Toxic" so great. 

4) this is kind of a weird one but I was shocked to find out how often the mainstream media compared Britney with George W. Bush at the time. I read a really interesting academic article about it -- that was really unexpected to me. 

 

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