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


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@NatashaL

Blackout is the album we hear Britney speak about the least, even though her executive producer status would imply that she probably had some of the most say in it (especially in comparison to other, more label-driven albums that received tons of structured promo). When it was announced you’d be writing this book, I commented on your Instagram a link to a rare mentioning of Blackout by Britney during an interview for the Circus album. 

How did it feel having to write your book around so much research and conjecture but few actual direct quotes? Obviously media has become saturated with think-pieces hypothesizing Britney’s point of view, and there’s this uncomfortable duality (that the NYT documentary girls spoke about experiencing themselves) where even with the best intentions, we’re all still outsiders taking a stab at telling Britney’s own story for her. So in your writing process, were you actively conscious of walking that line between speaking about someone versus speaking for someone?

Thanks!!

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7 hours ago, NatashaL said:

Thank you so much for these questions!! It has been interesting seeing people's opinions on Blackout in this forum... but I'm definitely a huge Blackout fan (duh)

1) One of my best friends texted me and was like "they're accepting proposals for 33 1/3 books, wanna apply with me?" and I thought about it and I was like "hmmmm if I were to write a book about an album, which one would I pick?" and then immediately Blackout came to mind. I listened to it when it came out (I was like 12-ish?) and I was obsessed with "Piece of Me" but I re-discovered it in college. Reading about the album as an adult, I was really frustrated with the way Blackout -- and Britney's music as a whole -- was being written about. (This was also in June 2020, before all the docs came out and the mainstream media was more publicly sympathetic to B)  I also thought it was crazy that there hadn't been any books written about B that weren't either memoirs from family members (ugh) or unauthorized biographies. She's such an important cultural figure -- and she warrants a book-length exploration of her impact! So I thought that a book like this needed to be written, and then I applied to write it, and then Bloomsbury was like "we want to publish this!" so that's the story!

2) I think my favorite part was actually reporting on the Britney fan community. Britney fans were crucial in ensuring this album's eventual critical success -- they were taking her seriously when no one else (or maybe very few people) was. A lot of organizing in the Britney fan community in those days would eventually become commonplace in Stan culture now, so they were pioneers in that department as well. Also so much of the early history of the internet has been lost, so it was interesting to ask people about what that space was like, and learn about all the drama....lol

3) Definitely! I talk about at length the way Britney's version of femininity was both celebrated and decried by music critics and mainstream media alike -- it's a really important part of the story in my opinion. 

4) Hm. I still have a lot of questions about what went on in the recording studio while Blackout was being recorded. There are so many good questions about what Britney's involvement in the album was like -- I would kill to be a fly on the wall! The demos and offhand recordings that have been leaked are so fascinating and say so much 

I just got my copy in the mail this evening and I'm super excited to dig into it.  Thank you so much for expressing this idea.  I love the introduction to the book - incorporating the blog posts is so important as it speaks to her relationship with fans.  

@RebellionSparkles and I actually did find a copy of her 1997 Zomba contract in the Tangipahoa Parish clerk's records. 

 

 

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45 minutes ago, RebellionSparkles said:

@NatashaL Question! From your perspective why was Blackout a culture-shifting album? As a B stan, I love In The Zone almost as much as I love Blackout. But why did Blackout have a disproportionate cultural impact than ITZ?

I just started reading it but I love this quote: "On Blackout, Britney didn't seem like the ditzy cheerleader she played in her teen-pop days - she seemed like a mess, singing about her many nights of drinking, f.ucking, and dancing...If Britney was so fed up with tabloid rumors - that she was a bad mom, a s.ex addict, a drug-addled party girl - why would she inhabit that persona so confidently on Blackout?"

Listening to this album makes me feel like I had a wild night out.  It evokes all of those feelings of having TOO good of a time (at an age when you don't know the true horrors of a hangover yet). 

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I swear I'm not trying to be rude or anything like that but... Who is this person? There's no introduction whatsoever, should I know? Am I missing something important? And why does she know more than any good fan? Did she do some special research with particular people closely related to Britney or the production of the record? I mean yeah she published a book about it but what's her source? I'm so lost.

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4 hours ago, Tetris said:

@NatashaL

Blackout is the album we hear Britney speak about the least, even though her executive producer status would imply that she probably had some of the most say in it (especially in comparison to other, more label-driven albums that received tons of structured promo). When it was announced you’d be writing this book, I commented on your Instagram a link to a rare mentioning of Blackout by Britney during an interview for the Circus album. 

How did it feel having to write your book around so much research and conjecture but few actual direct quotes? Obviously media has become saturated with think-pieces hypothesizing Britney’s point of view, and there’s this uncomfortable duality (that the NYT documentary girls spoke about experiencing themselves) where even with the best intentions, we’re all still outsiders taking a stab at telling Britney’s own story for her. So in your writing process, were you actively conscious of walking that line between speaking about someone versus speaking for someone?

Thanks!!

Hi! This is a great question and I remember your comment (thank you!)

I definitely was conscious of this -- and I address this pretty explicitly in the book, especially as I talk about how, as fan culture became a bigger force on the internet, fans themselves could use their audience and proximity to pop stars to become micro-celebrities themselves. It raises the question: who is all this really for? And I'm not exempt from that! So it was definitely on my mind while I was writing. 

Something that was helpful to me in terms of navigating this question is that Blackout -- both the album itself and its reception -- really makes people think about what it means to get the "real story" from Britney. Even though the songs have direct connections to Britney's experiences, there's a lot of ambiguity about how much was Britney involved in writing them. Blackout also highlights the often consumptive relationship between Britney and the mainstream media ("you want a piece of me," most famously). Even on an aesthetic level,  the highly digitized vocals and synthy, scary production puts distance between Britney and the listener. I think part of the album's genius is that it is both personal and impersonal, revealing and evasive. 

So I tried to be pretty rigorous in terms of what I can reasonably infer about Britney's feelings and intentions about Blackout. I don't purport to know what's going on in Britney's mind, and I don't think it's possible to know. Sometimes I'll offer multiple interpretations of something, or empathize with an experience she could be having, but I tried to only make definite claims based on what she's said.

I also took cues from the Britney Army, who, for the most part, foreground their concerns about when hypothesizing about Britney's experience is helpful to her (the freebritney movement, for example) and when it feels untrue or exploitative. 

So yeah that's a little long-winded but I hope it's helpful! Obviously a lot in this question to explore. 

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8 hours ago, Jordan Miller said:

I have a question! What is the fondest experience you've taken away from writing the book? 

Hi!!! Honestly, the fondest experience I've had from writing the book was listening to Blackout so many times. I listened to Blackout basically twice a day for a year and a half -- I listened to it while I wrote. I had always loved the album, but it was so rewarding to spend a lot of time digging into it both sonically and lyrically. I think I already said this about Gimme More, but this holds true for all of Blackout: it really rewards repeat listens. I always feel like I'm discovering something new when I listen to it. And that's not even counting the songs that didn't make the cut -- there's a lot there, too. 

but I did have a p skewed spotify end of year round up lol

image.thumb.jpeg.ee5b13fedd7aab9d058ead5af3335040.jpeg

 

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On 9/28/2022 at 12:31 AM, Joshyworld said:

Be nice. Don’t derail the thread. It’s solely my opinion which we are all allowed to have. I just hope to live for the day where albums like Oops, Britney and ITZ will get the recognition that Blackout has and continues to receives.

That is NOT what this thread is about. This thread is for people who appreciate and love the Blackout album, which you clearly do not. Get lost troll.

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2 hours ago, GlitterRain said:

@NatashaL thank you for blessing us and welcome to Exhale! I’m not going to bombarde you with a million billion different questions :chershade_red_wig_oh_hair_hmm: I simply would like to know if Britney ever mentioned if she was excited for her fans to hear this album? 
 

Alexa, play Blackout by Britney Spears 🤍

omg thank you!

hm! I couldn't find a lot of evidence (or at least nothing comes to mind rn) that suggests that she was excited for fans to hear blackout, even if she might of felt that way. Obviously a lot was going on for her at the time. Also she wasn't using a lot of the channels that she used to communicate directly with fans (like "letters of truth"), and she didn't do a lot of promo. But maybe there's some obvious source I'm forgetting...

It is interesting to hear how she's talked about Blackout in retrospect, and how the reception of the album has changed over time. I wonder how/if she'll talk about it in her memoir. 

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11 hours ago, RebellionSparkles said:

The book is sold out everywhere in Houston and I have to wait 3 weeks for Amazon :crying4_britney_crying_stages_tears_sad:

Questions for the author:

What interested you in this project? Are you a long time fan of Blackout?

Was the Blackout Starbucks napkin ever found? That napkin needs to be in a museum.

ah! thank you for getting a copy!!

When Blackout came out I was in middle school. I was mostly a song-based listener at the time. So I liked a lot of the singles (I remember being obsessed with piece of me) but I didn't listen to the album as a whole in its entirety until college, when a friend put "Get Naked" on a playlist for me and I was hooked. 

That the album itself is no-skips iconic ahead of its time definitely motivated me, but I also think that the album raises a lot of questions about Britney, celebrity, and pop music as a whole (I've talked about some of them in other posts in this AMA). I wanted to write about the album to explore these questions more deeply than I felt they had been in other pieces.

I have no idea where the Starbucks napkin is!! When I heard about it initially I freaked out. I hope it's not rotting in some landfill somewhere...

 

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5 hours ago, RebellionSparkles said:

@NatashaL Question! From your perspective why was Blackout a culture-shifting album? As a B stan, I love In The Zone almost as much as I love Blackout. But why did Blackout have a disproportionate cultural impact than ITZ?

Hiii! I think I get into this in a few other answers in this AMA, but to put it more succinctly, I think Blackout made such an impact because: 1) it came out at such a turning point in her career 2) it came out at a turning point for pop music/the internet in general 3) it reframed the conversation around her celebrity and 4) it's a fairly cohesive album, revolving around similar sounds and themes

I also love ITZ! I think it really shows off B's range -- she's doing it all on that album. And I think one could make a super compelling argument about how crucial that album was in her career. Imo the same could be said about Oops...I Did It Again too! Blackout is definitely my favorite Britney album, and I would argue that it's also the best, but I think that most of her albums are compelling enough to warrant book-length explorations and that's why she's the icon she is!

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12 hours ago, AZaal8IPKEEGLI1177773 said:

Question for Natasha Lasky

 

The unreleased gem(s) of Blackout you know and would have liked to be on the album?

Rebellion for sure! I think it fits the themes of the album so well

This doesn't really count but I think Get Back should've been more than a bonus track

I also like State of Grace and Sugarfall... though I don't know how well they would have fit... it's hard to imagine having listened to the album as is so many times

the heidi montag duet version of dramatic I'm also so curious about! I don't know if I love it as a song lol but I think it's fascinating

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14 hours ago, TakeYourHand said:

Hi! And thank you for the book & taking questions. Blackout is unmatched and it still fascinates me today! I was actually just listening to it on Vinyl and made a painting inspired by the album cover. Maybe I'll share later. I also find myself playing Blackout more in the fall every year so perfect timing!

I'd like to know if Hot As Ice was definitely set to be the fourth single as she was rehearsing in the studio. 

Was Break The Ice always meant to be animated or was it because she couldn't shoot due to personal problems? 

Did she consider any features?

What inspired her to go electronic? I grew up with my older sis playing dance music and I'll never forget the day she called me and said Britney Spears just released a techno song on the radio! Iconic, but VERY ahead of it's time.

If she didn't have all her personal struggles at that time did she have any other things planned for that era? More singles, promo, performances, interviews, ect? 

I'll share the space in here and leave it with those listed above but THANK YOU and I cant wait to read. Again this album and era fascinates me A LOT. 

OH bonus question (I lied):

Why did you write the book and what do you love most about Blackout/favorite song?:bparty_piece_of_me_pom_britney_clubbing_blackout_2007_dancing_dance:

Last thing, I'm broke at the moment. Send a broke sis a copy please :pieceofwhat_britney_awkward::smokney2_smoke_britney_blackout_2007_sunglasses_red_cigarette_smoking:

 

 

Lol hmu and I'll send you a copy!

I'm getting a lil bit sleepy and I don't know all the answers to your questions, but to at least answer a few:

Re: hot as ice, I'm not sure if it was definitely set -- it seemed like the release was so chaotic given the leaks! It seemed like the single release plan was changing constantly. T-Pain said Hot as Ice would be released as a single, but Get Back and Toy Soldier were also on the table... so it's hard to know the exact timeline or when things changed

My conjecture about going electronic is that Britney is such an intuitive artist, she really gets into the zone (no pun intended) through grooves and dance. I think electronic music, in addition to being dance music, is more oriented towards the riffing and intuitive exploration that Britney seems to get a lot out of than the more rigid song structures of say, Max Martin. Danja has also talked a lot about this in his interviews, that he constructed his beats around what seemed to inspire Britney intuitively, and it happened to be this kind of hard dark electropop. But she was also laying the groundwork for going electro in Britney and ITZ, both of which have some pretty wild, forward-looking production. 

I wanna get back to you about the rest! I really appreciate the kind words. 

 

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4 hours ago, NatashaL said:

Hiii! I think I get into this in a few other answers in this AMA, but to put it more succinctly, I think Blackout made such an impact because: 1) it came out at such a turning point in her career 2) it came out at a turning point for pop music/the internet in general 3) it reframed the conversation around her celebrity and 4) it's a fairly cohesive album, revolving around similar sounds and themes

I also love ITZ! I think it really shows off B's range -- she's doing it all on that album. And I think one could make a super compelling argument about how crucial that album was in her career. Imo the same could be said about Oops...I Did It Again too! Blackout is definitely my favorite Britney album, and I would argue that it's also the best, but I think that most of her albums are compelling enough to warrant book-length explorations and that's why she's the icon she is!

TY! The cohesiveness of the album is an excellent point that I had not considered! Britney is such a talented story teller and Blackout feels like she is explaining her life and the LA scene at that moment in time.

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