Track of the Day: 'Circus'

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

We don’t tend to think of the latter months of the year as a time of renewal—save that for January, just maintain your personal status quo for now.

But in late 2008, Britney Spears was in the midst of her rise from the hair-clumped ashes. On this very day, Spears released the track for “Circus,” the second single off her album of the same name, adding to the momentum of “Womanizer” just a couple months before.

The album’s premiere had prompted high hopes from a disappointed fanbase that their pop queen was back—no, for real this time. Look no further than the “If Britney can survive 2007, then you can make it through this day” meme (get the gist of it here) for evidence of the depths to which Spears had fallen from grace.

Her previous comeback attempt in late 2007 was, well, kind of sad. Oh man, the gross hair extensions and fake tattoos in the “Gimme More” video (though let’s be clear, the song itself remains a workout jam), the utter mess of her VMA performance? Woof—tragic for those of us who reached peak screaming fanaticism—a period known as “middle school”—at the time of her late-’90s debut.

With the new tracks off Circus, it was a relief to see Spears in a more glamorous light, sparkling and actually dancing like the modern Mickey Mouse Club veteran she is. Knowing ol’ Brit Brit (sorry) was doing better gave us space to once again revel in her trademark vulgar lip-synching—with graphic tongue use for maximum seduction, I guess? We need to talk about those “L”s.