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#TBT: “Unusual You” – Britney Spears (2008)

britneycircus

Welcome to #ThrowbackThursday!

Each week BreatheHeavy will be taking you into the darkest depths of our iTunes to honor some of the most unappreciated deep-cuts from your favorite pop acts.

And who better to kick us of than Britney, *****?

To say that Britney has some gems hidden within her discography is a radical understatement. Between the sass of “Don’t Go Knockin’ On My Door” to Britney’s very own ‘Erotica’ moment and everyone’s favourite ode to masturbation, “Touch of My Hand”, or even “Toy Soldier” – an often ignored highlight from ‘Blackout’ – there are plenty of Britney Spears hits that never were.

But without a doubt the material with the most wasted potential is still locked up on Spears’ 2008 comeback record (“I don’t really like it when they say ‘the comeback'”) ‘Circus’. We had the “Mannequin” choreography that nearly didn’t see the light of day, the “Piece of Me 2.0” teas that “Kill The Lights” served, the nonsense of making “Amnesia” a bonus track and of course the crazed brilliance of “Shattered Glass”.

However, no unreleased ‘Circus’ track more deserved the single treatment than Bloodshy & Avant production, “Unusual You”.

“Unusual You” was a very left-lane (take notes, #B9) slice of mid-tempo Europop magic that called to mind the vocal style of Janet Jackson with some sonic leanings towards the better moments of the Pet Shop Boys’ back-catalogue.

Although the track is synth-heavy and the vocals largely distorted, it’s still one of the most personal moments (take notes, ‘Britney Jean’) on ‘Circus’. It’s almost impossible to listen to lyrics like “Didn’t anyone tell you you’re supposed to break my heart? / I expect you to” and not think of the long list of users and abusers that traipsed their way through Spears’ life in the period leading up to her breakdown.

The song would have undoubtedly made a fine choice for ‘Circus’ single #5 (and a far better choice for single #4 than “Radar”) but team Britney and Jive Records slept on this potential European smash. Although unlikely to have torn up the 2009 airwaves State-side, this particular brand of mellow electro was all the rage across the pond in the late ’00s and the track had hit written all over it.

Sadly we never got to see a live outing for “Unusual You” either, but I still live in hope that it’ll get added to the ‘Piece of Me’ setlist (hope isn’t rational or logical, people).

It’s also interesting to listen to this demo of “Unusual You” and see how much it differs from Britney’s final cut:


Although Spears didn’t have a hand in writing the track, it’s nice to see that she firmly left her stamp on it and the album version benefits hugely from the touch of Britney’s hand (as well as a complete overhaul of the instrumental).

With any luck, album 9 will feature some of “Unusual You’s” sensual melancholy. Um, that is if album 9 ever gets made, because of course albums just aren’t as important in the digital age as they used to be.

Let us know what Britney cut you’ll be blaring this #TBT and don’t forget to leave a comment and tell us who we should feature next week.

By Aaron

I've spent some time as a narcissist. Crazier than a box of rats & right about so many things it'd make your head spin.