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Unusual You

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"Unusual You"
Song by Britney Spears
from the album Circus
Recorded 2008; Conway Studios (Los Angeles, California)
Genre Electropop
Length 4:20
Label Jive
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s) Bloodshy & Avant

"Unusual You" is a song by American recording artist Britney Spears, from her sixth studio album Circus. It was written and produced by Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg from Bloodshy & Avant, with additional writing by Kasia Livingston and Henrik Jonback. "Unusual You" is a mid-tempo electropop love song reminiscent of the music of Janet Jackson and Gwen Stefani, with sung lyrics that address an experienced woman finding unexpected love. "Unusual You" received mostly positive reviews from critics, who commended it for being a departure of the rest of the album. Following the release of Circus, the song charted at number eighty on the U.S. Billboard Pop 100 due to strong digital sales.

Background[edit]

"Unusual You" was written and produced by Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg from Bloodshy & Avant, with additional writing by Kasia Livingston and Henrik Jonback. Main instrumentation was recorded by Bloodshy & Avant at Robotberget in Stockholm, Sweden.[1] Spears recorded her vocals at Conway Studios in Los Angeles, California, while audio mixing was done by Anders Hvenare and Bloodshy & Avant at Robotberget. Background vocals were provided by Livingston.[1] "Unusual You" appeared on a six-song mix of Circus that was released on November 13, 2008.[2] In August 2009, it was reported by NRJ Radio that "Unusual You" was going to be released as the fifth single from the album in France and the United States.[3]

Music and lyrics[edit]

"Unusual You" is a midtempo electropop song,[4] that has been described by Nekesa Mumbi Moody of the Associated Press as "synth-centric".[5] The song has been noted by John Murphy of musicOMH to be reminiscent of "Gwen Stefani's quieter moments."[4] Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times commented that "Unusual You" "goes for that shimmering waterfall mood first popularized by Janet Jackson rather than strict Madonna-style workouts."[6] According to Chris Richards of The Washington Post, Spears's vocals in the song are transformed into "a spectral coo."[7] Lyrically, "Unusual You" talks about an experienced woman finding unexpected love, with Spears voicing the lines, "Didn't anyone tell you you're supposed to break my heart? / I expect you to / So why haven't you?."[4][8]

Reception[edit]

"Unusual You" received positive reviews from critics. Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times noted that the song stood out on Circus because it did not paint "Britney as mannequin, sex object, paparazzi victim and leather-clad mistress" like the other tracks on the album.[6] Caryn Ganz of Rolling Stone deemed it as "melodic [and] glowing".[9] Chris Willman of Entertainment Weekly named "Unusual You" as a standout track from Circus and added, "Spears still presents herself as fantasy object, but here might be her own fantasy — of real acceptance. Next time, Britney, flash us more of that."[8] Chris Richards of The Washington Post selected it as one of the "gems" of the album, along with "Womanizer".[7] John Murphy of musicOMH said that the lyrics make Spears "sound extraordinarily world-weary for a 27 year old" and added that it "gives a pointer to an interesting new direction."[4] Jim Farber of the Daily News called the song "perhaps the first truly pretty melody Spears has ever sung."[10] Brad Wheeler of The Globe and Mail said "Unusual You" was entertaining, but not as remarkable as other tracks on Circus and dismissed the song as merely a "strobe-lit, heart-shaped testimonial."[11] Jon Pareles of The New York Times commented that "Unusual You" and the two other ballads in the album, were Circus's "only attempts at warmth."[12]

Poppy Cosyns of The Sun criticized the backing track of "Unusual You" as leaving "it sounding like the discovered dregs of a would-be late Nineties hit."[13] Cameron Adams of the Herald Sun called "Unusual You" "a surprisingly subtle and effective moment" and speculated that it was "surely a future single."[14] Steve Jones of USA Today described "Unusual You" as "saccharin", adding that "she sounds much better in the dance tracks."[15] Ben Rayner of the Toronto Star called it the album's one "moment of pathos".[16] Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times criticized "Unusual You" as "shamelessly Madonna-aping."[17] Nekesa Mumbi Moody of the Associated Press commented that Spears's most personal and emotional moments of Circus are in the slower tracks, most notably in "Unusual You". Moody continued, "Though she didn't write the song, it's hard not to wince in empathy when you think about the string of users who have filtered in and out of her life."[5] Pete Paphides of The Times said "Unusual You" would "find a home with anyone whose love of melancholy Europop is fatal enough to take in Limahl's 'Never Ending Story.'"[18] In 2015, Gregory Hicks of MTV named "Unusual You" Spears's best song that was not released as a single.[19] On December 18, 2008, "Unusual You" managed to peak at number eighty on the US Billboard Pop 100 due to strong digital sales.[20]

Credits and Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from Circus liner notes.[1]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2008) Peak
position
US Pop 100[21] 80

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Circus (Liner notes). Britney Spears. Jive Records. 2008. 
  2. ^ Vena, Jocelyn (2008-11-18). "Britney Spears Gives Fans A Taste Of Circus With Online Preview". MTV. MTV Networks. Retrieved 2011-09-24. 
  3. ^ "Britney Spears et son nouveau single Unusual You". NRJ Radio. NRJ Group. 2009-08-11. Retrieved 2011-09-16. 
  4. ^ a b c d Murphy, John (2008-12-01). "Britney Spears - Circus (RCA)". musicOMH. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  5. ^ a b Moody, Nekesa Mumbi (2008-12-01). "‘Circus’ will get you in the mood to groove: Britney Spears’ latest comeback almost as good as first". msnbc.com. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-01-30. 
  6. ^ a b Powers, Ann (2008-11-30). "Album review: Britney Spears' 'Circus'". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved 2011-01-30. 
  7. ^ a b Richards, Chris (2008-12-02). "'Circus' Is Pretty Much Cotton Candy". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  8. ^ a b Willman, Chris (2008-11-29). "Music Review: Circus (2008), Britney Spears". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2011-11-29. 
  9. ^ Ganz, Caryn (2008-12-12). "Britney Spears: Circus". Rolling Stone. Jann Wenner. Retrieved 2011-01-11. 
  10. ^ Farber, Jim (2008-11-30). "Britney Spears 'Circus' is a 3-ring hit". Daily News. Mortimer Zuckerman. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  11. ^ Wheeler, Brad (2008-12-01). "Join Britney's Circus". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  12. ^ Pareles, Jon (2008-11-30). "Critics' Choice: New CDs". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  13. ^ Cosyns, Poppy (2008-11-28). "Britney's Circus arrives in town". The Sun. News Group Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  14. ^ Adams, Cameron (2008-11-28). "First Australian review of Britney Spears album Circus". Herald Sun. Herald and Weekly Times. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  15. ^ Jones, Steve (2008-11-26). "Britney Spears maximizes her pop appeal in 'Circus'". USA Today. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  16. ^ Rayner, Ben (2008-12-02). "Britney Spears: Circus". Toronto Star. Torstar Corporation. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  17. ^ DeRogatis, Jim (2008-12-01). "Britney Spears, "Circus" (Jive)". Chicago Sun-Times. Sun-Times Media Group. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  18. ^ Paphides, Pete (2008-11-28). "Britney Spears: The Circus". The Times. Times Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 2011-01-30. 
  19. ^ Hicks, Gregory (2015-12-02). "BRITNEY SPEARS’ 10 BEST SONGS NEVER RELEASED AS SINGLES". MTV. MTV Networks. Retrieved 2015-12-02. 
  20. ^ "Britney Spears USA Chart History". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2011-01-30. 
  21. ^ Britney Spears | Awards | AllMusic