Britney Spears Jumps On Carnival Bandwagon With Circus

T-Pain's got an album coming out this fall called Thr33 Ringz (hence, his arrival at the VMAs on an elephant). Pink is set to release an album called Funhouse (as far as we can tell, that's not a Stooges reference). And now Britney's joined the fun by calling her upcoming album Circus.

What is it with Jive artists and the circus/carnival theme this year? Was there a record-label powwow? Did the executives tell these artists that marketing research reveals that people like fun, and references to fun sell?

Or is the theme meant to imply something a little more ... sinister? After all, some people think clowns are scary (although that might have something to do with John Wayne Gacy). Britney, as evidenced in her VMA-winning video "Piece of Me," has been living in a media circus. Pink might see her life, post-separation from hubby Carey Hart, as if through a funhouse mirror — kind of distorted and not at all what she thought it would be. And T-Pain — well, maybe he just likes elephants.

It's too soon to say whether Britney's next album will show any kind of musical or lyrical growth or depth considering the events of her last year. Keri Hilson, one of her songwriters, wants her to go deeper. And so do some of her most ardent supporters, like Carson Daly. "I would tell her, 'Let's get classy,' " Daly said. "Sing from the heart."

If you trace Britney's breakdown back to when she busted her knee and dropped off the Onyx Hotel Tour — and started spending way too much time with Kevin Federline — you might say the downward spiral started because she needed a break from music. "One of her biggest challenges was that she hadn't lived enough life," said Ken Baker, E! executive news editor. "I don't think anyone would disagree that Britney has lived 50 lifetimes since."

At the same time, Perez Hilton said, "She should stick to what she's good at. Hopefully she's doing a lot of soul-searching and getting a greater sense of self-awareness. But I want that escapist music. What we love is 'Toxic,' 'Oops,' stuff like that. I want it to be fun."

Which kind of Circus Britney is taking us to — fun or scary — won't be revealed until December 2.