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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > Britney Spears

MUSIC REVIEWS

Britney Spears-In the Zone (Jive)

I have to admit it.  I like Britney Spears.  No, before you ask, I am not a teenager.  I’m a normal adult guy with, I hope, a wide range of musical tastes.  And while yes, I am conscious of Britney’s non-musical qualities… and I’m a fan of those, too… I do have to fess up that I enjoy her music.  I have all of her albums, and while none of them take up constant residence in my CD player, I’ll listen to them once in a while.  And if I’m riding fast in a car and one of her songs comes on the radio, I’ll crank it.

Which makes it more surprising to me what I’m about to say.  Britney’s In the Zone album is nearly unlistenable.  It is bad.  There are barely any songs on it that register positively at all.  On the album, Spears is trying to be something that she’s not and it shows.  It is a continuation of the work she did with the Neptunes on her last album… but at least “I’m A Slave 4 U” had a snaky seductiveness and an actual tune.  Also, Britney remembered the importance of a pure pop song like “Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman.”  On this album, only the piano ballad “Everytime” and “Shadow” come within a country mile of acknowledging this side of her, but the strangely techno instrumentation keep “Shadow” out of the ballpark of previous teeny weepers “Sometimes” and “Don’t Let Me Be the Last To Know.”   Oh well, at least she doesn’t do a bad cover version on this album, like she always has before.

You know you’re in for a bumpy ride with the first song on the album, which is also the first single.  “Me Against the Music” is way too apt a title for the song, because it is an affront to song craft. A collection of disjointed beats masquerading as a tune, with an absurd vocal contribution from pop icon Madonna.  I’m sure the two of them intended it as a passing of the torch, an elder stateswoman of pop (oh, wow, Madonna is going to be pissed if she ever sees that) teaching a few tricks to a younger ingénue.  Sadly, all Madonna was able to offer was the ability to write an incoherent series of random throbs like the kind that caused her American Life album to stiff so spectacularly.  As hard as this is to believe, according to the liner notes, it took seven people to write “Me Against the Music,” including Brit and Maddy themselves.  Too bad it sounds like each of the seven people was writing different songs that were somehow mashed together. 

That is followed by, if possible, an even worse travesty, “(I Got That) Boom Boom.”  Featuring the Ying Yang Twins, it is a mishmash of unconnected beats and truly uninspired vocals.  Finally on the fourth song of the album, Britney stumbles onto a new sound that kind of suits her.  With smooth dance beats and a husky alto “Breathe on Me” sounds like a reasonably assured cop of a Kylie Minogue ballad. And, yes, I mean that as a compliment.  “Everytime” and the symphonic “Touch of My Hand” do have some appealing ideas, too.  "Toxic" has such a seductively catchy tune that it is somehow able to overcome the fact that the overly busy and sterile production is constantly trying to sabotage it.  Elsewhere we’re stuck with bad cod-reggae (“The Hook Up”), Britney rapping and doing vocoderized vocals messing up the otherwise rather catchy “Brave New Girl” and two dreadful mixes of “Me Against the Music.”  “Outrageous” has a marginally interesting Middle Eastern influence, but otherwise is rather unmemorable, except for the vague discomfort one feels listening to songwriter R. Kelly’s jailbait catalogue of Britney’s qualities and hobbies. 

Almost all the songs sound alike on In the Zone, and very few of them sounds like something I want to listen to again anytime soon.  This will undoubtedly continue Spears’ trend of downward-spiraling album sales.  For the first time in her career, the album truly deserves it.  (11/03)

Alex Diamond

Copyright © 2003 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: December 12, 2003.

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Copyright © 2003 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: December 12, 2003.