It has been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but in the case of pop diva Britney Spears, who returns to record stores with her “In the Zone” disc after a two year hiatus, this is hardly the case.
Fear not, music fans, she’s back, and ready to make you cringe with her breathy vocals and an incessant techno background beat that plagues the entire 50-minute CD. And if television viewers were hoping they could escape hearing about Spears, MTV has recently jumped on the Britney bandwagon with their special “Britney: In the Zone and Out All Night,” which aired in the days prior to the release Nov. 18. Beware, viewers, this is just the inaugural kick-off event in the shameless promotion of the less than perfect album, which also included a performance on the American Music Awards.
To Spears’ credit, she did manage to get one of music’s biggest stars to back her on the first track. After their successful duet at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards last August, Madonna teamed with Spears to add their “Me Against the Music” collaboration to “In the Zone.” This opening tune gets listeners hooked, only to set them up for a fall as the disc progresses.
Song two, “(I Got That) Boom Boom” features rappers the Ying Yang Twins, and this catchy, upbeat contribution is the track most likely to be stuck in your head for the next week. Maybe it is because the rappers can be heard on the radio airwaves constantly with their hit “Get Low,” but other than that, Spears shows no originality in her lyrics or song delivery, and this song is dominated by the rappers ad libs.
For the 21-year-old Spears, this album is her chance to show America that she is no longer a teen performer singing sappy girl-loves-boy lyrics. “In the Zone” illustrates Spears’ newfound penchant for provocativity.
If listeners are hanging on long enough to hear the suggestive fifth track, “Early Mornin’,” they will be subjected to Spears’ whiny vocals set to a predictable techno backbeat. It seems as if the singer is trying to prove to listeners she has finally grown up, with lyrics describing a regretted night of drunken debauchery at a nightclub, leading to an eventual hook-up with a fellow club dweller. We get it, Britney; you are finally of a legal age to make your own decisions as an adult. Good for you. Do listeners a favor and spare us the detailed lyrics of your exploits.
The driving techno beats are abandoned for an almost worthy effort in Spears’ ballad “Shadow,” which describes a missed opportunity for a relationship. The background vocal accompaniment is noted and appreciated, however only because it enhances Spears’ own sound quality, making her sound better than she actually is.
The bottom line on Britney Spears’ fourth album, “In the Zone”: save your money on this one. If you can stomach it, continue to listen to her “Me Against the Music” track on the radio, it is the best she has to offer. One music note out of five.