Spears seeks comeback with <I>In the Zone</I>

BY
BY BRANDON HARIG
Daily Arts Writer
Published November 25, 2003

After a string of moderately successful releases accompanied by
a highly publicized split from heartthrob Justin Timberlake, pop
icon Britney Spears once again needs your attention. Coming off of
a recent hiatus from the music industry, Spears returns to the
lime-light with her critically hyped fourth album, In the
Zone
.

Mira Levitan

The industrial dance-fueled “Me Against the Music”
signals Spears’ homecoming as she whispers and moans over a
schizophrenic beat, emulating an inherent sense of urgency.
Featuring elder pop-idol Madonna, the track is a cookie-cutter
design of what has become expected of Spears’ radio
singles.

Boasting a lengthy list of collaborators including fellow
R&B star R. Kelly, Atlanta’s prodigal sons the Ying Yang
Twins and pop-induced producers the Matrix, In the Zone is
Spears’ most eclectic release to date. “(I got that)
Boom Boom” blends Spear’s towering alto with the course
rhymes of the Ying Yang Twins in a genre-blending onslaught that
ranks among her best tracks.

Despite these successes, Spears, much like her mentor Madonna,
doesn’t know where to stop. “Shadow” contains a
grating chorus that the Matrix have used before. The controversial
“Touch Of My Hand,” a song featuring Spears’
views on masturbation, is truly ignorable. The hushed singing and
overt R&B background track, intended to make the lyrics sound
sexy and intimate, simply cannot mask the fact the song carries
nothing more than immediate shock-value. The CD’s ballads
expose Britney’s voice as her own worst enemy.

There is an underlying sexuality behind In The Zone.
Lyrics like “I don’t really wanna be a tease / Would
you undo my zipper, please?” make it much too clear what
direction Spears is headed. Spears is working toward a more
“adult sound,” leaving both bubblegum pop and virginal
innocence behind. A cross of European techno and modern hip-hop,
In The Zone is a decent album which proves Britney should
ditch her attempts at being a respectable vocalist and allow the
producers to make the magic happen.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars.