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Britney Spears

Spears’s fifth studio album is a witchy electro-pop wonder as suspect as those prescription pills photographed in her purse a few weeks ago. Yes, it’s been a bad year for Spears, with that embarrassing VMA appearance, and the even more bizarre performance — the “Eat it, lick it, snort it, fuck it” quip — she let loose outside a courtroom just days after Blackout leaked on, and The good news is that lyrics like “I’m Mrs. Oh My God, that Britney’s shameless” (“Piece of Me”) aren’t quite that bad. Over a vibrating bass, Britney baby-baby-talks while the Swedish producing team of Bloodshy & Avant play with her pitch and Spears shows a little self-awareness. The disc’s obvious dance singles, “Gimme More” and “Hot As Ice,” are helped by Timbaland protégé Nate “Danja” Hills. (He’s credited on five of the album’s 12 songs.) Spears also takes a stab a Blondie-style new wave with “Heaven on Earth,” the disc’s biggest departure and another pleasant surprise. Blackout may be more a tribute to the skills of the A-list producers who guided her through the disc than to any of her own talents. But at least she was smart enough to accept that guidance.

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