'It's Britney, bitch.' Everyone's favourite train wreck of a pop star could give no better introduction to her new album. She sounds like that friend who's fallen beyond reach calling to ask for a ride to court-ordered counselling. No surprise the album is called Blackout.
Yes, it is Britney - but just barely. The album's 12 tracks clearly belong to their producers. Nate Hills, also known as Danja, does the heavy lifting with no fewer than five. He gave Spears' ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake a pair of hits a couple of years ago and has done the same with Gimme More, the first single off Blackout.
Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, who gave Spears her 2003 hit Toxic, are back after working similar magic for Madonna and Jennifer Lopez. They're responsible for four of the album's best tracks and, together with Danja, brewed its coffee-grinder electro sound.
The final two songs are largely the work of Kara DioGuardi. She may not be a familiar name, but a glance at her songwriting resume will have you thinking she was behind everything that's happened in pop music in the past decade. Ooh Ooh Baby steals the melody from the Turtles' 60s hit Happy Together to artful effect and Heaven on Earth is a throwback to late-80s electronica.
Blackout is good enough to buy Spears more time at the top. Insofar as it signals mainstream pop's migration to an electro-influenced sound, it might even be called seminal. Pity for Spears that her lackadaisical vocals are some of the worst of it. As with her insouciant intro, she all too often sounds like she's phoning it in. Good thing she can still phone the industry's best. After all, it's Britney, bitch.