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Not Bad for
Britney

Not Bad for
Britney

Britney_getty

Like her life, her latest album, Blackout, is far from fresh but never fails to entertain.

Britney Spears's life might be playing out like a disaster movie, but her fifth studio album is far from the train wreck folks were expecting. She certainly doesn't sound like a woman coming unglued. In fact, despite boasting a plethora of outside producers and songwriters, Blackout is startlingly consistent. Almost to a fault. Almost.

"Gimme More," the album's lead track and first single, sets the template for what follows. Sleazy keyboards, mechanized hand claps, and oscillating bass frequencies dominate. Madonna and Kylie Minogue have already strip-mined '80s nostalgia, but that doesn't deter Britney and her coconspirators. Even with help from Nate "Danjahandz" Hills as well as Bloodshy and Avant (the duo behind "Toxic") nothing here breaks new ground; with its acoustic guitar licks and stomping glam-rock rhythm bed, "Ooh Ooh Baby" is basically a second-rate Goldfrapp knockoff. And, like most of the record, what it lacks in mystique it compensates for with myriad sonic hooks, deployed with the precision of a military -- or advertising -- campaign.

Still, there are moments that break the monotony. "Heaven on Earth" shamelessly recalls Berlin's classic "Sex (I'm A)," pulsating Giorgio Moroder-style Eurodisco topped with a grocery list lyric, but its off-kilter dreamy chorus also injects the proceedings with some much-needed cheer, a ray of piercing sunshine in lieu of more dry ice and blue neon. The arrangements and kooky backing vocals of "Hot as Ice," courtesy of T-Pain, actually measure up to the lighter moments of OutKast and Gnarls Barkley. Best of all is the closer, "Why Should I Be Sad," a bittersweet ditty produced by Pharrell Williams (of the Neptunes) reminiscent of vintage Janet Jackson.

But what does "the legendary Ms. Britney Spears" -- as she is billed on "Gimme More" -- contribute, besides the autobiographical bile of "Piece of Me"? A lot of rote affirmations: Britney is hot. Britney is freaky. Britney likes boys. Boys like her. Paparazzi can suck her left one. Lather, rinse, repeat. Yet these mantras, however trite, keep Blackout on steady course for its 44-minute running time. As a soundtrack for getting dressed on a Saturday night, you could do far worse.

This is not a revolutionary re-imaging of the Britney Spears brand. But graded on the curve? She passes, easily. The album falls shy of the marks set last year by Fergie and Nelly Furtado, but neither does it approach the oxygen-deprived depths of, say, the last Jessica Simpson disc. A few more glimpses into the lunacy of Spears's private life might have transformed this set into something truly memorable, but even with by-the-numbers execution, Blackout isn't as imminently forgettable as its title implies.

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