Britney Spears - Blackout Review

Updated: 7:50 p.m. ET Oct. 23, 2007

NEW YORK - After making headlines for everything but music, Britney Spears is back with an album industry insiders say should top the charts despite her.

Over the past year the one-time Mouseketeer shaved her head, spent time in rehab, went through an ugly divorce, lost custody of her children and attacked a photographer’s car.

And in an odd habit yielding endless tabloid references to the title of her biggest album — “Oops!... I Did It Again” — she kept getting photographed without her underwear.

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You want it to be bad. You want it to be really, really bad. You want it to be so eye-squintingly awful this train wreck called Britney Spears disappears from our lives forever.

Unfortunately, it's not that bad. In fact, it's nowhere near as bad as it deserves to be.

Despite the constant drama - the marriage, the head-shaving, the divorce, the rehab, the custody battle, the MTV performance and the lack of underwear - Britney has done what she used to do better than anyone else: made an enjoyable pop album.

From the opening tones of Gimme More to the closing Pharrell Williams-produced ballad Why Should I Be So Sad, Britney proves she can leave her chaotic personal life at the door to produce the goods in the studio.

There are classic club tracks (Gimme More, Hot As Ice), sexually suggestive eyebrow-raisers (Break the Ice, Get Naked (I Got A Plan)) and nu-rave romps (Toy Soldier, Ooh Ooh Baby ).

On Piece of Me she shows a level of self-awareness that no one has ever given her credit for. Over a futuristic synth-fuelled beat, Britney coos lines like "I'm miss bad media karma, another day, another drama" in the album's defining moment.

Okay, so it's not all perfect. Radar takes overblown synths to new, uncharted waters and should be left there to drown, while Heaven On Earth is a toe-curlingly cheesy '80s adventure that should never have seen the light of day.

And Britney still can't sing. Her vocals have more layers than a French pastry factory, often sounding so distorted a robot could be singing. But aren't all Britney Spears albums like that?

Still, you can't fault the album's production - which comes courtesy of rising star and Timbaland prodigy Nate Hills, among others - and the ability of a pop star to make a comeback like this, despite admitting she's "a freak show".

You'll always be a freak show, Britney. But as long as you keep churning out albums as good as Blackout, we won't stop watching.

Britney Spears' Blackout is released in New Zealand on October 30 but on GameSMS you will get it now! smile_teeth

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