Lately all eyes have been on Britney not for her music, but for her legal troubles, debatable VMA performance, and other assorted tabloidal juicy tidbits (according to AOL the other day "Britney likes her ice cream"). Well now all ears will once again be focused on Ms. Spears thanks to the impending release of her latest studio effort, Blackout. Pundits will no doubt talk about the "irony" of the title given Brit's muy publicized partying exploits. Other's will focus on the fact that the album's release date was pushed up a few weeks to assuage the onslaught of online bootlegging. Obviously Brit and her label are confident enough in the final product to allow a "leak" on MTV a week prior to official release.

For this, her fifth full-length album of all new material, Spears enlisted the services of a wide array of "super producers." Nate "Danja" Hills, best know for his work with Nelly Furtado is on deck. So too are Freescha and Kara DioGuardi, who have made hits for Kelly Clarkson, and Bloodshy & Avant (who last worked with Spears on "Toxic").

The album kicks off with the single "Gimme More," which has already has enjoyed a raucous life around the Net, on radio, and in the clubs. Spears unleashes a catty soprano whine that's been noticeably treated with echo, overdubs, and filters. Despite the fact that she's well beyond the age of consent these days it still manages to come off sounding like a pre-teen affecting a sexy demeanor; a modern day Lolita done up electro. To his credit "Danja's" beat and layering effects are definitely hypnotic.

"Piece Of Me" begins with electro whips and chains creating a shuffling backbeat. The trippy sound effects call to mind an innocent S&M; session captured on tape. Musically it sounds an awful lot like Madonna circa Music, further showcasing Spears lack of creative vision and inability to really push the boundaries of electronic dance pop. The tempo is kept in the mid range, her vocals again going for a treated sheen. Lyrically the song falls back on the ever popular "I'm famous and people won't leave me alone" thematics that all the young pop starlets love to beat us over the head with, trying to let the rest of us know how hard their lives are due to all the fame and fortune. Despite the redundancy of the track, both musically and lyrically, it's still incredibly hypnotic thanks to the way the vocals are mixed amongst the swirling ambience.

For "Radar" Britney ditches much of the vocal enhancements which sadly reveals the limitations of her voice. Here it comes off even more tinny and annoying when not processed or dropped down to a mock sultry croon. This is one of those annoyingly catchy numbers where the chorus is grating, but will stick in your brain and induce bouts of humming and chanting long after the song has faded from your short term memory. Breathy, sultry Britney chimes in again on "Break The Ice" reassuring listeners that "It's been awhile. I know I shouldn't have kept you waiting. But I'm here now." From there she bounces between her girlish soprano and a sultry alto affectation, with plenty of sighing augmentation layered in for good effect. This is a sweet headphone track as it's filled with plenty of layered ambient texturing.

From a production standpoint Blackout is pretty sweet. The sheer amount of layering and overdubs create a full, rich vocal palette for Spears and when listened to on headphones even induce mild bouts of hypnotic euphoria. Ultimately, however, this is just corn syrup saturated ear candy that goes down easy and then is ultimately forgotten. A retro post-new Wave rush encapsulates "Heaven on Earth," which again features breathless Britney working her seductive magic. Yet when coupled with all the "out of shape" photos we've been assaulted with in the tabloids, it's hard to get aroused by the slinky sway of the song. Visual connotations aside, the track is actually one of the more solid offering on the album, Spears keeping her vocals pretty consistent, going for a sultrier, richer approach than her normal shrill demeanor. The chorus itself is incredibly enthralling, lilting along with melodic supremacy.

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