Britney Spears' Britney Jean Is Nice, But That's Really It

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BRITNEY-JEAN-high-resPhoto: Courtesy of RCA Records.
Well, we've made it through the thick of this year's major pop releases. That is, unless a rogue Beyoncé drops a full album out of left field before the clock strikes midnight January 1. We begrudgingly regret to inform you that seems highly unlikely, though (sorry Beyhive). It's okay because our music libraries have plenty of new material to ride the year out. Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and M.I.A.'s releases are still basking in their youthful glow. And, with Britney Spears' eighth studio album dropping today, there's no reason not to dance your way through — something Britney Jean almost guarantees.

Dancing, it seems, is a sly trick of the producers to get us hooked. Spears' team understands the formula, they know what's working right now, and mixed it all into what's been pegged as the pop star's "most personal album yet." (How personal one can get on a widely build-drop, build-drop, bridge, climax composition, is, however, an entirely different discussion to be had. Read: Robyn's Body Talk).

Despite Spears' (or her writer's) valiant efforts to make her audience privy to her private life, the album is largely an impersonal cliché. One can only sing about feeling alone in the spotlight so many times, and we heard that story back in 2000 with "Lucky." There are other elements on Britney Jean that harp back to the pre-2007 eras ("Chillin' With You" and "Passenger"), but, like a bat out of dubstep hell, quickly become muddled down with heavy bass lines and unnecessary builds. It's the album's second single, "Perfume," that reminds us why we continue to love Spears 15 years after "...Baby One More Time" tantalized the zeitgeist — schoolgirl pigtails and all.

Spears will forever be the "not that innocent" innocent girl from the early aughts. will.i.am can synthesize her vocals as much as he wants: Britney's quirks and giggle (oh, that giggle is something) suggest that the Spears of the "Toxic" and "Crazy" days is still there.

With that said, Britney Jean is not a bad album. It's jam packed with club anthems that'll provide a solid platform for some eardrum blasting remixes. "Body Ache" and "Tick Tick Boom" could've been sung by anyone, but having Spears lend her voice to the tracks elevates them from basic club thumpers to pop music royalty by mere association. They're Britney Spears songs rather than some Top 40 rehash. In the end, Spears has ultimately gifted her audience with an album that'll seamlessly carry them from the pregame to the after hours, twirling all the while in between.