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Me Against the Music by Britney Spears feat. Madonna
With this, Britney Spears' fourth album, the former little girl diva of pop is desperate to prove that she is now a proper grown up. If her last offering saw the singer straddling the two worlds of girlhood and womanhood, then this one sees her announcing her distinctly adult intentions. She is twenty-two after all! Sadly, her attempts to prove her new-found maturity are what overwhelm and cloud all that is good about Into The Zone.
The album opens very confidently with "Me Against The Music" which,althugh it has more than a passing similarity to a Justin Timberlake production, still manages to sound fresh and as funky as hell. Cries of 'let me see you dance' and 'time to party all night long' emphasise our heroine's love of the good time. Britney clearly relishes her new role as nightclub siren, but she somehow doesn't quite convince.
"Showdown" and "Toxic" are produced by the Bloodshy & Avant team and, though hardly original, have the catchy hooks you'd expect from the duo. "Breathe On Me" is very reminiscent of Madonna during her Ray Of Light period, offering welcome relief after the overcrowded chanting of "(I Got That) Boom Boom".
The Moby produced "Early Morning" is the standout track on this collection. Its contagious, down-tempo groove and soaring string chorus all add up to make a brilliantly simple piece of pop. The other high point is "Touch Of My Hand", its sugary sweet harmonies can't help but impress. (It features Madonna, just in case you've been living on Mars).
"Shadow" is Spear's only return to the power ballad and it's a fairly lukewarm affair; it sounds more like a Pop Idol release than a Britney one. She should stick to the more adventurously upbeat formula. She should also place less emphasis on how self-fulfilled she has become, in repeatedly declaring this she simply draws attention to all the growing up she still has to do. Don't rush it girl! Enjoy being young!