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Spears release is in the zone

Observer Scene | Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Little Britney Spears is all grown up and has left behind her former image as the jailbait teen dream that everyone remembers from the “Baby One More Time” video – it seems she has gone from the Mickey Mouse Club to the strip club. Formerly regarded as the Lolita of pop music, Spears has suddenly metamorphosed into a full-fledged legal sexpot. Her recent release, In the Zone, was created during an attempted hiatus from the media glare; however, her departure from the music scene caused a media frenzy that even she couldn’t have predicted. Despite a recent string of controversies, including a very public break-up with Justin Timberlake, Spears has come back with a vengeance. Beginning with her highly publicized kiss with Madonna – the “Queen of Controversy” – on the MTV Video Music Awards in August, Spears has been garnering publicity at every turn. She recently posed topless on the cover of Rolling Stone and bottomless on the cover of Esquire, further tarnishing her squeaky-clean image. Spears must have used all of these experiences as inspiration for her highly sexual and titillating new album, In the Zone, an album that is a definite departure from her previous bubblegum releases. It is, in fact, more reminiscent of Madonna’s controversial album Erotica. Spears’ lyrics and tone have shifted from suggestively sexual to blatantly sexual, and the album can be described as her slowly reaching climax. On track four, “Breathe on Me,” she playfully whispers and blows into the microphone and then says, “Just put your lips together and blow.” Spears’ subject matter definitely carries more adult themes, and she doesn’t shy away from taboo topics, even masturbation – the subject of track eight, “Touch of My Hand.” The song immediately catches the listener off guard with the candid lyrics, but Spears actually pulls it off successfully. “Me Against the Music” is a song that Spears sings with Madonna, and there is a remixed version featured on the album as well. In the Zone is full of surprises, especially when considering the caliber of musicians with whom Spears collaborate. On track two, Spears features Atlanta rappers The Ying Yang Twins on her song “(I Got That) Boom Boom.” After the initial shock of this unusual partnership wears off, the song is actually catchy and definitely has the potential to be released to the radio and the clubs. It is not as good as “Get Low” (another song on which The Ying Yang Twins collaborated), but it is sure to provide some good rump-shaking fun. Moby produced a track called “Early Mornin,'” a little ditty about being hungover, and R. Kelly produced an R&B influenced track called “Outrageous.” Spears even called on the help of Mr. P Diddy himself to produce a track called “The Answer.” Unfortunately, Diddy’s track won’t appear on the American versions of Britney’s album, only those manufactured in the U.K. There are only two ballads included on In the Zone: “Shadow” and “Everytime.” “Everytime” is a blatant apology to Spears’ former boyfriend, Mr. Timberlake: “I may have made it rain, please forgive me. My weakness caused you pain, and this song is my sorry.”This album is mainly for the hardcore Britney Spears fans. Some songs still have traces of pop corniness, but overall it is a remarkably inventive, clever and creative record. In a nutshell, it is just sexy.

Contact John Lowe at jlowe1@nd.edu