Just like Madonna in her early days, teen temptress Britney Spears is proving that you don't have to make great albums to become a superstar of the highest degree.
Her third Jive disc, Britney, finds the 19-year-old pop idol trying to straddle the fine line between teen queen and sultry sex goddess. That's not a new issue for Spears, whose provocative stage apparel, or lack thereof, has triggered just enough controversy to keep things interesting during her past couple of tours. But the “Oops, I Did it Again” kid is obviously not yet ready to abandon her young audience. Fervent, pre-teen and teenage fans will surely swoon to sweet songs here like the early Madonna-styled “Anticipating” and the more thundering “Bombastic Love,” which promises that “it's gonna be exactly like in a movie when we fall in love for the first time.”
Whether that same set will go for something as drastic as the disappointing, Prince-flavored lead single “I'm a Slave 4 U ”or the ghastly remake of Joan Jett's “I Love Rock 'N' Roll ”is another question, but Spears definitely seems to want it both ways, as she sings in one of the album's few anthemic ballads “I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.”
She's at her best when she steers clear of deeper meanings and just lets loose. “That's Where You Take Me” is meticulously crafted, perfect pop, as is “Let Me Be.” The harder edge of “Lonely” gets a huge lift from its staggered beat and “Boys” finds the seductress on the prowl, riding a rhythm straight out of “Another One Rides the Bus.”
Those few bright moments aside, Spears still has a long way to go. Even when she gets some help from her boyfriend Justin Timberlake, who co-wrote the ridiculous “What It's Like to Be Me,” this proves to be one uninspiring recording.