In the Zone, Britney Spears
IN THE ZONE
I really tried to give Britney Spears a chance. I tried to listen to her new project with some objectivity. I thought that since everyone and their mother seemed to be hyping this album saying that this is a more mature and eclectic project than her previous endeavours, it wouldn't be that horrendous. I mean, that many people can't be wrong, right?
Well, firstly, it is true. This release is unlike any of Britney's previous albums, which, for all ears everywhere, everyone should be grateful. The album seems to be more…(no, not more mature…not more eclectic)…more…something. I think the best way to describe it is: this album sounds like a little girl playing dress-up in her mother's clothing. It's trying so hard to be grown up that it does the exact opposite. Maturity shows through a person's actions and thoughts, not by showing some tummy and doing some heavy breathing. On the initial listen to the album, the only thought that I got is that life is about partying all the time…great. Is this the part where Britney wants me to take her as a serious artist? Well, it's nice to want things. Moving on…
After forcing myself to listen to it again, I realized that there are a few passable songs. "Toxic" comes to mind, so does The Answer and Don't Hang Up.
Toxic is perfect for perhaps getting ready to go to a club to. It's up-tempo with a house pop vibe to it. The violins add a nice touch. Mind you, I can't see myself listening to this outside my house. I also could see myself getting annoyed with this song after a few listens. Maybe it's because it reminds me of Kylie Minogue (Euro-pop hack). Blah!
The Answer (produced by none other than P. Diddy) is another sexy Britney song. It's got this Middle Eastern backbeat that somehow works. I have to admit that I got hooked.
Don't Hang Up has a trance-y/breezy/mellow feel to it that is, admittedly, very seductive. The song's subject matter is about …umm…the ADULT realities (or necessities, depending on how you see it) of a long-distance relationship. I could see myself listening to this after a long night just based on the melody alone. The song seems to find a place in your mind and stays there, no matter what you do. Maybe it's because Britney's thin vocals seem to fit the song perfectly. It boggles the mind.
Both The Answer and Don't Hang Up are bonus tracks on this CD. This is a shame, since they should have replaced two other songs on this album that I had the horror of listening to. But I'll get into that later.
The best song from In the Zone is Everytime. I've read somewhere that this is supposed to be the response to Justin Timberlake's track 13 off of his Justified project. This is the first and only time on this 15-track CD where Britney seems to show her true self. The song is about someone who's vulnerable, hurt, and haunted by her mistake, which she realizes too little too late. That's one of her most enlightened tracks to date. I like seeing that side to her - it made her more real to me. But this doesn't mean that this whole album should have been about that. Breaking up with someone is a rough experience; there is a whole range of emotions involved: regret, denial, anger, sorrow, betrayal, lust, emptiness, anger…and the list goes on. Why only focus on one aspect? It makes the artist look and sound one dimensional to the point where they almost become cartoonish, regardless of how many producers sign onto the project.
Having said that, I have to say that there are good songs (no matter how much I hate to admit it, as you may have already guessed). This, coming from one of the biggest Anti-Britney Spears fans, is saying a lot. With songs like these on ITZ, you may think that should be enough to pick up the CD. Maybe. I mean, the good songs are good (no really, they are). But when the songs are bad, they're REALLY bad.
For example, tracks like Outrageous, Brave New Girl and The Hookup all produced some sort of physical reaction based in horror. I know that may sound a tad overdramatic but trust me, you listen to these songs and try not to keep the bile from rising in your throat [I HATE "Brave New Girl" too. It's the stupidest song I've heard to date, and I've reviewed some pretty questionable artists - Chris].
Outrageous is the R. Kelly joint that had some of that Middle Eastern "flava" to it. But for some reason, in this song it seems formulaic (simply because the beat seemed too similar to R. Kelly's song, "Snake"). Or maybe it was just the lyrics that were putting me off. Regardless, this flava is NOT hot.
Brave New Girl is definitely a term Britney should use to describe herself after attaching her name to this…thing. How do I explain this? All right, I've got it: Britney's rapping…okay…stop laughing, I'm being serious [Oh gawd, I still remember her rapping on "Punk'd" and thought that was the joke…but apparently not - Chris]. People want to give her props for trying, but in order to give some props don't they have to be good at it? "Brave New Girl" is a Britney song with her doing an imitation of the Barenaked Ladies' rap-style. Ain't a pretty picture, is it?
During one song I had physically put my head down on my desk and have some quiet time. The reggae/dancehall vibe, in and of itself is great. (If you don't believe me, pick up Sean Paul's Dutty Rock.) But when you team it up with B.S. you get b***s**** (a.k.a.: The Hookup). The music/beat is pretty decent, but Britney starts singing with an accent and then you realize that the song hit bottom. This is not to say that Britney should not try new things. It's just that why would you want to record the cheesy, awkward attempt and then try to pawn it off to the populace as a decent song? I think the best way to describe it is this: sitting through that song is like sitting through a long, awkward pause after a bad joke on a really bad first date. You're just counting down the seconds until the whole horrible episode is over. Again, I'll say it: the flava is NOT hot.
But I think the winner of the most horrible song off ITZ goes to Me Against the Music. Maybe it's because I've hated the song since my first listen, but I CANNOT stand THAT SONG! Just because Madonna's on it, is that supposed to make the track any better? I know Madonna is considered a pop music deity and all, but doesn't mean she can work miracles. Don't get me wrong, the music itself very danceable, but then it get ruined when you have horrible lyrics and vocals. I just completely lose interest. But the most nauseating part about the song is its hook. It gets more irritating the more I listen to it. It just keeps repeating itself in that shrill banshee-like shriek: "Get in the zone!" If you ever want a migraine, have I got a song for you! Plus the obvious ploy to boost record sales leaves an unpleasant taste in mouth (which is probably from the bile).
But regardless of that and with all the ups and downs of ITZ, this is a relatively good…er...all right CD (compared to her past projects). I can honestly say that if I got this as a Christmas gift, I wouldn't use it as an expensive coaster or (as you may believe) as a projectile towards the person who gave it to me. Let's face it, no one buys a Britney CD for its vocal strength (pick up Beyoncé's, Christina's or even that wacko Mariah Carey's CD for that) or for its innovation. ITZ is a passable club-going album that provides glimpses of a person who is not a girl, but not yet a woman. Which, surprisingly, isn't as irritating as you might think. ¤ Sheena
IN THE ZONE: (out of 5)