Britney Spears, ‘Britney Jean’ (RCA/Sony)
Fourteen years ago, Britney Spears sashayed onto the worldwide pop stage as a teen idol, and now is improbably making excellent albums as an adult. She works around her thin voice with production tricks and odd pronunciations (she was always more of a dancer than a singer). She has pulled back from her well-documented drug troubles. She is holding herself together.
“Britney Jean” continues her trend of highly digitized, android-esque pop, though its songs are sadder, more personal, and less sexy than on the oblivion-seeking “Femme Fatale” (2011). The album’s highlight is “Alien,” galloping electronica that is restrained yet heavy, where Britney tattoos the chorus of “not alone / not alone / not alone” until it becomes a mantra, as if she’s trying to internalize it.
The rest of the songs go from hip-hop (“Tik Tik Boom”) to exercise anthems (“Work Bitch”). A song with sister Jamie Lynn (“Chillin’ With You”), in which Britney sings about red wine and Lynn sings about white, adds a personal feel. All in all, it’s a gleaming, bittersweet pop experience.
Other new releases
Cher, “The Lowdown” (Chrome Dreams)
Jake Owen, “Days of Gold” (Sony Nashville/RCA)
Ben Allison, “The Stars Look Very Different Today” (Sonic Camera Records)