Spears doesn't grow up with new album

by Sam Lederer | 11/8/01 6:00am

"What's a girl to do?" asks Britney Spears on, "Lonely," the third song on "Britney," her third album. Following the success of her first two albums with the preteen "TRL" crowd, Spears sets out to answer this question and, in the process, redefine her image as a glitzy Mousekateer into something resembling a respectable woman.

The first single from the album, "I'm a Slave 4 U," is a bit of a departure from her previous softer-edged, sexually frustrated singles, " Baby One More Time" and "Oops! I Did It Again." The Neptunes' produced track is a more risqu example of the traditional, three-minute pop single template that has made so much green for Spears, 'NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys.

The first glimpse of Spears' attempt to break her transparent-as-glass image is seen in the second track, "Overprotected" when she exclaims, "Say hello to the girl I am!" Hello Britney! It's time to try again!

The song makes a valiant attempt at establishing Spears as the closest thing to what could be called an adult. But, it fails miserably by retreating to the usual methods of a monster chorus, childish lyrics and voice distortion to cover up Spears' mediocre-at-best vocal abilities.

One bright spot is the ballad "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman," co-produced by Dido. The song is Spears' best attempt at making the transition explicated in its title. Despite emotional lyrics and a heartfelt message, given Britney's inescapable immature persona, the song is simply not believable. All one can picture is the young artist sitting on her pink bedspread with a teddy bear and telephone in hand talking about her new crush.

Britney's barely-legal sex appeal is flaunted once again with "Boys." Another tune produced by the Neptunes, the song has a catchy techno beat and a rhythmic bridge that saves the song from slipping into the filler category, as so many non-singles do. The background grunts and giggles demonstrate that Britney is still no more than an attractive creation made by her producers and the current pop market.

The roller disco-flavored "Anticipating" nails the final stake in the casket of this album. Its obvious ripoff of Janet Jackson's "All For You" is yet another effort at compensating for Spears' lack of a singing voice. After six annoyingly self-serving songs, the only thing I am anticipating is the end of the record. The ice cream parlor anthem hinders the album's goal of redefining the young Ms. Spears through the chorus's message of teen dramatics.

In line with her tradition of poorly crafted rock covers, Britney's version of Joan Jett's "I Love Rock and Roll" whines along like a dying cat. Spears' pouting voice ruins the song's rock essence. The techno additions to the melody make for an appealing modern twist but alienate the song's message.

At the end of the album, Britney finally tells the listener "What It's Like to Be Me." The track was co-written and produced by boyfriend Justin Timberlake of 'NSYNC. Lyrics like, "This is my game, my rules" show that "Britney" is still merely an immature game of exploiting every angle to sell a record rather than an evolution into a formidable musical artist.

"Britney" is more of a self-promoting concept album than anything else. As to that task, it succeeds: Spears will undeniably garner fame and fortune for her third album. But, with regard to her goal of taking herself into womanhood, Britney did not have as much success. So in response to her question "What's a girl to do?" -- the obvious answer is "Grow up!"