If Britney Spears' performance at last year's VMAs was a bad omen for her subsequent release of Blackout, it stands to reason that Brit's new album may be as promising as her successful appearance at the 2008 VMAs. And the producers of her new work in progress assure us that's the case.
"You always want to give her something she can feel intrigued by, because she's done so much," songwriter and producer Sean Garrett told MTV News. "She's had some incredible albums. She's been through so much, so you want to do things that will raise her eyebrows as well as her fans', so we're going to work really hard to give her something exceptionally special."
The singer has been popping in and out of recording sessions in Los Angeles and Las Vegas all summer, and she's been lining up a steady stream of collaborators for the new album, including Rodney Jerkins, Nate "Danjahandz" Hills, Keri Hilson and even Lil Jon.
Getting Spears' music back in the clubs is a priority, Garrett said, but he's also working on giving her songs with a longer shelf life than your average dance track.
"This time, we're going to try some different sounds," he said. "We're really trying to push the sound limits. We're definitely going to make sure it's hot, you know, great songs that fans will go crazy over, but I'm not just [aiming to] 'stay in the clubs.' If it's a ballad, a midtempo, fusing techno with hip-hop or whatever it is, what matters is that it has some sounds we've never heard before."
While Garrett wants to push Spears sonically, Hilson said she wants to push the singer lyrically and get some more meaningful songs on the album.
"Of course, everybody's giving her party smashes, and I've heard some of them, and they're great," Hilson said. "But I think we can dig a little deeper this time. I want it to feel a little more real and organic. That's where I want to go with her."
Hilson is due to sit down with Spears in the next week to get on the same page. "We need to figure it out," she said. "Sit down, have a conversation, and see what she's feeling at the moment, and take a bird's-eye view of that."
Beyond that, Hilson doesn't want to overplan her writing sessions with Spears. "Songwriting is one of the most unorthodox things in the world," she said. "Songs come from all sorts of different ways, places and times."
Garrett, meanwhile, is going to play his cards close to his chest for this project. "What's smart to do is not to tell anybody too much about it while it's happening," he said. "Don't tell anybody. Everything is so predictable these days, because the information is right there and no one is keeping secrets anymore. Remember how Michael Jackson used to be mysterious? That's what superstars should do."
And though Brit's collaborators won't spill the details, they will express confidence that we'll like what we hear, once we hear it.
"I'm sure it'll be great," Hilson said. "She's very focused."
"It'll be her real comeback," Garrett said. "At the end of the day, it's about the music, and this is incredible music."