Britney Spears is back with [article id="1718105"]Britney Jean,[/article] her first album in two years and an effort that's already been billed as her [article id="1717701"]"most personal"[/article] to date.
Working with a team of top-notch talent that includes David Guetta, Diplo and Dr. Luke, Spears has crafted a spiritual sequel to 2007's fan-favorite Blackout, an album that flits between rousing dance anthems like [article id="1714952"]"Work Bitch"[/article] and introspective tracks like [article id="1717158"]"Passenger,"[/article] and, in the process, explores the pitfalls of fame and personal loss.
In short, it's a markedly mature departure, an album made for both the dance floor and the diary ... one that her fans have already responded to with their usual fervor.
But what do the critics think about Britney's latest? Is it strong enough to help her reclaim her crown from reigning pop royalty like Miley, Katy and Gaga? Here's a round-up of the reviews:
'Britney Remains The Queen'
Like Miley's [article id="1715203"]Bangerz,[/article] Spears' Britney Jean spends no small amount of time detailing a decaying relationship (in this case it's the [article id="1714200"]end of Spears' engagement to Jason Trawick[/article]). The difference here is just how deep she gets ... and that willingness sets her apart from any of her peers.
"Even though we're in the middle of a pop-princess pileup this winter, with Miley, Katy, Gaga and more elbowing for room on the dance floor, Britney remains the queen who out-bangs, out-booms, out-bizarres them all," Rob Sheffield writes in Rolling Stone.
"Britney Jean continues the roll she's been on in recent years ... And she's still way weirder than she might seem on the surface — Britney Jean makes Yeezus sound like a positive-affirmations workshop," Sheffield says. "It's a concept album about the loneliness of pop life. If the title reminds you of Elton John weeping over Marilyn Monroe, figure it's meant to, because this poor girl has been getting way too much candle up in her wind lately."
'It Brings Us Closer Than Ever Before'
Sure, there's depth to Britney Jean, but some seem to think that the album's greatest strengths lie in the moments when Spears focuses on what made her famous: Pure pop, pushed to the absolute max by executive producer will.i.am:
"Even now, just about to celebrate her 32nd birthday, Britney Spears remains as enigmatic as the Disney-groomed, emotionally insulated teen who greeted us in the late '90s ... But in just 10 tidy songs, [Britney Jean] brings us closer than ever before to that distant dreamer," Nick Catucci writes in his review for Entertainment Weekly. "Of course, since it's a Britney Spears album executive-produced by will.i.am in 2013, it also happily indulges the fantasies of endorphin-seeking EDM festival goers.
"... Alienation lurks in those songs, too — which naturally gives Brit's duet with her younger sister Jamie Lynn, the morphing ballad 'Chillin' With You,' a special poignancy. All we really learn is that Britney prefers red wine, and Jamie Lynn, white. But we share their warm, tipsy feeling all the same."
'The Fragility Frustratingly Only Hints At What Could Have Been'
Despite its depth, some critics wish that Britney Jean went even deeper ... in fact, it might have been a better album if she decided to ditch the Auto-Tuned EDM and focused on her personal life.
"Britney's eighth album has been billed as ... a personal album 'specifically for my diehard fans.' For the most part, these proclamations seem completely misplaced, specifically on the deeply impersonal first single, 'Work Bitch,' and the Auto-Tune blitzkrieg that is the will.i.am collaboration 'It Should Be Easy,' " Michael Cragg suggests in The Guardian.
"The latter is one of a handful of anonymous, emotion-sapping EDM stompers, bookended by songs that could have formed the backbone of a much better album," Cragg writes.