Britney Spears laughs at the thought that she could've found time for a break recently. "[Only] if you call three weeks a hiatus," she said. "I've been recording my booty off."

As her forthcoming In the Zone (formerly Get in the Zone) nears completion, the pop star is working her booty overtime, already mapping out plans for remixes galore of her first single, "Me Against the Music," featuring Madonna. The RedZone-produced track has been sent to several producers, including Outkast and Madonna mixer Peter Rauhofer.

"We've hooked up [again], but I've learned not to talk about my personal life," Britney said of Madonna, laughing. "But basically that song is about just being in a club and being oblivious to everyone and just zoning out and just freestyling. And it's me and that beat."

Spears has been known to hit the New York clubs to let DJs preview her new songs, and she even performed a surprise nightclub act in Las Vegas earlier this month (see "Britney Romps On Bed, Loses Her Shirt At Surprise Vegas Show"). For the most part, though, the new tunes have been kept tightly under wraps. "My music hasn't been out," she said. "I've been recording the whole time. It's like a big deal for me. It's my baby."

In her Vegas act, Spears previewed "Breathe on Me," which earned more of the trip-hop comparisons her new work has been getting while also emphasizing the sensuality she's been hinting at recently. "It's very vibe-y, trance-y," she said. "['Breathe on Me'] is basically about being with a guy and not even having to really be with each other, but just the intensity and the anxiety between not saying anything. You don't even have to touch me, just breathe on me."

The most erotic song, however, in Spears' new repertoire just might be "Touch of My Hand" (see "Britney Previews LP, Denies Rumors Of 'Cry Me A River' Response"). "I think it's tastefully done," Spears said of the track. "And I think it's real. It's nice and it's real. It's whatever your take is. Some people may think it's a little much, but that's where I'm at with my life. ... It's not freaky freaky, it's just a little freaky."

Spears has been putting forth a more adult image in print as well, posing nude for a New York Times Magazine fashion spread and appearing topless in Elle UK and Rolling Stone. The upcoming issue of Esquire promises to be equally racy, with a teaser in this month's issue that she'll be "wearing nothing more than her smile."

"As far as photo shoots go, W, Rolling Stone, whatever, the pictures are really sexy," she said, "but actually, when I did the photo shoots, I was sometimes in ball gowns and nice dresses, and of course they used the pictures where I'm half nude. ... The one [on the cover of Rolling Stone], that was my first time ever to be on the cover of a magazine and not have my top on.

"People like the pictures, I like the pictures, but I hate the interview," she continued. "[Writer Mark Binelli] was so rude, I almost got up and left. He made me come across in such a horrible light. You suck, reporter! And I'm not afraid to say that, because he was really wrong. He hurt my feelings. And I wouldn't even bring it up because I'm giving him my energy and he doesn't deserve my energy. I went on a rampage. Sorry about that."

Going on a rampage — that, too, is part of the new, more adult Britney. "I know to speak up more," she said, "and I know what I want more. There's so much going on in my world, behind the music, you have to be more involved."

A video shoot for "Me Against the Music" is slated for early October in New York, and the clip is set to premiere October 13 on "Making the Video." In the Zone drops November 18.