Britney Spears: 'Britney Jean' 

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Britney Jean is the pop queen’s personal record, where we get to know the real Britney, via a concept album on the “loneliness of pop life.” The concept holds through about the first song. It’s a good one too, even despite its clunky alien-as-outsider metaphor. Track two is “Work Bitch,” and things quickly fall off the rails from there. Which is kind of a damn shame. Britney Jean had the opportunity to follow the Beyoncé track, taking the personal and turning it into something empowering. Instead, Brit takes the late-era Madonna route, shamelessly co-opting ‘current’ sounds groping for anything resembling a hit. Britney Jean’s most embarrassing moments—and Sweet Jesus, are there plenty of them—come courtesy of these ill-fated attempts: will.i.am carpet-bombing dubstep drops all over “It Should Be Easy,” T.I. blundering in at the end of “Tik Tik Boom” and, well, just Rap Genius “Chillin’ With You.” Brit does hit a couple sweet spots, notably on “Passenger” and “Perfume.” That both tracks hold to the “personal” theme and feature production reminiscent of her turn-of-the-millennium glory days only make it more frustrating that she didn’t commit to a more honest record in this vein. Instead, we've got this misguided, if mercifully short, mess.

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