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The Spears machine rolls on with new album ‘Femme Fatale’

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Britney showed off her new tunes last weekend at Rain.
Photo: Roderick Trestrail, AP

Britney Spears at Rain at the Palms

What’s amazing about Britney Spears is that despite all of her highly publicized personal problems, she still manages to consistently churn out albums with only a minimal deviation in quality. That’s probably because, even more so than most pop stars, Spears is just a pretty face to represent the music crafted by a battalion of songwriters and producers. For Spears’ seventh album, Femme Fatale, her team has clearly decided that the success story to emulate is Ke$ha’s, and thus the album is full of loud, thumping party anthems, without a single ballad. The lyrics are perhaps even dopier than usual, with gems like “If I said I want your body now/Would you hold it against me?” (“Hold It Against Me”) and “Your body looks so sick, I think I caught the flu” (“(Drop Dead) Beautiful”). Ke$ha herself even has a songwriting credit on “Till the World Ends.”

The Details

Femme Fatale
Three and a half stars

The dumb-party-girl persona generally works for Spears, although it is a little unnerving to hear her sing “You can be my f--k tonight” on “How I Roll.” Songs like “I Wanna Go,” with its catchy whistling, or “Trip to Your Heart,” which has an icy, Goldfrapp-style feel, are pleasant enough, but Spears is still the fast food of dance-pop: If artists like Robyn or Dragonette are a little too heady for you, you can put on a Spears album and get your empty calories. The problem is that the emptiness eventually outweighs the flavor: The Will.i.am-produced, -written and -guest-starring “Big Fat Bass” is as unbearably repetitive and grating as the worst Black Eyed Peas songs, and Spears sounds so robotic and vacant half the time that she might as well be Rebecca Black. The Britney Spears machine is probably incapable of making a truly bad album, but its frontwoman has never sounded more inessential to the process.

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