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Britney Spears is trying to show a new side of herself on her latest album, Britney Jean. In an open letter to fans on her website, the singer promised that this would be her "most personal record yet," a project into which she has poured her "heart and soul."
"There are a lot of really fun, upbeat dance songs, but it was important to me that I show my strength, and my attitude, and my vulnerability," Spears wrote. "I want to show you the different sides of Britney Spears. I am a performer. I am a Mom. I am funny. I am your friend! I am Britney Jean."
Performer, mom, friend, funny lady -- that's a lot to convey on a single record. And according to most critics, she didn't quite pull it off. The Atlantic calls it "a snoozefest of shallow mid-tempos and limp club tracks," with songs that "don't feel remotely intimate." The Washington Post says that the album "isn't remotely personal," and "doesn’t venture much beyond the usual Britney themes -- fame is confusing, sex is fun, I am a totally normal person with the same worries as you, let’s dance." Even the media outlets that liked the album, like Entertainment Weekly, acknowledge that Britney Jean doesn't feel like it contains Britney's "heart and soul."
But that's Britney's story, and she's sticking to it. Her press appearances (like the one on Ellen, below), have been all about spilling "secrets." Such as: She used to play spin-the-bottle with her fellow Mouseketeers (including Ryan Gosling), but the bottle only ever landed on her one-time boyfriend Justin Timberlake. Also, she's "actually really shy." Stop the presses!
At 32, Britney has been through motherhood, controversy, addiction and rehab, a public nervous breakdown, two marriages, and a broken engagement. If she wanted to really get personal with fans, there is a lot there to delve into. Why isn't she delving?
Maybe she doesn't even know where to start. After all, Britney's career has never been about who she is; it's about her embodying everything we want a pop star to be. Unlike Madonna or Lady Gaga, who create their own dramatic image changes, Britney's metamorphoses always seem like they've been foisted on her. Her new character is "authentic Britney," and it's just not one she knows how to play -- not in public, anyhow. For the next album, she might want to try something easier, like being Australian, or part cat.
On the plus side, most critics agree that the album has its highlights, like the new single "Perfume." Listen to it below.