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Pop - Released November 29, 2013 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released July 29, 2014 | Jive - Legacy

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Pop - Released January 12, 1999 | Jive

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Pop - Released November 9, 2009 | Jive

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Pop - Released December 2, 2008 | Jive

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Pop - Released November 13, 2003 | Jive

If 2001's Britney was a transitional album, capturing Spears at the point when she wasn't a girl and not yet a woman, its 2003 follow-up, In the Zone, is where she has finally completed that journey and turned into Britney, the Adult Woman. Like her peer Christina Aguilera, Britney equates maturity with transparent sexuality and the pounding sounds of nightclubs, but since she's not as dirrty as Xtina, her spin is a little different. Where Christina comes across like a natural-born skank, Britney is the girl next door cutting loose at college, drinking and smoking and dancing and sexing just a little too recklessly, since this is the first time she can indulge herself. And that's what In the Zone is -- Britney indulging herself, desperate to prove that she's an adult. Since she's a pop diva, the record label certainly set some limits -- and, really, given her track record and taste, there was little chance that she would follow Pink's lead and write an album with a punk rocker and then draft Peaches for a cameo -- but she has been freed from her musical parent, Max Martin, who is absent for the first time from a Britney Spears album. She's chosen to play the field and work with a bunch of different collaborators, including Madonna, Moby, the Matrix, Trixster, Roy "Royality" Hamilton, Bloodshy & Avant, and R. Kelly. This laundry list of producers and co-writers reveals a combination of savvy and stupidity, reminiscent of the good ideas and bad judgment a young adult goes through in the throes of adjusting to maturity, but one thing ties it all together: her yearning to prove that she's a mature adult. Since the songs are almost exclusively about sex or dancing, with an empowerment tune and a couple of heartbreak ballads tossed in for good measure, it's a pretty limited definition of adulthood, which would be fine if Spears didn't treat it all so seriously, as if maturity were only about sex and dancing. Since she's so determined to be a woman, not a girl, she has completely shed the sugarcoated big hooks and sappy love songs that drove her stardom, concentrating on music that glides by on mellow grooves or hits hard with its hip-hop beats. It's all club-ready, but despite some hints of neo-electro and the Neptunes, it doesn't quite sound modern -- it sounds like cuts from 1993 or Madonna's Bedtime Stories and Ray of Light. Madonna, of course, duets on the album's first single, "Me Against the Music," whose title practically begs to be mocked. Unfortunately, any snarky jokes directed at the song are warranted, since it's the worst single either Britney or Madonna had yet released, a songless mess of staccato beats whose chorus weirdly recalls Oasis' "D'You Know What I Mean." Neither singer has much range, yet they usually exploit their weakness well; here, they succumb to their limitations to the point that their thin voices are indistinguishable apart from Madonna singing "Hey Britney" ad nauseam. This is not the only time on In the Zone that the music is hampered by Britney's limited vocal abilities. She may be older now, but she still sounds like a little girl, which undercuts both the glistening, sensual mid-tempo grooves that dominate the album and the big, booming up-tempo cuts that offer a change of pace. Production-wise, these tracks are not only accomplished but much more varied than any of her previous albums -- in particular, Moby's "Early Mornin'" has a sleek feel, Mark Taylor's "Breathe on Me" is alluring, and the Bloodshy & Avant productions "Showdown" and "Toxic" are irresistible ear candy -- but Britney's voice just isn't sexy enough to sell these songs; she often sounds like a girl dressing up in her big sister's clothes, whether she's murmuring seductive or delving into rap and ragga. All of this undercuts not just the songs, but the theme of the album, since it seems that she's still not yet a woman, no matter how much she protests that she is. While there are surely some good moments here and while this is surely her most ambitious, adventurous album to date, it's not a particularly successful one, since she treats her freedom as a burden, not a blessing. After all, if an album is going to be about sex, dancing, and freedom, it should at the very least sound joyous and fun. In the Zone deliberately avoids fun, which is why it's less likeable than Britney's previous albums, even if it is musically more accomplished. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 15, 2000 | Jive

Given the phenomenal success of Britney Spears' debut, ...Baby One More Time, it should come as no surprise that its sequel offers more of the same. After all, she gives away the plot with the ingenious title of her second album, Oops!...I Did It Again, essentially admitting that the record is more of the same. It has the same combination of sweetly sentimental ballads and endearingly gaudy dance-pop that made One More Time. Fortunately, she and her production team not only have a stronger overall set of songs this time, but they also occasionally get carried away with the same bewildering magpie aesthetic that made the first album's "Sodapop" -- a combination of bubblegum, urban soul, and raga -- a gonzo teen pop classic. It doesn't happen all that often -- the clenched-funk revision of the Stones' deathless "Satisfaction" is the most obvious example -- but it helps give the album character apart from the well-crafted dance-pop and ballads that serve as its heart. In the end, it's what makes this an entertaining, satisfying listen. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released March 25, 2011 | Jive

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Pop - Released March 21, 2018 | Jive

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Pop - Released August 26, 2016 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released October 25, 2007 | Jive

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Pop - Released November 29, 2013 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released November 8, 2004 | Jive

Greatest Hits: My Prerogative appeared at the tail end of a year where Britney Spears was married twice, canceled a tour, injured her knee, lost the movie role of Daisy Duke to rival teen pop diva Jessica Simpson, was a punch line in Fahrenheit 9/11, and had countless paparazzi shots of her drinking and making out in public. It was enough high-profile shenanigans for a career, and it was par for the course for Britney, who hadn't been out of the pop culture headlines since she released her debut album, ...Baby One More Time, in January 1999. In the nearly six years separating that debut album and the release of Greatest Hits in November 2004, Britney was omnipresent, representing both the entire teen pop phenomenon of the turn of the millennium, plus the teasing, Maxim-fueled sexuality of the time; it's not for nothing that Tom Wolfe name drops Britney Spears, not archrival Christina Aguilera, in his 2004 novel I Am Charlotte Simmons -- Britney alone captured the era, which in turn is captured on this 17-track hits collection. If Bob Dylan had a hard time being a voice of a generation (which he does acknowledge in his autobiography, Chronicles), imagine the weight put upon this simple Louisiana girl who just wanted to be famous and became a cultural icon instead! During those six years, she kept turning out product, selling herself with increasingly racy photographs, all the while being used as an example of everything that's wrong with pop culture, or even worse, as the subject of cultural theses explaining pop culture. No wonder that after six years of mind-boggling fame she wanted to abandon her career for motherhood -- it's exhausting being in the limelight, even for a shameless pop star! So, Greatest Hits arrived at a perfect time -- just as her star was fading, just as the teen pop era grew to a close, and just as she readied herself for retirement. As a time capsule, Greatest Hits does its job well. It has all of her hits outside of "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart," a largely forgotten ballad from her debut released just before her second album, Oops!...I Did It Again, and it contains two very good previously unreleased tunes, including the In the Zone outtake "I've Just Begun (Having My Fun)," an infectious spin on No Doubt's "Hella Good" that betters most of the songs that were featured on the album (it also has a useless remake of Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative," which seems to exist solely for its video). Clearly, this is the album not just for the casual fan, but for any fan of Spears, because like most teen pop singers, her albums are notoriously spotty affairs, memorable largely for the singles themselves. What is surprising is that those singles -- all presented here in their hit forms, which means this has the "Stop Remix" of "(You Drive Me) Crazy," not the album version -- are somewhat less than the sum of their parts when collected together. The similarities in Max Martin's clanking, insistent writing and production become blindingly evident, and Britney's thin, squeaky voice wears thin over the course of 17 songs. Also, the song selection and sequencing emphasize keeping the perfect beat over chronology, which not only makes it a little harder to listen to as an album, it puts the focus on the individual songs, which seem neither as hooky or catchy as they did when they were initially on the radio. There are exceptions to the rule, of course -- "...Baby One More Time" still retains its punch, "Oops!...I Did It Again" is so silly it's hard to resist, "(You Drive Me) Crazy" is fluffy dance-pop at its best, and "Toxic" is a delirious, intoxicating rush -- but they're all better as individual moments, even if when taken together, they do illustrate the cacophonous monotony of her music and, yes, her time quite well. So, even if it isn't a great listen as a cohesive album, Greatest Hits does perform the valuable function of offering all of Britney's hits in one place, and it does work as a portrait of the time when Britney Spears was the defining figure of American pop culture. But if you compare it to The Immaculate Collection, which captured the time when Madonna was the defining figure of American pop culture and does work as an album, it's clear that a cultural artifact isn't necessarily the same thing as great music. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 29, 2020 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released October 31, 2001 | Jive

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Pop - Released May 29, 2020 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released May 4, 2015 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released June 26, 2020 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released January 31, 2020 | RCA Records Label

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Pop - Released April 19, 2004 | Jive