Spears bravely steps out on the proverbial high wire for her third album—attempting the unenviable task of pleasing her legion of teen fans, while also making necessary moves toward becoming an

Spears bravely steps out on the proverbial high wire for her third album—attempting the unenviable task of pleasing her legion of teen fans, while also making necessary moves toward becoming an artist of adult durability. The result is a nicely varied, wholly satisfying collection wherein she darts from well-crafted, mature fare like the deliciously funky "Boys" (which is rife with loving references to Prince) to charmingly youthful gems like the smash-in-waiting "Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman." What's most notable about this collection is that it shows Spears taking solid first steps as a songwriter, as she deftly explores the emotional fallout and eventual empowerment of growing up under a public microscope. In doing this, she renders Britney her new statement of purpose. Think of it as her equivalent to Janet Jackson's landmark Control.—LF