Britney In The 'Black'

There's an appropriate bleakness to "Blackout," Britney Spears' first Jive album in four years, and her first as a tabloid figure rather than a vibrant teen idol. The hazy-eyed bump-and-grind of her "

There's an appropriate bleakness to "Blackout," Britney Spears' first Jive album in four years, and her first as a tabloid figure rather than a vibrant teen idol. The hazy-eyed bump-and-grind of her "Gimme More" MTV Video Music Awards performance fits all this material: It's defiant like a bad drunk, uncomfortably oversexed and more at home in a seedy after-hours club than a celebrity ultra-lounge.

"Blackout" was moved from a Nov. 13 release to this week due to widespread leaks of its songs. Among the collaborators on the album are producers Bloodshy & Avant on "Piece of Me," "Toy Soldier," "Freakshow" and "Radar," Kara DioGuardi on "Heaven and Earth" and Nate "Danjahandz" Hills on "Gimme More," "Get Naked (I Got a Plan)," "Hot As Ice" and "Perfect Lover."

T-Pain is credited as one of three writers on "Hot As Ice," while Pharrell Williams wrote, co-produced (as half of the Neptunes) and sings backup on closer "Why Should I Be Sad."

The music ranges from shockingly minimal-"Piece of Me" and "Radar" have the synth fugues and smudgy bass of current underground electro and little else-to novelty pop, like the J.J. Fad-styling of "Freakshow" and Gwen Stefani-ripping snare march of "Toy Soldier." Spears is threatening or seducing, or both, on every track.