Britney Spears, FEMME FATALE

In a music world where pop is dominated by Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, is there still room for Britney Spears? Femme Fatale, Spears' seventh studio album, has the singer trying to be both sexy and naughty. The key word in that last sentence is "trying."

Femme Fatale peaks early, with two songs already released on the radio: the dance-club anthem "Till the World Ends" and the slightly catchy "Hold It Against Me" (even if the latter includes one of the cheesiest pick-up lines in its chorus). From there, Britney is "taking out my freak tonight," whether it's a hook-up before a final break-up ("Inside Out"), sheer physical attraction ("(Drop Dead) Beautiful"), or whatever this is: "I can be your trouble, babe/you can be my bass."

It's a toss-up between which is weaker on Femme Fatale: the lyrics (none of which were written by Britney Spears this time around) or the vocals. I suspect when, at the end of 2011 rolls around, music critics will be combing through this album for several candidates for the worst lyrics. For me, it's a tie between: "I will pay whatever just to get a better view/and yeah your body looks so sick I think I caught the flu"; and "A spark, and it's like gasoline/ I start purring like a machine/ my heart only runs on supreme/ so hot, give me your gasoline."

And while much music is bad poetry (though usually not this bad) set to singing, the singing here is indifferent. While Spears has never been known as a powerful vocalist, on Femme Fatale the songs are either simply spoken or delivered without any passion or interest.

Femme Fatale won't prove fatal to Britney Spears' career -- her very public ups and downs, plus plenty of criticism, prove that -- but wow, is it a bad album. This is what happens when a superficial pop princess phones it in; and it's not pretty.

Overall grade: D-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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