Britney Spears is from Louisiana, but at age 32, her patois isn't Southern, exactly. Hot is "hawt," work is "wuhk," natural is "natch-RUL" and when she demands that you drop everything and call the governor, it's not some bland head of state but the gah-vah-NAH. Her high, sensuous voice has weathered into its own thing, a rock-star way of singing, talking and posing that is as distinctive in its own way as Mick Jagger or Donna Summer. Spears isn't the world's greatest vocalist -- she began as the Janet Jackson to Christina Aguilera's Mariah Carey -- but nobody in pop music can mesh more effectively with the futuristic dance-music clinks and clanks created by the best state-of-the-art producers.
"Work B**ch" came out over the summer as the album's first single, and it has a dominatrix-style urgency, from its brain-drill of a bass line to the whooshing choruses and counter-choruses to Britney's rhyming. As with her last few albums, particularly 2011's "Femme Fatale," buzzing effects permeate the album; Spears winds up essentially duetting with video games on "Passenger," produced by Diplo, who helped rapper M.I.A. rise to stardom with a similar mix of dense electronics and soaring melodies.
"Britney's essence has always been sort of cutting-edge," Dr. Luke, her "Femme Fatale" producer, once said. While Luke is diminished on "Britney Jean," she connects equally as well with Sia (who co-wrote "Perfume," about the singer odoriferously "marking her territory") and executive-producer will.i.am (who with dance star David Guetta enlivens "It Should Be Easy"). The 36-minute album, Britney's eighth, leaked online, prompting her label to stream it early via iTunes Radio, which seems appropriate. Robots rule.
BOTTOM LINE Britney's post-teen-pop renaissance continues on this sexy dance album.