The list of musicians who should use the word "derrière" in a song doesn't include Britney Spears. But there she goes in Blackout's second song, between self-introductions as "Miss Bad Media Karma" and "Mrs. She's Too Big She's Too Famous," just asking for it. There's a lot of asking-for-it of various kinds on Blackout, an album that counts both as a significant event and as a disquieting aberration that couldn't be more mysteriously manufactured or bizarrely ill-timed.
But if listeners are supposed to fixate on the stories of celebrity crackdown, they need a conclusive reason why such stories should matter. Besides, more interesting than haircuts and driving records is the considerable strength of the songs on Blackout, which flag whenever Spears tries to account for anything related to herself, but thrive when she just forgets about it all.
"Gimme More" opens on a sultry, clubby space-pop note that's sustained throughout; the tracks, produced for the most part by Timbaland protégé Danja and the Swedish duo Bloodshy & Avant, traffic in a mix of red-lined synth riffs and beats that fan out through all kinds of timbres and times. Every song counts as markedly progressive and strange, from "Get Naked (I Got A Plan)" (which sounds like intergalactic R&B filtered through The Cure's Pornography) to "Freakshow," which gets by on little more than serpentine snaps, wub-wub bass, and Britney sounding synthetic and irresistibly at home.