Jive Records - 2003 - 54 minutes

It's hard to tell what exact zone Britney is in with this latest album. To promote her to the dance zone on the strength of this album seems premature, but the tracks certainly signal a musical u-turn that steers far away from tamer sub-categories of music. With 'In The Zone' it appears that Spears is vying for credibility, possibly at the cost of sales.

Britney has now cast off the good girl image that she worked so hard on at the outset of her career. 'In The Zone' has an altogether raunchier, funkier production, which may introduce her to a more mature audience, but will most likely serve to alienate her devoted teeny bopper fans. There are less ballads, more beats and a more synthesised feel than on previous offerings.

Although much of the content is catchy, it is hard to see any potential singles impressing as much as 'Me Against The Music'. This sets the feel for the remainder of the album, with the pen of R Kelly creating the another impressive offering in 'Outrageous'. With input from the likes of Sean 'P Diddy' Combs and Cathy Dennis, Britney is getting the fresh approach she was hoping for, but there's a feeling that this album isn't as deeply personal as some of its predecessors. Madonna has more influence than just her contribution to the chart-climber 'Me Against The Music'. On tracks like 'Breathe On Me' the pop princess treads, convincingly, on the territory of the Queen of Pop.

The self-penned tracks are mostly ballads, with 'Brave New Girl' and 'Everytime' reminders of the old Britney. Although individually impressive, they tip the scales in the wrong direction and detract from the overall package.

It's not a bad idea for Britney to try something new but absolute pop is what she does best.

Linda McGee

Tracklisting: Me Against The Music (featuring Madonna) - (I Got That) Boom Boom (featuring Ying Yang Twins) - Showdown - Breathe On Me - Early Mornin' -Toxic - Outrageous - Touch Of My Hand - The Hook Up - Shadow - Brave New Girl - Everytime - Me Against The Music (Bonus Rishi Rich's Kulcha Remix Featuring Madonna) - The Answer - Don't Hang Up