Caught between the Gaga mother ship and Katy Perry’s day-glo Lolita act, Britney Spears may seem like a little girl (well thirty this year) lost in the new pop landscape. Four years ago, Blackout was her greatest moment but that mattered little to a casual public busy rubbernecking at her meltdowns and make-ups. The same fate may await Femme Fatale. Shame because this is an album of consolidation in which she gets her freak on a la Missy Elliot but also brings the slumber party tweens along for the ride. It’s a mix of dance floor bangers and bump `n’ grind bland outs but there’s no resisting the lock and load relentlessness of How I Roll or the California does Europop of Trip to Your Heart. The real star here is the schizoid studio wizardry of producer Max Martin and suffice to say, there is one thing Britney surely is not and that is a femme fatale. Mystery and untouchable aloofness are not qualities you’d ascribe to the Mississippi miss with the heart of pure pop. In reality, she’s now a blank-faced doll controlled by cunning producers and that will do very nicely thank you.

Alan Corr