Britney Spears's eighth album has been billed variously as a sequel of sorts to fan-favourite Blackout, her very own Ray of Light-style reinvention, and a personal album "specifically for my diehard fans".
For the most part, these proclamations seem completely misplaced, specifically on the deeply impersonal first single, Work Bitch, and the Auto-Tune blitzkrieg that is the will.i.am collaboration It Should Be Easy (produced by partner in aural crime David Guetta).
The latter is one of a handful of anonymous, emotion-sapping EDM stompers, bookended by songs that could have formed the backbone of a much better album.
New single Perfume is a delicate, enjoyably unhinged ballad ("I'm gonna mark my territory" she sings alarmingly in the chorus) co-written by Sia; William Orbit's Alien lives up to the soul-baring hype; the Diplo-produced Passenger sounds refreshingly experimental.
The closing fragility of Don't Cry – her best vocal since Everytime – frustratingly only hints at what could have been.
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