Critics Get Personal With Spears’s ‘Britney Jean’

Britney Spears's new album, Britney Jean, won't be officially released until Dec. 3, but it's streaming now on iTunes, so some crafty critics are already weighing in on her eighth effort. Here's what they're saying:

USA Today's Elysa Gardner gives it three (out of four) stars, writing: "Perhaps the best thing that can be said for Spears's latest album, in fact, is that it doesn't seem obsessed with provocation." In other words, Brit isn't trying to out-Miley Miley. She adds, the album "aims to present this modestly talented young woman who has somehow managed to sustain our interest for 15 years as a cool but accessible dance-pop diva — willing to dangle the occasional profanity to keep us alert, but ultimately more into the groove than anything else." Gardner concludes, "As a musical reintroduction, certainly, Britney Jean offers as much grace as anyone could have expected." Faint praise indeed.

Across the pond in the U.K., Neil McCormick of The Telegraph gives Britney Jean three (out of five) stars, starting his review with a shout-out to Ms. Cyrus. "Miley, be warned: this is where twerking could lead," he says, then he proceeds to rip poor Brit apart, writing: "Even in adulthood, Spears's voice remains that of a pouty child, though it is often hard to detect any human personality beneath the layers of Auto-Tune. The lyrics are banal to the point of indifference, and with the tracks sequenced (as mainstream pop collections usually are) to put big hitters first, there is a sense of declining returns as events progress."

McCormick, like other critics, also notes that the "publicity pitch" on the album is that it's Britney's "most personal" to date. However, he notes, "It would presumably be asking too much to detect either irony or satire in the decision to launch this campaign with a highly effective, stripped-down electro club banger called 'Work B---h,' in which young women are commanded (in a peculiar fake English accent) to put some serious effort in if they want to 'sip martinis' in 'a hot bikini.' Credits reveal that this prostitution anthem involved contributions from six writers, four of whom are male." Ouch!

Over on the U.K.-based Mirror website, Pop Justice editor Peter Robinson holds court with a track-by-track analysis of the album in which he rates each song on a scale from one to 10. And Robinson uses almost the entire scale, giving "Perfume" a perfect 10/10, while he says "'Til It's Gone" scrapes the bottom with a 1/10 rating. Of the former track, in which Britney sings about "a boyfriend's indiscretion," Robinson writes, " So she's either being quite shockingly honest, or it's a load of nonsense. I'll give Britney the benefit of the doubt on this one. (And the line 'I hate myself, and I feel crazy' is a belter.)" As for "'Til It's Gone," Robinson says, "Here Britney breaks brave new ground in the world of pop lyricism by being the first major singer in the history of popular music to observe that 'you never know what you’ve got 'til it's gone.' I’m joking of course, it's as generic as a pair of supermarket sports socks. So while 'Til It's Gone’ is the best upbeat track on Britney Jean, I'm going to have to be strict with my rating."

While Robinson doesn't offer a total tally for the whole album, we added up his individual track ratings using our elementary school math skills and came up with a lowly 54/100. So in Robinson's eyes, it appears Britney has to work a bit harder.

It's not only critics that are throwing in their two cents on Britney Jean. TMZ caught Bravo TV executive/host/author Andy Cohen recently leaving a listening party for the album. "It's great," he said. "It's really good." Keep in mind, Cohen only heard five or six songs and he was hired to ask Britney probing questions like what snacks she eats while in the studio (sushi and Skittles, in case you're interested) during the playback session, according to TMZ, so he might have been a bit biased.

Follow me on Twitter.