By Tom Bishop
BBC News Online
After an extended break, Britney Spears aims to resume her position as most powerful celebrity on the planet with fourth album In The Zone.
Britney Spears' fourth album mixes bhangra, R&B and hip hop
But the music world has changed since Britney sold 60m albums, topped 2001's Forbes Global Celebrity List and grossed $43.7m (£25.9m) from her 2002 tour.
Having reintroduced the US to pop, she watched as Kylie Minogue became the new international pop princess.
Meanwhile Britney's ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake followed her move into R&B while nemesis Christina Aguilera bared all on acclaimed album Stripped. Is there room left in the chart for Britney?
In The Zone sees the 21-year-old dance away from the bright pop hooks of Baby One More Time and Oops! I Did It Again.
It has a strong Asian flavour as Indian bhangra rhythms, finger cymbals and screeching strings supplement many of its 15 tracks.
Britney has also noted the rise of ice cool electronica, adding synthesized pulses and squelches to the mix.
The dense multi-layered blend works well on the raucous (I Got That) Boom Boom, fluttery Showdown and gently flowing Touch Of My Hand.
Her Lolita persona is revived on Breathe On Me, a sumptuous seduction bearing the stamp of Kylie collaborator Steve Anderson.
Madonna is one of many big-name collaborators on the album
But as Madonna, Moby, R Kelly, P Diddy and Cathy Dennis join in the fun, co-writer Britney is in danger of drowning under a contrasting mix of musical styles.
The dancehall bounce of Hook Up casts Britney as Ms Dynamite (yes, she does attempt a Jamaican accent) while elsewhere she resembles hip hop diva Truth Hurts.
Coupled with bland lyrics and average vocals, the promised emergence of Britney's own "voice" never takes place.
And despite her dancefloor ambitions, she allows herself to slump into the safety net of ballads Everytime and Shadow.
In The Zone is the sound of Britney catching up with her chart rivals when she was expected to easily overtake them.
In The Zone is on the Jive record label
Has Britney rediscovered her pop form? Or is the once exalted star showing signs of being out of touch?
BBC News Online users shared their views.
Everything about Britney from her appearance, to her latest music and her videos screams desperation, a sorry state of affairs from the perfect pop of Baby One More Time.
Catherine , Leeds
Horrible as expected. Britney's 15 minutes were over two years ago but she doesn't seem to realise it. Perhaps she should concentrate on movies because she certainly isn't a singer/musician. Sorry dear!
Paul Sweeney, Scotland
This is Britney's best album by far. Every track is a stand out track, and you can tell that she's had much more input. Her voice sounds much better, and every song reaches extremely high standards. Well done brit
Richard Shaw, England
Britney, doing dancehall, the world is coming to an end. Considering she ain't from the Caribbean I'm afraid to even watch her "attempt" it.
Even Britney realises she is on a losing streak. Why else all of the desperate publicity stunts in the run up to this album being released? If the album was any good she would not need to snog Madonna, expose her underwear, wear rubbish outfits or perform impromptu lap dances at nightclubs!
Ali Asgur, London, UK
Sounds artificial and lacks the fun and spontaneity of what made her a superstar. She need to stop trying so hard and realise that all the attention grabbing headlines just make her look desperate to be "powerful" again. Just relax Britney!!!!
Frankly I'm quite glad that pop artists like Britney are trying to experiment with new sounds and making more grown up music rather than continuing to push mindless drivel aimed specifically at 10 year old girls. I'm an urban music DJ and i think the fact that you can play tracks by Britney, Justin and the like without losing respect represents progress.
Britney needs to rely on more "exotic" music to compensate for her "poor" voice, when compared to Christina and Justin. Nonetheless, her new album sounds better than anything else she has ever done.
I liked Britney's earlier stuff, this new album isn't that bad, it just lacks originality, consistency and shows her lack of 'growth as an artist'. Shes trying too hard to be like Madonna. There has been too much pressure placed on Britney to have an album that surpased Justin and Christina's successful discs. Lets face it she doesn't have their talent and never will.
Please leave Bhangra to those that actually produce Bhangra. There are enough Asian artists ruining this wonderful genre without needing other "artists" gracing their "talents" onto this. I suppose the western markets are just screaming out for needing to use Indian music, just like when the Beatles came back from India and George Harrison started to play the sitar. There are few artists who can re-invent themselves effective. David Bowie is the only one who springs to mind... Now, if HE started to use Bhangra!...
Gorah G. Singh, UK
I think the question we should actually be asking is 'Why would Moby - genius musician traversing the boundary between credible and successful - want to work with the puppet popstar that is La Spears?'. I thought he had principles.
Mat Smith, UK
It seems that many people want Britney to be singing Baby/Oops songs forever. It will never be like that. Honestly, if she kept singing those types of songs, she would lose even more respect and be criticized of sounding the same over and over. I am a new fan of hers after listening to bits of her new CD "In The Zone". I was surprised that Britney would come up with something this good. I was never a fan of Britney's music in the past. Her music was way too bubblegum for me. But ITZ definitely changed my mind. It's about time she left her old Max Martin sound in exchange for a much modern sound. Britney is going in the right path for sure.
It's great to hear that Britney Spears is trying to create a fresh sound. It's about time she aimed her music to a wider audience and forgets the teeny bopper market! She should start working with bhangra groups like; RDB, Casanova, Rishi Rich and MC Metz and Trix's!
Beppe Friangiamore, UK
Come on, the reason everyone loves Kylie is precisely because she did make those mistakes with her image and music! Britney is only human. She's still very young, and perhaps she wants to try out new styles of music. Give her a break.
Britney will never reach the heights of "Baby One More Time" again.
Ben Metcalfe, UK
Britney Spears doesn't even produce decent music nowadays. In the past, her first and second albums were huge hits because she sang songs that appealed to younger generation. Go back to your old style Britney, or risk losing all respect.
Ben Wakeling, UK
She is absolutely talentless. Regardless of how many woman she is going to kiss publicly, it does not change the fact that she can not sing. I am sick and tired of her lipsinging and 'computerized' voice.
The new album is really good, yes its different from her other albums but isn't that the point, we wouldn't need to buy it if it was just the same old stuff.She's young and talented, she just needs to be given the chance to prove herself.
This is by far one of my favorite Britney albums!! I think its smart of her to try new and different sounds and styles. I absolutely love "Toxic" and "touch of my hand" all the songs on this new album have a great sultry sound to them... sorry to say it, for all those jealous of Britney and itching for her to fail, she definitely "did it again!"
Tiffany , USA
Bubblegum pop is ending and Britney has realised that and so she is just following the music trend. She can't be stuck in the late 90's forever. Anyway her album is so much more mature and is aimed for an older audience and so people will be less embarissed to play it in clubs and bars so this is a good tactical move. Nice one Brit
She definitely lost the battle. Christina Aguilera¿s Stripped is on such a high level that spoiled Britney Spears can¿t compete with it, even with Madonna¿s help. Sorry Britney but you didn¿t do it again, and as you say: Get on the floor because that¿s where you are supposed to be.
David Clemments, United Kingdom
Britney seems to have transformed herself from a pop princess with catchy little tunes that work, into a prostitute-esq bimbo with sexuality problems and 'breathy' songs that drone on one chord! Bad news.
Jamie B, UK
If Britney kept to the same style as her previous albums, she'd be slated for having no originality. So she tries something new and gets slated for being TOO original. I'd scream if I was her!!! I think a change was what she needed to to lose the bubble-gum pop tag. I wouldn't go out and specially buy her album but if I was given it as an Xmas present, I'd definetley listen to it. She CAN sing & this album proves her versatility.
Dawn Stone, UK