In the Zone is the fourth studio album by American recording artist Britney Spears, released on November 16, 2003, by Jive Records. Following the end of the Dream Within a Dream Tour in July 2002 and her break-up with Justin Timberlake, Spears announced she would take a six-month break from her career. She started working on the album in November 2002, with producers such as Bloodshy & Avant, R. Kelly, Christopher Stewart, Moby, Guy Sigsworth and The Matrix. Musically, In the Zone is a dance-oriented album that incorporates elements of various genres, such as R&B, house, trip hop, and hip hop. It features instrumentation from guitars, drums, synthesizers, strings, and Middle Eastern musical instruments.
Spears began writing songs for In the Zone while touring around the world, despite not knowing the direction of the album. She started to experiment with different producers, trying to find those who she had chemistry with. The first song recorded was "Touch of My Hand", which Spears claims set the mood for the album. She co-wrote several tracks, and often changed the lyrics to suit herself. Spears stated she was an autobiographical songwriter, although not the point were she felt self-exploited. She also explained that the sexual nature of In the Zone was subconscious and happened while she was in the process of developing the album. The topic for the songs range from love, dancing, empowerment, and in the case of songs such as "Touch of My Hand", sex and masturbation. Spears collaborated with artists such as Madonna in "Me Against the Music" and the Ying Yang Twins in "(I Got That) Boom Boom".
After its release, In the Zone received generally positive reception from music critics. Reviewers appreciated the album, calling it a strong and confident pop record, while complimenting the mix of different styles and Spears's skills as a songwriter. Others however, criticized it for what they perceived as distant and processed vocals. Commercially, In the Zone became an international success, debuting atop of the charts in France and the United States, and peaking inside the top ten in eleven countries. In the United States, she became the first female artist to have four consecutive number-one albums. In the Zone went on to become the eighth best selling album of 2003. As of June 2010, the album had sold over 12 million copies worldwide.
Four singles were released from the album: "Me Against the Music", "Toxic" and "Everytime" became worldwide hits, peaking at number one in Australia and reaching top five positions worldwide. To promote In the Zone, Spears performed the songs in a number of television appearances and also embarked on The Onyx Hotel Tour. The album and its music videos are largely seen by critics as the end of her transition from teen pop star to a more adult female artist. In 2009, Amy Schriefer of NPR listed In the Zone as one of The 50 Most Important Recordings of the Decade, calling it "a primer on the sound of pop in the '00s".
With this, Britney Spears' fourth album, the former little girl diva of pop is desperate to prove that she is now a proper grown up. If her last offering saw the singer straddling the two worlds of girlhood and womanhood, then this one sees her announcing her distinctly adult intentions. She is twenty-two after all! Sadly, her attempts to prove her new-found maturity are what overwhelm and cloud all that is good about Into The Zone.
The album opens very confidently with "Me Against The Music" which,althugh it has more than a passing similarity to a Justin Timberlake production, still manages to sound fresh and as funky as hell. Cries of 'let me see you dance' and 'time to party all night long' emphasise our heroine's love of the good time. Britney clearly relishes her new role as nightclub siren, but she somehow doesn't quite convince.
"Showdown" and "Toxic" are produced by the Bloodshy & Avant team and, though hardly original, have the catchy hooks you'd expect from the duo. "Breathe On Me" is very reminiscent of Madonna during her Ray Of Light period, offering welcome relief after the overcrowded chanting of "(I Got That) Boom Boom".
The Moby produced "Early Morning" is the standout track on this collection. Its contagious, down-tempo groove and soaring string chorus all add up to make a brilliantly simple piece of pop. The other high point is "Touch Of My Hand", its sugary sweet harmonies can't help but impress. (It features Madonna, just in case you've been living on Mars).
"Shadow" is Spear's only return to the power ballad and it's a fairly lukewarm affair; it sounds more like a Pop Idol release than a Britney one. She should stick to the more adventurously upbeat formula. She should also place less emphasis on how self-fulfilled she has become, in repeatedly declaring this she simply draws attention to all the growing up she still has to do. Don't rush it girl! Enjoy being young! User Comments