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Opening Act 

Britney Spears
Greatest Hits: My Prerogative

Critically, what's there to say about a Britney Spears hits collection? There's little glossier, but these are some of the best hooks money can buy. You can complain she can't sing and point out how many lead vocals are at least doubled, but better that than Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson treating songs like Olympic gymnastic routines. What's the point in a melody if it's embroidered like granny's lace doilies?

It's tempting to consider the shiny silver cover, the remix CD, the song sequence and Spears' wardrobe on the cover and decide this album marks the end of her transformation into a sex cyborg, but that would be wrong. The heavily processed, tech-savvy sound dominates, but hearing her songs out of sequence, starting with a high-tech remake of Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative," makes it easier to notice how the synthesized texture has been present from the start. She has always been a cyborg, and the least convincing track here is "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" because cyborgs don't age. The sentiment sounds like the one someone thought Spears should express, and it's telling that it's the least electronic track on the compilation.

Spears is also no more about sex now than she was on "... Baby One More Time" because her songs have always been about the tease, the caricature of sex. Her wardrobes and performances have always been exaggerated, bearing the same relationship to real life as strippers and comic books. In that respect, she joins a long line of female artists before her. Donna Summer comes to mind in Jacques Lu Cont's "Love to Love You Baby"-like remix of "Breathe on Me," as does Madonna, whose duet with Spears, "Me Against the Music," is included here. However, Madonna never tried to make listeners believe "Papa Don't Preach," "Like a Prayer" or "Vogue" are inherently autobiographical, and Spears can't stop playing with the possibility that she's telling her life story in her songs. The defensiveness in the songs while tabloid-izing her own life makes her seem awfully self-absorbed, which is such a sad way for a cyborg to live.


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