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Britney Spears' '3': Odd lyrics, but a production seduction

September 29, 2009 | 12:37 pm


The latest addition to the Britney Spears empire was unveiled this morning: a new cut in "3" that hit on all the hallmarks that have made the Britney brand strong for much of the last decade. Swedish producer Max Martin was behind the boards, the man who helped Britney craft such synthy-dance hits as "...Baby One More Time" and, more recently, "If U Seek Amy."

And the message? The song stays close to the Spears playbook of sex and more sex, deflecting all attention away from her  myriad controversies to put the focus squarely on the come-on. "Living in sin is the new thing," Spears coos in the lyrics, but the topic is old news for her.

The song is slick, but it's cold, and therefore in line with Spears' recent trek around the globe. Her Circus comeback tour was an elaborate stage get-up, one to prove that the franchise is alive and well, if alive and well is judged solely by dollar signs. Gymnasts, magicians and clowns put on a massively designed three-ring show, all while Spears shredded one glitter-soaked midriff-exposing outfit for another.

Yet there was little attachment to the song, zero interaction with the audience, and skin stood in for emotion -- or even talent. Like "Blackout" and "Circus," "3" is a study in production; give Spears' team credit for  elevating the song above typical dance products.

Her vocals stick close to snyths, and as the song builds, it becomes near impossible to tell the two apart. In a gambit that's worked for Spears before, she sounds sweetly generic. "What we do is innocent / Just for fun," she sings, even if she means anything but in what is a rather angelic-sounding bridge.

It's the emotionless striptease as pop song, complete with studio-perfected sexual moans, that may or may not stand in for an R-rated word, and a clever digital down-tune into an eager, count-along chorus. The cut's biggest oddity is the lyrics that reference folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, as if they were some sort of acoustic ménage à trois.

But ultimately, it's less a single than a distraction, a perfectly capable club song that stands as a marketing device, one designed to help sell Spears' upcoming hits set, "The Singles Collection" (Nov. 24). It's been only five years and two albums since Jive last released a Spears hits package, and "3" exists solely as a way to resell material fans probably already own, comfortably standing alongside her recent hits.

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Elena Blednykh / Getty Images