B in the Mix: The Remixes

by: Britney Spears

Released Thanksgiving week 2005, B in the Mix: The Remixes feels like a piece of hastily assembled product. There are no photos of Spears anywhere on the CD, the artwork seems thrown together and, most of all, there doesn't seem to be any reason for it to exist other than she needs to have a new album for the holiday season. It's been two years since her last proper album, 2003's In the Zone, the longest time she's spent between studio records, and it's been a year since her greatest album, and while Spears has certainly not been missing from the spotlight -- in 2005, she had a horrific reality series documenting the courtship between her and aspiring rapper Kevin Federline, plus she had a kid -- she had not been active musically for a long time. Unfortunately, the patched-together B in the Mix doesn't exactly erase the impression that Spears isn't in tune with her recording career. Her original vocal tracks -- mostly from In the Zone, but a couple of other big hits like "I'm a Slave 4 U," "...Baby One More Time," and "Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know" have been included in this 11-track package, after being handed over to a variety of producers, including Justice, Junkie XL, Jason Nevins, Peter Rauhofer, and Hex Hector, for rejiggering. They wind up with a record that comes closer to what In the Zone wanted to be -- a sleek, sexy, nocturnal club album -- but still it's just short of successful. This is partially because none of these tracks really lead anywhere, but also because these remixes point out that Spears' voice is really too thin to exist without all the trappings of a glossy pop mix. When she's married to dance mixes, her flaws stand out just a bit too much, particularly in a case like "Toxic," where the instrumental hooks have been removed from the record, leaving Spears to carry the day -- which she can't really do. There are enough cuts here that work to make this an enjoyable listen, at least as background music (also, if it's in the background, the mediocre cuts aren't quite as noticeable), but overall this album sounds and feels like what it really is: a piece of product. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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