Britney Spears's new album arrives with an awful lot of baggage. Does her infamous smooch with Madonna mean that she's dropped the virginal schoolgirl act in favour of a raunchier image? The answer is: yes, and then some - if these steamy, panting songs were any more sexually suggestive they could pass for the soundtrack to a Dutch porn movie. Happily, Britney's new-found streak of exhibitionism hasn't affected her ability to wrap her pristine vocals around some infuriatingly catchy pop hooks. In The Zone shows her ability to adapt to a dazzling array of styles, from southern hip-hop to Neptunes-style R'n'B. And with collaborators such as Moby, R. Kelly and Cathy Dennis on board, this is the sort of high-quality production that Madonna herself would kill for these days. Mrs Ritchie, incidentally, turns up on the awkward duet 'Me Against The Music' - ironically one of the very few weak tracks here. In the zone? This is a bona fide touchdown - and a sure sign that Britney is set to stay on top of the pop game for some time yet.