Britney Spears, Blackout (Jive) ****; Jennifer Lopez, Brave (Epic) ****

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IN RESPONSE to Cher's famous taunt to Ms Spears, Britney snaps back "It's Britney, Bitch", before launching in to Gimme More.

Astonishingly, the lead track on Blackout is unquestionably one of the best crafted singles of the decade. Spears had all but been written off as a spent force, a case study of wasted talent and a bad mother to boot. Yet Kylie and Leona Lewis are probably viewing the track with envy.

Artistically, the likes of Michael Jackson never recovered after facing the onslaught of public condemnation. Who would have given odds on Britney delivering the goods? Actually, Piece Of Me and Freakshow echo Jackson's ill-fated Invincible comeback LP, certainly lyrically, whereby Britney begs for privacy and to live on Walton's Mountain.

Although her requests come over as shallow and insincere, the sheer polish and verve of Blackout at least signifies a return to form from one of pop's favourite princesses.

Now if only Britney could sort out her home life, all would be right in her world.

Like Britney, Jennifer Lopez is also more famous for her domestic arrangements, rather than her works. However, Lopez stunned many last year with her Spanish language Como Ama una Mujer, which at last proved that she is a major musical force.

So far into her career, Lopez is at last making great records. Her voice now has greater depth and is infused with Latin passion, which frankly was missing on her earlier records. Her material is also far stronger. The likes of Stay Together, Do It Well, and the infectious Hold It Don't Drop It, featuring a sample from Tavares' It Only Takes A Minute are classy pop workouts.

Musically, J-Lo's album is far superior to Spears'. And basically Lopez does not need the studio technical enhancement of her rival. But ultimately Britney's album is the most interesting of the two, purely because Britney has achieved the unthinkable and delivered a decent album.

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