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Britney Spears' 'Hold It Against Me': A comeback single?

Spears' new song has fans hoping the erstwhile pop princess is back in top form, but some critics are dismayed by the song's muddled grooves

The audio: Since Britney Spears' public meltdown in early 2008, fans have been asking if the rehabbed star could record another album on par with career highs such as Oops! I Did It Again (2000) or In the Zone (2003). Critics are asking the same question as Spears drops "Hold It Against Me," the first single from a new album scheduled for a March release. (Listen to a clip, below.) Does the song "[reaffirm] Spears as a genuine pop star, and one of the artists who laid the foundations for the likes of Katy Perry and Lady Gaga" as one blogger suggests? The reaction: While I'd love to say that Britney's new single is in the same league as classic hits like "Hit Me Baby" and "Oops," says Willa Paskin in New York, I can't. Its flaws include "a mess of a spoken-word bridge that sounds like dozens of effects, including Spears' voice, have been thrown into the Cuisinart." Producers Dr. Luke and Max Martin may be selling their "higher-quality stuff" to younger pop stars like Katy Perry, while throwing Britney their mediocre scraps. It starts well, says Michael Cragg in The Guardian, then "has a meltdown around the two-minute mark... " Say what you like, says Brad Wete in Entertainment Weekly , the song "is classic Britney — that is to say the vocal performance is far from stellar, but it serves as a nice accessory to the duo's thumping Euro techno groove." Listen for yourself:

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