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Britney Spears - In The Zone (DVD/CD)

BMG Video // Unrated // April 6, 2004
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted April 8, 2004 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Watching "In the Zone" was a rather interesting experience. I've never particularly cared for the music of Britney Spears, yet have covered her DVD releases in the past for this site due to the almost extraordinary amount of people who read the first review I did of one of her titles. Watching "In the Zone" was interesting, partially because of aspects of the performance and partially for the experience of watching it at this point in the evolution of music.

While I certainly don't deny that there are still plenty of teen pop fans out there (witness the Britney impersonator on a recent episode of MTV's horrifying "I Want a Famous Face" who, with disturbing determination, got plastic surgery to look more like the pop princess.) or go too deeply against the music (anyone who enjoys making music or enjoys a certain genre of music has the right to enjoy making or listening to it), one still sees the landscape of music changing. Witness the welcome success of songwriter/singer Norah Jones, whose "Feels Like Home" recently sold one million albums in the first week of release.

Teen pop has enjoyed a reign atop radio charts in the recent past, but there's been a few heading elsewhere before the foundations of the genre start to crack - Mandy Moore has shown her acting skills and made a record that was entirely covers of classic rock and folk tunes. Jessica Simpson has become America's most famous housewife, while still maintaining an acting and music career (although her upcoming skit show on ABC with husband Nick Lachey looks like the moment that she'll "jump the shark", as they say).

Britney Spears has evolved, but I can't say that I've ever felt that she's taken risks. Her look has changed into something more mature and the music has slightly been altered for the times, but what may have seemed risky in the past now seems pre-planned for the utmost airplay. Don't get me wrong, I find it catchy, but it's similar at the core and whether it makes a lasting impression is questionable. The question of whether her young audience will follow her along for the ride seemed to be answered by the lukewarm response to "In the Zone", her latest CD. The theory presented by Spears on the documentary is that her fans still see her as early, "Sometimes"-era Spears. When a reporter asks her if she thinks her fans are happy with her change of image, the singer responds with, "I don't know, you tell me."

This concert affair/documentary was originally broadcast on ABC and, refreshingly, presents Britney in a small venue performing with her dancers. After the over-the-top "Las Vegas" show, which saw Spears valiantly trying to keep from being overshadowed by the overly busy show, I thought Spears may benefit from a greater focus on the music and performance. Mostly, I was right. Spears and her dancers put together a show that offers respectable - if not dazzling or particularly inventive - choreography and rather high energy performances of some of the singer's past hits and tunes from "In the Zone".

What ruins the pace of the show are the in-betweens - interviews and behind-the-scenes meant to show off different aspects of Britney's music and personality, as well as focus on some recent events (the Britney/Madonna kiss). These segments are geared clearly towards promoting the album and, while they achieve that goal, they break up the momentum of the concert terribly. The performance is otherwise fine, aside from a disasterous, lounge-y version of "Baby...One More Time" whose perfect ending would've been to have a reaction from "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell.

The new DVD of Spears is another one of the fine efforts for her fans that seem to throw everything that's around on the platter. Aside from the main ABC concert show, the DVD also offers the "Toxic" (which appears to be a full version, as I don't remember the shot of the two girls sitting in the window as Britney rides by on the motorcycle when I've seen the video on MTV) and "Me Against the Music" videos, as well as MTV's "Making the Video" for "Toxic" (which shows silly Britney, who always seems to fight against the image of edgy Britney). There's also an MTV performance of "Me Against the Music" and "(I Got That) Boom Boom". There's also a photo gallery and additional interview. Total running time is 95 minutes.


VIDEO: The presentation is offered in 1.33:1 full-frame (aside from the "Me Against the Music" video, which is letterboxed). Picture quality is very good, as sharpness and detail looked quite strong - even moreso in the two videos, which appeared slightly more well-defined than when they've been broadcast on MTV. No edge enhancement or compression artifacts were spotted, and colors appeared strong and nicely saturated.

SOUND: All of the singer's prior DVD presentations have been remixed for Dolby Digital 5.1. While these repurposed sound mixes have been a little gimmicky at times, they were largely fun and exciting new ways to enjoy songs that were suited for a big, wild sound design. Unfortunately, "In the Zone" only offers the program with 2.0 audio. While reasonably enveloping when played back in Pro Logic II, I can't say that I don't miss the zippy 5.1 presentations of the former DVDs. Audio quality was generally quite good, with strong clarity and pleasing dynamic range.

EXTRAS: An exclusive 4-track CD ("The Answer", "Don't Hang Up" and remixes of "Toxic" and "Me Against the Music") is also included. I've heard a couple of remixes of Spears songs before and, once again, I think the remixes here are considerably more interesting and atmospheric than the album versions.

Final Thoughts: "In the Zone" is an interesting look at the Britney Spears phenomenon, but I think things are reaching a point with the singer's career where she needs to make a stronger change to try and pull in new listeners, show her fans something more drastically new and finally, keep up with increasing competition and changes in the world of music. "In the Zone" does disappoint somewhat with the audio, but the video quality is good. Recommended for fans.

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