Brave New Girl, or Same Old Spears?

She wants a good time
No need to rewind
She needs to really really find what she wants
She lands on both feet
Won't take a back seat
There's a brave new girl
And she's comin' out tonight

It's no Fiona Apple or Emily Bronte. But the lyrics to Britney Spears' "Brave New Girl," a song she put out in 2003, years before her life spiraled out of control, may finally be coming true now.

Sure, the headlines have been splashed across the Internet and tabloid magazines before ("Britney's New Act!" "Spears Insider: Brit Back on Track!"), only to be replaced the following week by photos of her crying into a cup of Starbucks and flipping off the paparazzi.

And Spears most recently made the papers by getting snapped last Sunday while smoking cigarettes in front of her two-year-old son, who was trying to play with her pack of Marlboros. But that lapse in parental judgement aside, Spears' behavior in the past few months suggests that, finally, she may really be poised to return to her pop star status of yore.

In March, she made her first high-profile, sans-paparazzi appearance in months, guest starring as a dermatologist's receptionist on CBS' "How I Met Your Mother." While her acting abilities, like her lyrics, aren't going to make it into the annals of cultural history, she proved she could show up to a set and get a job done without incident: A far cry from her disastrous 2007 MTV Video Music Awards performance. She followed it up with a second guest stint on the sitcom in May.

Also in May, Spears was granted more time with Sean Preston and Jayden James, her sons with ex-husband Kevin Federline, and praised by the judge hearing her child custody case for trying to get her personal life back under control. On Friday, she gave up her custody fight, but gained more visiting time with the boys, quite possibly the best play she could've made, according to lawyers.

"This is probably the best solution for the kids," Paul Talbert, family law attorney at Chemtob Moss Forman & Talbert, a Manhattan matrimonial law firm, told last week. "For Britney, it allows her to shrink from the spotlight a little bit -- she doesn't have to go to court every month and endure that circus. That circus can't make it easier for her to stay on the straight and narrow."

Instead of the courthouse, Spears is spending her summer in the recording studio.

"She's working with a team of top-notch producers and songwriters and we're very excited about what she's accomplished so far," her manager, Larry Rudolph, and Jive records said in a statement. "No album release date has been confirmed yet."

And instead of club-hopping, she's hitting the charity circuit. Saturday, Spears attended Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey's fundraiser for Generation Rescue, an organization dedicated to researching autism.

So, is this really a brave new girl in the making? Maybe, if she can manage to leave behind the mess of the past year and a half.

"For her to have a true comeback, it means stripping herself of everything that has come before," said E! online gossip columnist Ted Casablanca. "Take a break from the Britney that we know her as, and try something different. If she did a different kind of a tour, put out a different kind of music, that would be great. But if she comes back from the recording studio with the soft porn 'Gimme More' stuff, I don't see it helping her ultimately in the end. It's diving into the quasi whore-saint stuff that she's done for years."

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