After conjuring up no fewer than five No. 1 hits for Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado in the past eight months, top producer Timbaland may now be turning his attention to a new project: Britney Spears.
The hitmaker tells EW he would like to work with the troubled star, who at press time was enrolled in a 30-day-minimum rehab program at Promises Malibu, an inpatient treatment center in Southern California. ''I feel her pain, it really bothers me,'' says the influential beatsmith, his voice cracking with emotion. ''I'm the type of person who tries to save the world. I just want to take her away, go overseas, and work [it] out.'' And if the pair decide to team up, there could be another unexpected guest. Timbaland reveals to EW that his ''best friend'' and Spears' ex, Justin Timberlake, would be willing to reunite with Britney in the studio. (Representatives for Spears' and Timberlake's label, Jive, could not be reached for comment.) Says Timbaland: ''I asked Justin, 'How would you feel about me working with Britney?' I had to ask him that. I said, 'Would you do it with me?''' According to Timbaland, the singer said he would. ''She's just gotta be serious.''
And if she were, the payoff could be enormous: The pop-titan trifecta would be Top 40 catnip and a massive boost for Spears, whose career has been all but dormant since she released her last disc of new material, In the Zone, in 2003.
Last year, Spears began working on a fifth studio album with an all-star team that included R&B singer-songwriter Ne-Yo (Beyoncé's ''Irreplaceable''), Dr. Luke (Kelly Clarkson's ''Since U Been Gone''), Sean Garrett (Usher's ''Yeah!''), Swedish producer Max Martin (''...Baby One More Time''), and Pharrell (''I'm a Slave 4 U''). Jive says the disc is about halfway done; an insider says it could be a year before the album is completed.
However long it takes, Timbaland is standing by. ''I just want to hold her hand. I want her to be in my camp, to be around Justin. I need Justin to talk to her. Help her, please!'' (Additional reporting by Ethan Brown, Shirley Halperin, and Simon Vozick-Levinson)