With an episode of 'Glee' and a new album in the works, things are looking up for the pop star

She just had an episode of Glee dedicated to her. She’s got a new album in the works (which the likes of Usher have offered to help out on). And those child-abuse charges have been officially dropped. All in all, things are starting to look up for Britney Spears.

It’s premature to say for sure — it’s been less than three years since the 28-year-old pop star was forced into psychiatric care and had to have a conservator (her dad) appointed — but there are signs of a Britney comeback. Or at least of a carefully choreographed nudge back into public view. ”It’s not a comeback,” insists Larry Rudolph, the manager who discovered Spears as a teen and who still guides her career. ”She’s an iconic artist. She’s like Madonna. She’s here to stay.”

To be fair, Spears hasn’t exactly been hiding out — her Circus tour was the fifth-highest-grossing of 2009. But compared with the days when she shocked the world by canoodling with pythons (and Madonna) on MTV, she’s been keeping a low profile. In fact, her appearance on Glee could be her biggest national exposure since the breakdown in 2008. Rudolph explains her relative absence from the pop culture conversation: ”She just wanted to spend a year getting back to basics, being a mom. But now she’s moving into a new album cycle.”

That new album, arriving as soon as early next year, will introduce a fresh, ”progressive” sound from Spears, according to the star’s other manager, Adam Leber. ”It’ll be a departure from what you’ve heard,” he promises. Of course, there are still spheres of Spears’ life that continue to be works in progress — neither manager would discuss how much longer her father will remain in charge of Spears’ finances. But judging from the past couple of months, it’s pretty clear Britney is gearing up to hit the spotlight one more time.