Album Review: Britney Spears makes a glorious return with ‘Glory’

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Britney Spears doesn’t like the idea of her making a comeback. She said as much on ‘For the Record’, the 2008 MTV documentary that served as a vehicle for her first supposed comeback, Circus. At the time, she was right to deny that era as a comeback because, artistically, what was she supposed to be coming back from? Blackout? The album that many critics and fans were calling her greatest album? Britney’s personal troubles in 2007 were unavoidable in light of its magnitude and almost stole the spotlight from the fine work she had been creating. Circus was not a comeback but merely a reminder that even with her personal life falling apart, she is still capable of creating great, if not excellent albums, still very much capable of coming back with hits.

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Her 9th studio album Glory is a true comeback. She can deny it all she wants (she so far hasn’t because she really has no reason to) but it is a triumphant return from Britney Jean, an album that tarnished an otherwise stellar discography. Maybe it’s just me, but to this day I still think of her discography as great – not perfect (except In the Zone), sometimes derivative (when it was released, ‘Oops I Did it Again’ had the gall to deceive everyone into thinking it’s anything other than a reworked  ‘Baby… One More Time’ with negligible key changes), but always radiating pure joy and good, sexy times.

On some of her recent interviews and promos, Britney has been swearing off men, but on this 9th glorious record, she makes invitation to guys and remains perfectly capable of pulling off a seductress persona. In real life, she’s living a perfectly unsexy existence (because class dictates you don’t post pictures of your sexy time on social media and it is a lesson she learned the hard way), but, truthfully, we can never really know the real Britney Jean.

She has also been swearing off marriage. Throughout the album, she sticks to her true feelings about how romantic entanglements should strictly be, ie, filed under flings, quickies, romps only. Occasionally we get glimpses of vulnerability in tracks like “Just Luv Me” which is reminiscent of early chill out tracks like ‘Out from Under’ from Circus and it’s a fitting nod and a good reminder of what she can do with a proper downtempo production.

Quenching thirst is her forte and from the first track, she sets the stage for her thirst’s satiation. “Invitation” is lush and gorgeous and makes great use of Britney’s effortlessly airy vocals that go so well with producers Monson & Mischke’s light beats. It provides the perfect segue for first single ‘”Make Me,” which for a Britney Spears first single is an unbombastic entrance into the pop scene. “Make Me” is a slow burning track that raptures into a melodic chorus with Britney doing some of the most demanding vocal work for a first single. It is a slow burn that erupts in flames soon enough. All that fire is doused by the unnecessary rap verse, but that’s cool.

“Private Show” momentarily interrupts the calm and makes way for wacky Britney. In it, she sings of twerking on a pole and does not for a second scrimp on the silliness. She’s always been adept at appropriating her producers’ sounds and in this wacky track, she sure does “work it, work it” and those who gave in to her early invitation would have already been too involved to turn away. This private show is rowdy, ridiculous and riveting.

“Do You Want to Come Over” pulsates with sexual energy backed by guitar licks whose presence are as essential as those violins and bhangra elements in ‘Toxic’. When she sing-talks the line ‘Do you want to come over?’ it sounds like it’s coming from someone who is legitimately thirsty – one of many sides to Brit-brit that we can relate to. We know she’s just playing temptress but she pulls it off grandly anyway. After all, she learned from the best. This sublime track is co-written and produced by Swedish duo Mattman & Robin, who also co-wrote and co-produced Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Run Away With Me” and other tracks off the gravely overlooked album, the excellent Emotion, one of 2015’s greatest which, sadly, fell victim to pop listeners’ misguided attention.

Co-written by Britney, “What You Need” is just fantastic. It sounds like something she would perform on a dare on a night out with friends. It’s the kind of song in a musical where the downtrodden musical genius is provoked into showcasing her mad skills by hopping on stage after beeing mocked for so long. The joyful band then joins her, then the backup singers in a triumphant performance, after which she nonchalantly declares, ‘That was fun’, which is subtext for ‘I showed those bitches’.

Maybe on album #10 we will look back on one of Glory’s best tracks as actually underwhelming and just okay because we sometimes couldn’t help but fall into the trap of being condescending toward Britney’s ability to sing (she can really sing), but for now, we can bask in the glory of her most impressive vocal work to date.

There have so far been no pronouncements of ‘most personal album’ on Glory from Britney herself as to its overall vibe, but it may as well be (and honestly, if it has to take a Britney Jean to tell us who the real Britney us, then by all means feel free to give us just a tiny piece of you, Brit!).

The most severe criticism of Britney Spears albums is their lack of personality. That and her lip-syncing, which may be valid criticims but which are also tired and lazy. On Britney Jean, we were tricked into thinking it’s going to be a confessions-fest, on how hard it is to be a single mom of two who has to do grocery shopping while at the same time fulfill obligations to make or record relevant-sounding singles. We didn’t get confessions; we got will.i.am abominations. She tried it and it wasn’t well received, so now she’s just being herself – a cool chick who invites (hot) guys over. Glory is probably the best showcase of who Britney is and for a pop star who has given us so much, it is more than enough.

Grade:

95/97

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