Release Date: Aug 26, 2016
Record label: RCA
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The soft commercial performance of 2013's Britney Jean made it clear that it was time for Britney Spears to shake up her recording career -- a move made somewhat less urgent due to the success of Britney: Piece of Me, the residency show she launched at Las Vegas' Planet Hollywood a few months after the release of Britney Jean. Sin City's influence can be heard within the splashiness of the arrangements of certain portions of Glory, the 2016 album designed to be Britney's return to the Top 40. To that end, Glory downplays the show biz glitz of Vegas in favor of modern dance-pop, one with EDM undercurrents and hip-hop overtones.
It is interesting to go back and look at Britney Spears’s infamous VMA performance ten years after the spiteful media lynching she suffered in the mid-noughties. Based on memory alone, it’s tempting to chalk the whole thing up to the bloodthirsty misogyny of a press cycle that loves to build women up only to tear them down – and of course, that’s basically what it was. But that ill-fated rendition of ‘Gimme More’ reminds us that the hysteria was based on more than Britney’s unremarkable decision to shave her head.
Critics have an arguably well-earned reputation for taking gleeful, adjective-laden delight in trashing something they don't like. For some of us, though, there's nothing more satisfying than an artist who forces us to recalibrate our expectations. Britney Spears's last album, Britney Jean, was a misguided hodgepodge of styles that tried to marry garish EDM, which had successfully rebooted her career, with an attempt at more introspective singer-songwriter pop, while her most recent singles, “Pretty Girls” and “Make Me…” (featuring white rappers Iggy Azalea and G-Eazy, respectively), found the singer foolishly planting her flag in a gentrified urban market.
If there's one moment that sums up the fantastic new Britney Spears album – Glory, she calls it—it's "Clumsy," which dropped as a teaser single a few weeks ago. It's a minimal electro-throb from Pop & Oak's Warren Felder (with Alex Nice and Mischke), lavished with digital hand-claps and Britney's robot-perv moans. The tension builds until Britney gulps "ooops!" and a wall of in-the-red synth fuzz slams down – the noise a needy party girl hears in her head when she suddenly realizes she's felt too much, asked for too much, been too much.
“That was fun,” murmurs Britney Spears at the end of What You Need, the final track on the ‘standard edition’ of what is, believe it or not, her ninth studio album, Glory. And fun is something that seems to have been lacking from Britney’s life of late – the most recent of Spears’ output seems to have been defined by a certain dead-eyed listlessness and lack of energy. Sometimes, as on Blackout, this held a strange kind of fascination, but mostly, as demonstrated by her last album Britney Jean, the effect soon became somewhat depressing.
"All I need is your love and a little bit of patience" Britney Spears purrs on the woozy banger Just Luv Me, five songs into one of her most ambitious records yet. Indeed, the lyric accurately embodies the attitude Spears has been asking of her listeners ever since her personal troubles imploded in 2007. Comebacks notwithstanding, she has never been the same since.
Even at her lowest personal ebb, Britney Spears – the ultimate modern-day pop star – always let her gold-plated singles do the talking. All that changed, however, on 2013’s lacklustre Britney Jean, an album so devoid of personality it was practically vapour. Thankfully its follow-up feels much more engaged. From the sultry come-ons of Make Me, Invitation and the excellent Just Luv Me, to the downright odd electronic closer Coupure Électrique, sung entirely in French, it feels anchored by Spears rather than something happening around her.
“Here’s my invitation, baby / Come feel my energy,” Britney Spears purrs to open her new album, “Glory,” and what a welcome offer that is. Throughout the 2000s, no one made better — or weirder — pop records than Spears, who achieved instant superstardom in 1999 with “…Baby One More Time,” then spent the next decade slowly imploding as the celebrity-industrial complex closed in around her. This is a modal window.
Britney Spears’s career trajectory has probably kept various journalistic enterprises afloat over the past 18 years. From the raised eyebrows that accompanied her schoolgirl-gone-bad outfit in the “. . .Baby One More Time” video to her 55-hour marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander in 2004, the messy breakdown she suffered in public during the late 2000s, and the still-active conservatorship that followed, Spears has spawned exclamation-point-emblazoned tabloid coverlines and breathless blog posts.
It’s hard not to root for Britney Spears, a woman who became one of her generation’s biggest pop stars as a teen, suffered a very public meltdown a decade ago, then relaunched her career with a glitzy Las Vegas residency that’s now in its fourth year. Yet not since 2007’s forward- thinking ‘Blackout’, which ironically came out as her personal life was crumbling, has she released a truly essential pop album.‘Glory’ is no masterpiece, but it’s a marked improvement on 2013’s ‘Britney Jean’, a messy attempt to merge thumping EDM tunes with supposedly reflective midtempo songs. A major contributing factor is Spears herself, who sounds re-energised and fully present for the first time in years.
Britney Spears strives mightily to be one-dimensional on “Glory,” her ninth studio album. But Ms. Spears has plenty of back story; she’s a 34-year-old working mother, the headliner in her own Las Vegas spectacle and a performer who has weathered teenage fame, backlash, public meltdowns and wave after wave of tabloid headlines. “Glory,” her first album since 2013, is her latest attempt to reclaim her place on the pop charts, which are now crowded with younger performers who have studied her the way Ms.
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