With nearly two decades of experience under her belt, Britney Spears is one of the world’s biggest popstars and easily one of the most scrutinised. With sales of over 30 million for her 1999 debut album …Baby One More Time alone, the critics wait with baited breath to rip Spears down with every album release. With her personal issues firmly behind her, Spears is in a good place in her career with a critically-acclaimed (and huge-selling) residency at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Technically it wouldn’t matter if she didn’t release any new material ever again; she’s made her money and more than proven her worth as a popstar.
In 2013 Spears released her eighth studio album Britney Jean and the response was surprisingly muted. After promising her most personal album yet, it was a surprise when the album arrived and Spears sounded completely detached from the mostly uptempo club numbers than producer will.i.am had crafted with her. The fact that the lead single was Work Bitch suggested that there wasn’t going to be much personal about the record. Britney Jean is the worst performing album of Spears’ career and many were quick to say things were over for her.
Three years on from that misstep, Spears is back with her ninth studio album Glory and there’s quite the buzz around the project. Lead single Make Me… featuring G-Eazy is the star’s biggest hit in the US since Work Bitch and for the first time in recent memories, the critics have actually been praising Spears for her music. Personally I’m not a fan of Make Me…. It’s not the banger I’d expect from Spears and I think it lacks the hook that makes her best songs pop. That having been said the release of tracks Private Show, Clumsy and Do You Want To Come Over had me intrigued. Is Glory a return to form?
In short, yes it is. Spears hasn’t sounded this engaged with her music since 2008’s Circus. Whereas Britney Jean could have been performed mostly by a robot, Spears actually uses her voice in new and interesting ways throughout Glory giving us plenty of emotion and feeling. Sonically the album is her most musically adventurous since 2007’s Blackout, arguably the best record Spears has put out in her career to date. Glory isn’t as high-energy as previous releases but that’s what makes it all the more interesting.
Opening track Invitation is a dreamy mix of layered vocals, whispered pleas and beautiful melodies. It eases you in to the record and it grabs you by being completely unlike anything Spears has done before. It’s sure to catch many people off guard and it does its job of hooking you in to the rest of the record. In the context of the full record Make Me… actually makes a lot of sense but I still wouldn’t have led an album with that single.
Private Show is an early highlight with its off-kilter beats and Spears giving one of her most passionate vocals to date. She swoops and soars showing off textures to her voice we haven’t heard before with power that impresses and surprises in equal measure. The track is much more indicative of what Glory’s all about than Make Me… Elsewhere on the record Just Luv Me is the kind of low-key R&B jam that Cheryl would kill for, Slumber Party mixes a light reggae beat with a whispery vocal, and Just Like Me catches you off-guard by starting as an acoustic mid-tempo number putting Spears’ vocals in the foreground.
Proving she still has tricks up her sleeves nine albums in, Spears delivers one of her best tracks yet on the powerful What You Need. Taking inspiration from Motown and most likely Tina Turner, Spears gives a vocal of the kind we’ve never heard before. She sounds empowered, passionate and powerful and it’s kind of thrilling to hear.
Other surprises on the record include the Latin-tinged Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortes), the return of Britishney (as fans like to call her) on If I’m Dancing (which really should be called If I’m Dahhhncing), and closing track Coupure Electrique where Spears sings about sex in French. The closest you get to a good old-fashioned Britney banger is on Do You Wanna Come Over?, a song that sounds like about three songs mixed into one, but packs a hell of a beat that begs you to turn it up as loud as you possibly can.
It’s safe to say that Glory is a massive, and very welcome, surprise. It’s everything Britney Jean wasn’t and it’s Spears’ best record in nearly a decade. Her critics are quick to accuse her of not really wanting to be in the spotlight any more and lacking a passion for her music but Glory contradicts that. With this record Spears takes control of her career and has recorded some of the best music of her career. Now if she can schedule a world tour around that pesky Vegas residency, her return to biggest popstar in the world status is back within reach.
Track Listing: 1. Invitation 2. Make Me… (feat G-Eazy) 3. Private Show 4. Man On The Moon 5. Just Luv Me 6. Clumsy 7. Do You Wanna Come Over? 8. Slumber Party 9. Just Like Me 10. Love Me Down 11. Hard To Forget Ya 12. What You Need 13. Better 14. Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortes) 15. Liar 16. If I’m Dancing 17. Coupure Electrique Record Label: RCA Release Date: 26th August 2016