Mature palette of melodies and sounds gives Britney the update she desperately needs
2013’s Britney Jean wasn’t entirely a washout, but it was far from the watershed moment that Britney Spears needed at that point in time. Now a beleaguered pop star climbing into the elder phase of a pop star’s timeline, the 34-year old diva, who once dominated the ’90’s and early 2000s with a razzle-dazzle of instantly-digestible pop smashes, needed a breakthrough moment in order to heal from her gloomy meltdown period. After a lucrative stint in Vegas on her Pieces of Me , proving that younger stars can reign in Sin City, Spears seems to be well on her way to total recovery.
Glory, Spears’ ninth studio album, may be all the doctor ordered. It presents Spears in a believable grown-up context, tacking sexy from a vantage point coded with strong melodies, sharper lyrics and less-irritant beats. Gone are the overdone synthpop rhythms that screamed and shouted at every turn of Spears’ chosen singles. In its place are magical midtempo gems that allow her to breathe and pace like a matured songstress. Certainly her queasy, nasally-focused vocals are an ill fit in the world of proper singing, but its become her signature sound. It’s still irritating, but those pains are numbed with surrounding backing vocals, airy chants and cozier productions. On the opening “Invitation,” she decides to dress up like a Jhené Aiko using breathy bedroom soft talk. The performance leaves a taste of irony on the tongue for being a slow grower, a ballad, something treasonous on past Spears’ albums, but it avoids the fall into sleepy mode. The G-Eazy-guested “Make Me” follows in similar footsteps, but plants her in an exotic realm of Rihanna-on-Aaliyah bliss. The rest of the album surprises by dropping creative soul and cross-genre patterns on her. The pleasantly performed “Private Show” squeezes finger-snapping old-school R&B onto naughty VIP lounge morse code (“Work it, work it/boy watch me work it/slide down my pole, watch me spin it and twerk it”). “Man on the Moon” is also rewarding, especially after the tepid first sixty seconds transpires. The tropic beats and warm melodies settles in, bringing the album the much-needed moment of aspiration. The album’s good parts continue with the Mattman & Robin-produced, disco-sparkled, Justin Timberlake-sounding “Do You Wanna Come Over?,” the horn-anchored, Duffy-inspired “What You Need” and the faux-“Hotline Bling” sounds of “Slumber Party.”
The older Spears is still a little sloppy and sluggish
when tackling urban-inspired choreography on stage
, but that’s a narrative that should be entertained in a separate analysis. On this disc, Spears sounds confident and swagger revived. Let it be said that the album isn’t perfect. “Clumsy” is more of a B-side that would’ve snuggled better on dexterous voices like Christina Aguilera. She easily irritates the ear on the derivative “Love Me Down,” a song that plainly rips from Selena Gomez’s “Hands to Myself.” But even then, she still come across as a veteran of champagne pop, and not like an injured swimmer drowning in a pool of accidents. Thanks to a new set of producers (Nick Monson, Mischke, Jason Evigan, Mattman & Robin) hungry for Spears to triumph, Glory
is clearly a pivotal moment, good enough to put the forgettable Britney Jean and the sidesteps of Femme Fatale