What is the secret to success in today’s pop landscape? Reinvention, reinvention, reinvention. Taylor Swift morphed from the sweet and innocent country singer to the ex-boyfriend slaying pop behemoth, with possibly the biggest host of celebrity friends ever assembled, that we know today. Rihanna recently made the switch from EDM vocal powerhouse to nuanced, slick and modern R&B. With the likes of these two and Katy Perry ruling the roost, is there room for the original noughties popstar herself, Britney Spears, to make a worthwhile comeback?
Ms Spears has obviously moved with the times since she first appeared on our screens in a school uniform. But, barring that one particular reinvention which was a publicist’s nightmare to say the least, what we need from Britney is something very new, musically. Her last album, 2013’s Britney Jean, was her lowest charting and lowest selling album to date. Step forward, Glory, her ninth studio album. Some would say this album has no right to be good, and that the former Mickey Mouse Club star should take her place at the popstar graveyard, with all the individuals chewed up and spat out by Simon Cowell. Those cynics, however, will have to eat their words; Glory is a fantastic album, from beginning to end.
Invitation opens proceedings with a Taylor Swift styled track; its breathy vocals and processed samples of Spears' voice making up the music. Make Me continues with the futurist R&B, its spacious trap beat, and ambient pad sounds. You may not have thought Britney could pull of this kind of music, but she can – very well indeed; and featured rapper G-Eazy’s lyric, 'staring at you ‘til I’m caught in this / back and forth like this was all tennis' also deserves a big high-five.
Private Show is the first really fun track, and it goes without saying that the last thing a Britney Spears album needs is to be bogged down by seriousness. It’s a song that doesn’t bother to hide the very strong Rihanna influence, as Britney imitates the Barbadian’s trademark sung and rapped vocals. Although you may wince slightly at the Carribean inflection that touches her voice in the chorus (particularly when she sings 'work it', for obvious reasons). Nor will the lyrics, 'work it, work it / boy watch me work it / slide down my pole, watch me spin it and twerk it' catch the attentions of the Nobel Peace Prize judges. But like I said, it’s a fun Britney Spears track, so who cares?
Just Luv Me contains a brilliantly infectious chorus, and you begin to reflect on the quality of writing on this album. Of course, with any project like this comes a small army of producers and writers, although it’s worth noting that Britney is listed as a contributor on the majority of the songs.
Do You Wanna Come Over? is a huge highlight, a sure-fire dancefloor hit, but also a bold and brave track, led by chromatic chords on an acoustic guitar; and Slumber Party is another song that salutes all things sex, complete with its dub chorus and very Rihanna-esque vocal performance.
Love Me Down is the most heavily trap-infused track to be found, but Britney takes to the style seamlessly, and it will have you nodding your head with an ear to ear screwface. Final song, What You Need, makes a U-turn with a big dose of electro swing – not the album’s strongest offering, but it’s fitting that Glory finishes on a playful note. After the song ends, Britney says. 'that was fun!' You’re not wrong, Britney; listening to the album really, really was.
Hopefully with Glory, Britney will do the impossible, and make it into her mid-30s, still selling lots of pop records, because here is an album that fully deserves the glory its title purports to. And this goes way beyond whether or not Britney is still able to deliver – with Taylor Swift, Carly-Rae Jepsen, and Justin Bieber also all releasing genuinely brilliant albums in recent times, we have entered a new golden age of pop music, and long may it last.
Review by Adam Protz