Against all odds, Britney Spears is back and better than ever. After her uninspired and generic last album Britney Jean scraped in career-low sales, critics predicted the beginning of the end for the pop princess, whose flat offering signaled a dangerous decline into irrelevance, desperation and even a loss of passion for her craft. However, three years later Britney has once again proved her staying power with Glory, a fresh, well-produced, even at times beautiful, monster-sized album of 17 tracks. Albeit stubbornly impersonal and flawed, Glory embraces current musical trends of EDM while also maintaining Spears’ distinct sound.
Glory’s tracks mostly fall into two categories: downtempo EDM and radio-friendly dance-pop. The album enjoys a polished ambiance thanks to its many talented producers who have worked with industry giants such as Kanye West and Justin Bieber. Dreamy songs like “If I’m Dancing” and the minimalistic “Just Luv Me” ride today’s club music wave and thrum with echoes and whispers. Listeners looking for more energized material will enjoy dance-pop offerings such as “Better.” Bangers like “Liar” and “What You Need,” also effectively make use of traditional instrumentals like strings, brass and harmonica.
Many of Glory’s tracks also display a willingness to experiment; “Man on the Moon” uses a marimba sound to great effect, “Just Like Me” contains acoustic guitar and “Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortes)” and “Coupure Électrique” dabble in foreign languages. These offerings mostly work thanks to Glory’s producers, who ensure that the album’s more unusual choices are inspired and well-integrated. Overall, Glory runs the gambit from mesmerizing jams to radio-friendly bangers and succeeds with a dash of experimentalism, successfully embodying the album’s goal to be acutely aware of trends while not being confined by them.
This does not mean, however, that Glory does not suffer from some of the same problems that plagued Britney Jean. At times, the album embodies the generic sound that reeks of a single-minded desire for radio play, particularly on the uninspired “Love Me Down.” For all of Glory’s mostly stellar production, there are also several missteps in songs like “Clumsy,” “Do You Wanna Come Over?” and “Hard to Forget Ya,” which overwhelm the listener with a cacophony of sound and layer so many effects on Britney’s voice that it is unrecognizable.
In terms of vocals, Glory is also mixed. Britney has never exactly been a vocal powerhouse. Her trademark crooning warble is immediately recognizable but has a rather limited range. Her vocal shortcomings are painfully apparent when she tackles EDM, a genre which often requires stronger singers are overwhelmed by powerful, soaring instrumentals — just look at Sia’s vocals on “Titanium.” Britney’s limited range is especially conspicuous on the track “Invitation,” in which the producers attempt to make up for her limited range but instead render her voice unrecognizable. However, on a brighter note, the singer’s delivery throughout Glory sounds more invested than it has in years, which partially makes up for her vocal shortcomings.
The most disappointing deficiency of Glory, however, is its stubborn insistence on being impersonal. For all of Britney Jean’s flaws, it was also a promising attempt at making Britney’s songs more intimate — she gave the listener a window into her struggles and had a hand in writing every song. In Glory, Britney is credited as a writer in less than half of the tracks, and it clearly shows. Nearly all of the songs portray her as a one-dimensional sexpot with three modes: pursuing sex, discussing sex or actively having sex. In “Make Me…” the chorus consists almost entirely of sex moans. Glory may represent a promising new musical direction for Britney’s career, but her persona is disappointingly stagnant. Songs like “Slumber Party” and “Private Show” simply present her as a sexually aggressive caricature. Glory fails to match its uniqueness of sound with a corresponding effort placed into its lyrics, and it is a real missed opportunity.
Overall, Glory is a fresh, fun and well-produced album that reflects a return to form for Britney. She has a great team behind her, a knack for being both trendy and experimental and a mature new sound. In terms of musical style, Glory promises to make Britney relevant again and put her career back in gear. Her album let listeners learn more about the person behind all of the hits and comebacks, a good reason why this icon who keeps dusting herself off and getting back in the business. Welcome back, Britney — Let the princess reclaim her throne.