It’s been nearly 20 years since “…Baby One More Time” began its ubiquitous rotation on pop radio and music television. That seems like a really long time ago. Probably because 20 years is a really long time.
A lot has happened in the years intervening. For a while there, it seemed that most of the things that were happening in the world were happening directly to Britney Spears. Following her remarkable rough patch, it has seemed that whenever Britney is brought into the conversation, it’s presented with the kind of hushed tones that one reserves for someone returning to work after a terrible injury or personal tragedy. Even the Apple Music notes on her new release have an air of “manage your expectations” qualifying language:
I have to wonder if these editors would have to make it a point to mention that Katy Perry, Drake or whomever sound “pretty darn confident” on this one.
I think that it goes without saying that – while her career certainly seems far from over – Britney’s star has fallen to some extent, in the face of a changing music industry and the challenges of remaining King Shit of Kid Music Mountain while being forced to admit: “Hey. I am not actually a young person. I am a parent.”
Happily for Spears, this record is being touted as one of her strongest – certainly her best in years. I can’t claim to be a fan of the artist or even of the genre, but I’m going to give this an objective listen to the best of my ability. Because maybe there’s a “Toxic” on here. You know, “Toxic”. The best pop song of the 2000s?
Please enjoy this track-by-track examination of Glory. Please skip down to the bottom for a summary of my thoughts.
(Apologies for the lack of links to listenable tracks. Reliable links for this record are currently tough to find.)
Invitation – Glory opens with this gauzy, dreamy sex-creeper. It actually sounds quite current and the production is (predictably) mega-slick. Britney doesn’t sound that much like Britney to me here, her usual nasal twang replaced by a breathy delivery that seems a little more typical of modern pop stars. You can tell that it’s Britany, though, because she repeatedly moans “put your love all over me”, making it clear what she’s inviting someone to do.
Make Me – Britney sounds like herself on this one. Familiar nasal, faux-sexy voice. Guest rapper G-Easy sounds about as tough as a gerber baby. This seems really middling and uninteresting for a single. Low-energy.
Private Show – This is playful and a little goofy. It sounds like her voice is pitch-shifted up higher than it is naturally. Jesus Christ, this is dirty music. The bridge sounds like when Gwen Stefani tries to tough-girl rap. It is bad. This song is super bizarre.
Man on the Moon – Opens with a reasonable rip on Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek”. Turns into the most agreeable pop track on the record thus far. Decent chorus.
Just Luv Me – Zzzzzzzzzzzz…
Clumsy – Reasonably catchy club banger. It’s got that weird bass-throb sound that probably sounds kind of amazing through a huge sound system. Like, when you’re on a ridiculous amount of MDMA. Brit’s “Oops!” exclamations in this song are straight-up Betty Boop material, which makes 100% sense for her character. This song is about sex.
Do You Wanna Come Over? – THIS IS LIKE THE SIXTH SONG ABOUT FUCKING. The psycho-mariachi dance vibe is kinda interesting and silly, though. But seriously, Brit. You’re really painting yourself into a corner thematically.
Slumber Party – This must be a sequel to the last song. It seems like for this album they picked a bunch of phrases out of a hat, made them song titles and then wrote as many grade school innuendo jokes as they could about them. Then they called those the lyrics. The semi-dub vibes in the chorus are either a questionable choice or brilliant. I’m having a hard time deciding.
Just like Me – This might speak to my age, but isn’t Britney Spears like a mother of three or something? Why doesn’t she ever write songs about her kids? Or her dog? I don’t know. Anyway, this song is about her catching some guy fucking a girl that looks like Britney Spears. Which makes Britney mad, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that Britney Spears is the one that wants to do the fucking.
Love Me Down – Three guesses. Yup. Fucking. This song has pretty groovy bass/kick drum production in the chorus section. Actually, the chorus section is pretty catchy overall.
Hard To Forget Ya – I’m going to go ahead and stop talking about what these songs are about. This song introduces some very welcome 80s-inspired production. It could be applied more consistently and it could be better, but it’s something. OH MAN THERE’S A BASS LICK NEAR THE END THAT SOUNDS LIKE THE SEINFELD THEME SONG.
What You Need – This is pretty high energy when held up to the rest of the album. But this is where I actually am starting to question whether or not there’s a single organic instrument on this entire album. Not that it’s a bad thing in and of itself, but I feel as though this song could have used a big ol’ band. Ah, what do I know?
Better – Another thoroughly modern-sounding pop track. This is fine, but nothing that other artists haven’t done just as well. Also, this song is about fucking.
Change Your Mind – Oh, here’s a guitar. It sounds real. This song has a decent hook in the chorus. This song is about convincing someone who doesn’t want to have sex that they do, in fact, want to have sex.
Liar – This is not a Rollins Band cover. But boy, can’t you imagine? Britney all painted red and screaming her head off? That would be amazing. This is actually another pretty decent hook-fest. I think that this song might not actually be directly about sex.
If I’m Dancing – This song is also not about sex. It seems to be about the fact that when music is good, you want to dance to it. It sounds like someone decided to mash up a latin chill-out record with a Vengaboys record. I like it more than some of the other songs on this album. I feel very weird saying this.
Coupure Électrique – WHAT? She’s singing in french, and she might sound better this way. This is a super sparse modern soft-pop song, and it’s at least as good as anything else on the record. What the fuck is going on?
Glory doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s a reasonably polished batch of songs. I’m not sure that this is the commanding reclaiming of the throne that some have suggested that it may be. Even at her peak, Britney Spears didn’t hungrily break new ground in terms of genre or content, in the manner that some of today’s biggest acts seem intent on doing. I think to suggest that Britney could go toe-to-toe with a Beyonce or even a Katy Perry isn’t really fair to her. Then again, it’s difficult to argue with the fact that the game of pop is really a matter of personal taste and an arms-race between producers.
The album makes a credible argument for Spears’ continued relevance on pop charts and, presumably, club dance floors. Club dance floors full of the horniest people alive. Because these songs are relentlessly horny. To a degree which concerns me. Let’s get real, though. This record isn’t for me. I don’t like this music. I’ve spent most of this week listening to Nice Hooves.
In the end, it’s a moot point. Britney Spears was put on this Earth for one reason: To bring us “Toxic”. So let’s listen to that.