Likes: Private Show, Slumber Party, Better, Liar
Dislikes: If I'm Dancing
Overall: Likable, but nowhere near "play the breaks off this" material
Though considering things in context often leads to more well-rounded conclusions, there's no guarantee they'll be overwhelmingly positive. This is the case when evaluating Glory, the 9th offering from Britney Spears. When comparing it to the last 2 albums (2013's Britney Jean and 2011's Femme Fatale), the conclusion has propitious leanings. Against her complete discography or on its own, however, things tilt towards dispiriting. Fatale was the first Brit LP I didn't care for (it says something that it took her 7 albums before I said "Meh"). I enjoyed some of the cuts, but couldn't deal with the video game music. Additionally, it was way too compliant for an artist who's normally a trendsetter. Failing to live up to Spears' taste-making and iconic status in pop is why I will never forgive rapper/producer Will.I.Am for the upsettingly non-event Britney Jean (it added insult to injury that it was eponymous). Glory has its present-day electro club dubs and fiddly-winks, but there are amounts of musicality and some unique production marks. The instrumentation is multifarious: along with guitars and drums are marimbas (ex. "Slumber Party"), shakers (ex. "Hard to Forget Ya")and a kalimba (ex. "Do You Wanna Come Over?). Tracks are riddled with unusual and unidentifiable sound effects (ex. mouthed noises). After I jumped back when a male voice unexpectedly yelled "Whatever you want!" on "Come Over," I thought "Yeah, this is more Britney-ish." Her trademark playful sexuality is center-stage, as lust is the record's theme. One of my friends joked that its title should've been "Glory Hole." Now that I'm thinking about it, the name and ethereal artwork is kind of misleading. Unless...it's referring to the glories of hedonistic passion? I don't know. *Shrugs* When the writing does diverge (which is only about 5 times), it's mostly satisfactory, with "Just Luv Me" (penned by pop-hitters Julia Michaels, Cashmere Cat and Robopop) and deluxe item "Liar" (done by Jason Evigan, Danny Parker and Hot Chelle Rae's Nash Overstreet) at the top. When I heard "Just Like Me," I said "This sounds like it could be on a Lady Gaga album." Lo and behold, Nick Monson (who was all over Gaga's Artpop) was a co-writer/producer.
While the amorousness of songs like "Slumber Party" and "Private Show" (Spears' babied vocals keep me from the taking this one seriously as strip-tease playlist material), and the R&B/hip-hop speckles of tunes such as "Liar," "Love Me Down" and "Better" conceive a sense of familiarity, it still doesn't quite feel like home. There's no irresistibility factor or era-defining tracks. Lead single "Make Me" is a perfect example of Glory's "like, but not love" state. It's affable and slinky, but it doesn't hold attention. Your ears wouldn't miss it if you never heard it again. That may be why Spears' performance of it at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards (August 28th) was considered a dud by most critics and merely passable by others; assuming they weren't affected by context (there's that word again). Many either thought it was good because it was her best television appearance in years (she looked great, seemed engaged and got through her choreography with comfort), or a depressing reminder that things aren't what they used to be. It certainly wasn't what you'd expect of an entertainer who made MTV (and that very award show appointment TV) at the cusp of the millennium and is coming up on 20 years in the game. There shouldn't have been such a stark contrast between Spears' number and that of her contemporary, Beyoncé, who left the stage with a standing ovation just minutes before (sorry, I couldn't find a link with the entire performance). Cast the context of it being "the legendary Ms. Britney Spears" (as Blackout producer Danja says on "Gimme More"), and it was, most bluntly, a substandard act where there wasn't even an attempt to make the lip-synching look or sound authentic. Less bluntly, it was just okay, which is what Glory is, in close. I'll likely keep a few songs on my iPod (yes, people still use those), delete the rest, and end up barely listening to the ones I kept. I'll be surprised if this record is talked about beyond its first year. If anything, it will be discussed as part of the string of projects she did that could've been better. Hopefully, that succession will be over soon; I want it to so badly. *Britney voice* Danja, bring it back (i.e. "Get Back")!