Britney Spears found a different kind of substance back in 2007, one that made her go infamously off the rails for a period before propping herself back up to release Circus in 2008. But now, two albums after, which included the safe predictability of Femme Fatale and Britney Jean, Britney has found a purer form of substance: artistic growth.
For the opening track of the simply named Glory, “Invitation,” Britney channels the sound and vocals of Selena Gomez, expressing a more mature sound and markedly less autotuned vocals. Delving right into her illustrious knack for double entendres, Britney implores, “Put your love all over me.” Her newfound sense of being comfortable in her own skin also shines forth in the insistence, “Yes or no, but no maybes.” Based on all she’s been through and overcome, it’s a conviction that’s completely warranted.
The first single and what she’ll invariably perform at the VMAs on August 28th, “Make Me…“, was the public’s first indication at a palpable sea change in the tone and lyrical content of Glory. Stripped down and confidently laidback, “Make Me…” is that rare blend of ballad and dance track that only Britney could pull off.
Transitioning to a more fanciful note for “Private Show,” Britney shows off a wide range of vocals that express a self-assurance that leads one to believe she’s dancing in front of the mirror with nothing but her pole and choreographed moves. The chanteuse (Britney likes French words nowadays, after all–hear: “Coupure Électrique”) also pays subtle homage to kissing partner Madonna with phrases that include, “strike a pose,” “immaculate” and “take a bow.”
“Man on the Moon” channels the Britney of …Baby One More Time and Oops…I Did It Again meets Alvin and the Chipmunks. And, like every album Britney releases featuring a hopeful yearning for someone who will truly love her, “Man on the Moon” takes one by surprise with its jubilant buoyancy in spite of the many romantic snafus she’s encountered. She also throws in the randomness of saying Chateau Mariott for a bit of Southern-tinged international flair.
Again emulating the sound and voice of Selena Gomez on “Just Luv Me,” Britney reveals herself at her most vulnerable and genuine. Reassuring her object of desire that she won’t ask for unreasonable demands like “a sip when [she’s] thirsty,” Britney commands only, “Just luv me.” For someone who has had to question for the majority of her existence where people’s true motives lie, it’s a genuine and somewhat bittersweet request.
Britney lightens the mood after “Just Luv Me” with “Clumsy.” Sticking close to the faux modesty of her sexual nature, “Clumsy” features some of Britney’s more salacious lyrics since “Touch of My Hand,” masked by an upbeat rhythm and bouncy tone. Accordingly, “I love how you go down, head first and slide it out/Again and again” emphasizes her undeniable “Sag-ness.”
“Do You Wanna Come Over?” echoes the singular Neptunes-produced sound present on “I’m A Slave 4 U” as Britney re-explores her most loved theme: loneliness. Insisting, “Nobody should be alone if they don’t have to be,” Britney adds, “Whatever you want, I’ll do it!” Though a “playful” track by nature, the underlying desperation of her willingness to do anything not to be alone highlights a longtime issue in her life.
Sure, there are still some tracks that reveal Britney’s inability to leave a certain state of arrested development, like a song called “Slumber Party,” in which she continues to address a teenage concept dressed up as an adult one via the use of sexual innuendo. And hey, she’s even swearing for real on this song, albeit with a hint of reluctance as she describes, “We use our bodies to make our own videos/Put on our music that makes us go fucking crazy, oh.” And, just as on “Private Show,” the nods to Madonna continue with her use of the phrase “causing a commotion.”
“Just Like Me” is akin to a combination of Madonna’s “She’s Not Me” and Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” with Britney bewailing, “She looks just like me, she looks just like me/No, I just can’t believe, she looks just like me…/She can, she can, she can have you.” Articulating the incredulity that the man she loved would prefer to replace her with a cheap imitation is a common motif among women done wrong, a category Britney fits all too neatly in at this juncture.
Gritty and dripping with irreverence, “Love Me Down” (a title that always conjures auditory remembrances of Ready for the World’s version) is anthemic in nature, with Britney wanting nothing more than for her lover to get to the point: pleasure. Making her needs known, Britney asserts, “You say we don’t talk much anymore/But I’m thinking we talk too much.” Like so much of Glory, it emanates an élan we’ve never before known from Britney.
“Hard To Forget Ya” is pure description, as Britney lists off the unforgettable attributes of “a creature so hypnotic.” A mid-tempo beat punctuates Britney’s natural-sounding vocals and earnestness, a trend that remains consistent throughout all of Glory.
Continuing the upbeat pace of the album, “What You Need” finds Britney sounding, strangely enough, like Duffy (Brit’s always had a knack for emulating the British). The intensity of her ardor–rapacious to its core–is sustained through the chorus: “I got what you want, I got what you need–(try not to think of the construction worker hollering at Miranda in Sex and the City)–/Bringing out the fire inside of me.”
The fire persists in burning on “Better,” which can perhaps be subtly interpreted as Britney acknowledging her “aging” pop star status with the mention, “When you know somebody/And they know your body/It’s so much better.” Britney also references her own frailty by verbalizing her appreciation for a man’s ability to “show me what’s under your t-shirt/And bare it like it’s your first time/You take it off like you never/Like you’ve never been hurt.”
Britney shows she even knows a little bit about history and metaphor with “Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortés).” Being that “no seas” means “don’t be” in Spanish, one would like to believe Brit’s using the shyness and timidity of her lover as an allusion to conquistador Hernán Cortés and his “navigation” style. Britney sings, “No seas Cortés/You don’t wanna cross the line/I’ma make you change your mind.” Plus, at long last, she’s finally appealing to the Latin market (something her counterpart, Christina Aguilera, saw the benefit of long ago) which, up to now, she’s never really tapped into.
Britney’s declarative state of strong-willed womanhood reaches a peak on “Liar.” Something of a sequel to “Womanizer,” many would like to believe the rumors about the track being about Justin Timberlake are true, but, when it comes to Britney, it’s undeniable that all her lying past loves have probably fused into one giant rat king of an ex for her, a composite of general skeeviness as she accuses with Britney-typical lyrics, “Keep on lying through your teeth/You know I know that you know I know/That you’re a liar, a liar.”
Rather than winding things down as Glory comes to a close, Britney only speeds it up with “If I’m Dancing,” a frenetic burst of energy that finds her saying “your gravity has got me bowing in devotion”–and, yes, you’ll probably be bowing down as a gay or honorary gay man when you hear this since, as Britney points out, “If I’m dancing, I know the music’s good.”
The French finale, “Coupure Électrique,” is arguably the most unique and innovative offering from her career to date–and seems to indicate a continued desire to appeal to her international audience (don’t forget about “Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortés).” The literal translation, power outage, is tantamount to the word “blackout,” something Britney is all too familiar with, and an effect the greatness of this album will have on fans and casual listeners alike.