Album review: Britney Spears reminds us of former glories in new album
It is hard to believe that Britney Spears is still only 34 years old. The former teen sensation has been clinging to pop success, and relevance, for so long, surviving so many calamities and comebacks, that she seems much longer in the tooth – already a grande dame of the music business.
In 2013, after a turbulent few years, Spears appeared to accept her fate as a fading creative presence by embarking on a lengthy residency in Las Vegas – that semi-retirement home for once-vibrant singers.
A messy album that year, Britney Jean, concluded her contractual obligation with RCA, and felt a bit like a limp wave farewell. But the record deal was subsequently renewed, slightly surprisingly but with good reason, as Spears has emerged majestically from her Nevada cocoon: she’s clearly now a woman, not a girl, to rephrase an old hit.
Glory is a slightly curious title for her latest album, in truth, as the tone is admirably low-key. There’s an immediate sense here of an artist more in touch with her place in modern pop.
“I’m invisible, invisible” she sings, contentedly, on the mellow-but-catchy Man on the Moon. Spears is still prime paparazzi prey, but there are bigger targets nowadays – and this record sounds assuredly relaxed. Yes, she spends most of it attempting to seduce people, as ever, but with much less desperation than before.
Where Britney Jean felt like a graveyard for trendy producers’ lesser beats, Glory has a consistent, chill-friendly flow, with Spears often remaining on the down-low – catch many of these tracks in a DJ set and you might never realise who was singing.
There’s a hint of Grimes’s grittier dance-pop about the captivating opener, Invitation, for example, but in a downtempo style that sets the overall mood.
Anyone hoping for confessional soul-bearing might be disappointed. With the emphasis on head-nodding grooves, the lyrics are largely disposable – there are tracks lazily titled Just Like Me and Just Luv Me – but the single, Clumsy, is a return to quirky form. A sexy ode to awkward love, it even throws in a trademark Britney “oops”.
The only major duds here are Love Me Down, a lacklustre attempt at dance hall, and the crass Private Show, which was released as a single to help launch her fragrance of the same name – never a good sign, but not a deal-breaker.
There’s even a Vegas-fuelled showtune, What You Need, to finish.
“That was fun,” says an almost surprised-sounding Spears, after the final bars fade – and she’s right, it was.