Earlier this year, we were bestowed a dose of irony too delicious to ignore. An app called American Dream was released by Britney Spears, which sees you take control of an automaton pop star, adorn them in garish colours, and be harangued into promoting some tuneless singles in the hope of gaining adoration from an army of robotic fans. You know, just like her management do in real life.
That isn’t a swipe at Britney. For her part, she does the most (never extra, mind you) with the shit she’s given while trapped in the machine, and she does so with wide-eyed sincerity that’s impossible to be too cynical towards; after all, there’s something to be said for a woman who can try and sell a glossy turd like Britney Jean as heart-on-sleeve autobiography. But both management and fans need to take a good long look at themselves, the former for a series of bad decisions – more on that later – and the latter for continuing to be her enablers for a run of mediocrity and treating her like a wounded pup with different standards to the rest of the pop world. If Britney gets through a performance without a slip-up, it’s a relief and she’s applauded, given the Twitter equivalent of a treat and a belly rub before being gently placed back on the pedestal of her halcyon.
With Glory, it’s time to stop making excuses for Britney Spears. It’s recorded proof that, certainly in the realms of pop, she’s capable of turning up and the thankful excuse that ‘it’s good (for Britney)’ just isn’t going to cut it any more. There’s also no excuse for teasing a decent album with songs like Private Show – an absolute mess of a sideshow, a reject from Circus – and the bordering on Juliette-from-Nashville tick-box of Clumsy. It’s also baffling to see why Grindr-anthem Do You Wanna Come Over? was given prominence when there are songs like Just Luv Me on the record.
We’ll hover on that song for a while. It’s Britney doing sultry R&B, a breathy and mature take on the come-hither sound that makes a mark. Of course, as always seems the case with her team, they seem a step behind what her contemporaries have already smashed in the last year or so (Slumber Party and your riddims, we’re looking at you) but it’s a solid hit nonetheless.
And just as that sleeve sees a Britney warped beyond recognition with a distracting lens flare, so too does the album excel when she graduates beyond that thin, nasal timbre and boss it with some weight with the smoke and mirrors of production. Just Like Me is a fine example, but it’s one of a small number that also includes Make Me…, where the lower octaves yield great bounty.
As always, though, we come back to the same question with Britney Spears. If she popped up today, would she make it? With so many exciting new acts out the answer feels like a resounding no, but this record certainly makes a better case for her than most of her recent work. It’s just high-time we all stop justifying her minimum, stop clinging on to the past glory so she can full inhabit this new one.