‘Glory’ is no masterpiece, but it’s a marked improvement on 2013’s ‘Britney Jean’, a messy attempt to merge thumping EDM tunes with supposedly reflective midtempo songs. A major contributing factor is Spears herself, who sounds re-energised and fully present for the first time in years. On the one hand, this may explain the album’s missteps: Spears doesn’t have the lung power to pull off vampish R&B tracks like ‘Private Show’ and ‘What You Need’. But on the other, it makes the more restrained offerings that play to her strengths compelling. ‘Just Luv Me’ is a cute pop-dancehall tune produced by Kanye West collaborator Cashmere Cat, while the sad-eyed glide of ‘Man On the Moon’ positions Spears as a kind of Vegas Lana Del Rey. ‘Just Like Me’, an electro melodrama in which she catches her man cheating with a doppelgänger, shows off the vulnerability in her voice.
Some will complain the lyrics are impersonal and over-reliant on sex – Spears threatens to get her blindfold out on opener ‘Invitation’ and by third track ‘Private Show’ she’s offering to perform a strip routine. But for better or worse, sex has been what she sings about since at least 2001’s ‘I’m A Slave 4 U’. And really, does anyone want to hear her emoting about the tedium of commuting from LA to Vegas?
Perhaps inevitably, ‘Glory’ has moments that recall Spears’ hit-making past. The lusty strut of ‘Do You Wanna Come Over?’ nods to her early-noughties Neptunes-produced hits, while ‘Hard to Forget Ya’ has a brilliant bridge that could almost be ripped from a very early Britney single. But if any pop star deserves to benefit from a bit of affectionate nostalgia, it’s surely Britney Spears.