BRITNEY SPEARS – Glory (RCA): It feels unfair criticizing this album since it’s Britney Spears’s best since her 2007 implosion—and maybe her best album, period—and she’s been through a lot both in and out of the limelight. But if this is her best, or among her best, it only highlights Spears’s weaknesses as a performer and songwriter. She’s just one note: sex. And that sex isn’t even sexy sex. It’s just sex. Just fucking. Reluctant fucking.
Because Spears’s attitude towards sex is 100% submissive, she never sounds like she’s enjoying herself—instead it’s as if she’s going through the motions of feigned affection in order to get a hit of her drug of choice. Her “Invitation” is at the end of the chorus: “Put your love all over me,” which she has to be smart enough to understand is an unsavory metaphor for a money shot. On “Private Show” she’s a stripper who’s way more into the guy she’s servicing than he is to her. “Do You Wanna Come Over?” is a plea to get the guy to her place even if all he wants is a backrub. And it’s a shame. Musically, Glory is chockful of beats and arrangements any other halfway-clever pop star could elevate to gold. “Invitation” is a heavenly synth wash, “Private Show” a minimalist triumph complete with skipping “Doo doo doos,” “Do You Wanna Come Over?” a banger with acoustic guitar stabs and a raucous crew of background shouters.
But Spears is content with riding the image of woman as sex object, and so these songs never take on a form more sophisticated than robotic horniness. It’s not that she needs to include details of her personal life, she just needs to imbue some of the tracks with a hint of humanity. She never cracks a joke about a dude who’s not well-endowed. She never makes the guy work for what she’s offering. She never has a moment that’s not perfectly in line with porn fantasy. She’s never on top, never a tease, never “making love.” She’s just fucking, again and again and again. B PLUS (*)