There’s an argument that Britney Spears was the first great female pop star since Madonna.
Back when Katy Perry and Taylor Swift were still singing into hair-brushes in their bedrooms Spears was taking the world’s collective breath away with song that blended risqué sexuality and cutting edge production and writing (much of it courtesy of one-man hit factory Max Martin).
But Spears was also an early casual of our internet-enabled, always-on celebrity culture (remember that self-maiming haircut? the wobbly snake dance?). And, even though she has continued to put out music at an impressive clip — she has also seemed uninterested in maintaining a place in the pop zeitgeist. Perhaps that is set to change with her ninth album, Glory — her perkiest and most unabashedly upbeat release since the late 1990s.
As is standard for major league pop stars, the record was a team effort, with more than a dozen producers and co-writers credited (“vocal producer” Mishke has worked with artists such as Michael Jackson and Gwen Stefani).
Yet Spears’ personality shines throughout, even as the music whips itself into endless flurries of droning bass and ethereal electronica.
She is sassy and imperious on ‘Do You Wanna Come Over?’ a Rihanna-esque high energy work out built around Spears’ distinctive mix of confidence and self doubt. That vulnerability is similarly to the fore on ‘Just Like Me’, wherein she steps outside her pop-star persona and reconnects with the lost girl within.
Above all the project crackles with tremendous joie de vivre. Ever since her private life became public property Spears has never seemed particularly focused on her music career.
However, Glory is a comeback with real bite — a project wherein Spears proudly asserts her primacy as a chart star. For anyone tired of Taylor Swift’s smug oversharing and Beyoncé’s increasingly impenetrable art-pop, it’s a return to savour. The queen of pop has reclaimed her crown.