THE GRADE B
BOTTOM LINE Stability is great for Britney Spears’ personal life, not as great for her career
Britney Spears’ comeback from a very public, head-shaving, umbrella-wielding meltdown is so legendary that it will soon be a Lifetime movie.
A cornerstone of that return will likely come Sunday, when Spears takes the MTV Video Music Awards stage for the first time since her disastrous 2007 performance when she struggled to keep up with her dancers and couldn’t manage to even lip-synch properly.
And her ninth album “Glory” (RCA), which drops Friday, reflects how well Spears now maintains an even keel, helming a successful Las Vegas residency and a perfume-driven personal empire. The 34-year-old mother of two may even soon be released from the conservatorship that her parents put in place to handle her affairs since 2008.
“Glory” is a sturdily built collection of dance pop, filled with Spears’ sexy come-ons delivered mostly in the patented breathy style that turned “…Baby One More Time” and “Toxic” into chart-topping smashes.
However, there probably aren’t any chart-topping smashes in this collection. For the most part, the pop queen market Spears once cornered has been overrun with competitors of nearly every style, from Taylor Swift and Katy Perry to Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj.
The single that was expected to launch this album last year, “Pretty Girls,” which featured rapper Iggy Azalea, fell flat. The new single “Make Me,” featuring rapper G-Eazy, is also faltering, already out of the Top 50 after only five weeks on the charts, a weird choice to re-introduce Spears to radio when the pop delight “Man on the Moon” is around.
“Make Me” is one of a string of average-sounding tracks that strive to make Spears seem ordinary, which she obviously isn’t. The thrills on “Glory” come when Spears takes chances, like on the odd, swaggering “Private Show,” which pushes charming Motown through electronic trickery to create a weirdly good time. She sings the hauntingly gorgeous ballad “Coupure Electrique” entirely in French, while bouncing into lilting reggae in bits of “Slumber Party.”
Those successes show it’s time to let Britney be Britney again.