Britney's Back: Spears Returns With Ninth Studio Album, 'Glory'

Aug 26, 2016
Originally published on August 26, 2016 5:34 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Britney is back again.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "...BABY ONE MORE TIME")

BRITNEY SPEARS: (Singing) Hit me baby one more time. Oh, Baby, Baby...

MCEVERS: Britney Spears made hits right out of the gate with her 1999 debut and was a reliable presence on the pop charts for years after that. But in 2007, she started behaving erratically in public, and her influence suffered.

Britney Spears is 34 now, and she is out with her first new album in three years. It's called "Glory." She'll promote it this weekend at the MTV Video Music Awards. Reviewer Tom Moon says the album is a surprising return to form.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CLUMSY")

SPEARS: (Singing) Call me a fool. Call me insane, but don't call it a day. Closer to you, closer to pain - it's better than far away, oh.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: Britney Spears is on, like - what? - her third comeback cycle. Every time, she hires teams of hotshot producers to help sell a slightly tweaked version of her public persona - the party girl who's too hot for the room. On the surface, the new album is no different.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRIVATE SHOW")

SPEARS: (Singing) Put on a private show. Pull the curtains until they close. I put on a private show. We'll be whiling all on the low.

MOON: OK, so Britney's getting some electronic vocal help. But she's essentially singing out in the open, not behind mountains of studio clutter like on her dismal last album, "Britney Jean." And this song has a real hook, and a groove that glances at Motown. She clearly owns it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRIVATE SHOW")

SPEARS: (Singing) Work it. Work it. Boy, watch me work it. Slide down my pole. Watch me spin it and twerk it.

MOON: Lyrically, Britney Spears stays true to her brand. Just about every track includes an invitation to some sort of carnal pleasure. Musically, though, she's grown into an interesting pop omnivore, borrowing and recombining elements in unexpected ways. Here's a riff that sounds like it was inspired first by Gwen Stefani...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE ME DOWN")

SPEARS: (Singing) I see who you are with the lights out. We're better just skin to skin.

MOON: ...Then OutKast.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE ME DOWN")

SPEARS: (Singing) My baby going to love me down, going to love me down, going to love me down, yeah. My baby going to love me down. Don't make a sound. Just love me down like...

MOON: "Glory" is a long album, but it's got surprising dimension. Spears sings one atmospheric EDM track in French, and this one uses flamenco style guitar and Spanish refrain.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHANGE YOUR MIND - NO SEAS CORTES")

SPEARS: (Singing) No seas cortes. I'll make you change your mind. No seas cortes. You don't want to cross the line, but I'm going to make you change your mind.

MOON: Anyone who follows pop culture knows it can be hard for an icon to recapture the public's interest after a downfall. Britney Spears has tried several times now with dim, gimmicky records that sounded like she was begging for a hit.

This time is different. She's got some electrifying hooks, and she's singing them with confidence, maybe even a touch of fierceness. If "Glory" becomes a hit, she will have earned.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF I'M DANCING")

SPEARS: (Singing) One look at him, and I see candy-coated heart shapes.

MCEVERS: The latest album from Britney Spears is called "Glory." Our reviewer is Tom Moon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF I'M DANCING")

SPEARS: (Singing) He plays sitar, three notes so far. If I'm dancing, if I'm dancing... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.