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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Britney Spears: Glory

BRITNEY SPEARS: GLORY (2016)

1) Invitation; 2) Make Me...; 3) Private Show; 4) Man On The Moon; 5) Just Luv Me; 6) Clumsy; 7) Do You Wanna Come Over?; 8) Slumber Party; 9) Just Like Me; 10) Love Me Down; 11) Hard To Forget Ya; 12) What You Need; 13*) Better; 14*) Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortés); 15*) Liar; 16*) If I'm Dancing; 17*) Coupure Electrique.

Three times have I sat through this record, and three times have I felt a strong pulling to take a shower immediately afterwards, because sitting out there in a pool of even your own figurative vomit is quite a schizophrenic feeling. But what could I do? Britney Jean "Princess Of Pop" Spears' Glory, her ninth overall studio LP, is not simply the worst record of her career so far — it is, quite literally, one of the worst albums I have intentionally chosen to sit through in the past... ah, heck, ever. And I am not saying that it is unique in its badness: it is simply part of a world where I very, very rarely venture. It may be useful to witness that world occasionally — like it may be instructive for anyone dwelling in a well-to-do quarter of the big city to take an occasio­nal detour to the slums, just to make sure that they actually exist — but then again, even a slum may have something noble and righteous about it, since poverty is not a crime. Listening to Glory, on the other hand, is more like taking a detour into the cheapest, trashiest whorehouse there is, where getting hooked up on heroin and catching a couple VDs is more like an obligatory course of action than an unfortunate side effect.

Where do I even begin? Well, maybe just to get this out of the way, this is not the most boring or even the most musically generic set of electropop tunes released in the history of humanity. Whatever the odds, Britney Spears still has not been stripped of the «Princess of Pop» label by the music industry, and the music industry at least has the good sense to hire taboons of corporate songwriters who can supply their victim with a decent enough amount of earworms. You take the required three listens and, sure enough, you glance back at the song titles and you can remember how many of them go, along with some of the beats. Nor could you objectively accuse the arran­gers and producers of not doing anything with the dance grooves once they've been established: what separates high-class stinky trash from low-class stinky trash is that the former has had money, time, energy, creativity and sometimes even a spoonful of talent invested in it. (The number of special effects applied to Britney's vocals alone deserves an objective mention).

The (very relative) saving grace of Femme Fatale was that these earworms happened to be amplified by a general «high-energy» approach to the project. Many of the songs had an anthemic feel to them — fast, loud, «empowered», and this helped overlook their essential fakeness and concentrate on their hooks. With Glory, the whole thing is different: it has more of a pseudo-chamber feel, maybe even of a «pseudo-bedroom» feel, if you know what I mean, and instead of giving us Britney Spears as an unstoppable tornado of externalized sexuality, it is more of a ʽPri­vate Showʼ, to use one of the titles as an appropriate metaphor. This is where you are invited to take a little bo-peep. Just send them kids off to school, and we'll get to work right away.

In the process, the 34-year old Princess of Pop will first send you out an ʽInvitationʼ, politely inquiring ʽDo You Wanna Come Over?ʼ for a ʽSlumber Partyʼ, as she wants to "take it back to my room" because she "just wants you to make me move... back and forth, like this was all ten­nis" (ʽMove Meʼ). The action gradually intensifies — "slide down my pole, watch me spin it and twerk it" (ʽPrivate Showʼ, with the additional crime of rhyming "satisfy" with "apple pie"); "I love how you go down, head first and style it out" (ʽClumsyʼ — no, in case you're worried, it's ultimately about getting rather than not getting sexual satisfaction); and by the end, we under­stand that the end is only a technical break, because "One time just ain't enough, won't let this fade / I got that good, good stuff you can't erase" (ʽWhat You Needʼ — but I sort of thought it was, you know, time that was supposed to be erasing the good, good stuff? Or is she trying to tell us that her partner is intentionally trying to wear her out? Whatever. I'm confused now... blame it all on lack of sexual education in Soviet school, I guess).

Okay, so it's just the words, and if we simply stay on that level, it would be only too natural to accuse the reviewer of sexism — so what's fine and good for a male band like AC/DC, is shame­ful for a female performer? Not at all. The difference is that the important thing for AC/DC is their rock and roll drive, which, all by itself, is (a) genuine and (b) inoffensive. For Glory, the important thing is to give us an artist who, all things considered, ultimately sounds like a blowup doll equipped with a Siri-like component. I mean, listen to ʽPrivate Showʼ or ʽWhat You Needʼ and tell me if this pitch even sounds as if it were produced by a human being — the vocoding effects squeeze the last drops of humanity out of the woman, so much so that I wouldn't want to be caught dead while listening to even ten seconds of either. (What makes it ten times as offen­sive is, I think, the intentional similarity of the basic stop-and-start pattern of ʽWhat You Needʼ to Jimi Hen­drix's ʽFireʼ — if they really want to drop us a hint that Glory is what should pass for the modern equivalent of fiery rock'n'roll, they should rather just all drop dead instead). There's not even a drop of humor or irony anywhere in sight to offer salvation (not that Britney Spears has ever been capable of a drop of intelligent humor or irony).

When you come to think of it, did they really have to go down all the way like this? I mean, even in 2016 there must be ways for a 34-year old female artist to express her sexuality without getting totally reduced to that sexuality. Heck, even Madonna knows how to do better. What could be somewhat excusable at the time of In The Zone (at least on ʽToxicʼ she really sounded like she was having honest fun with it), under the condition that the scope would eventually expand, now sounds — please excuse me for the extra harshness, but somebody has got to do it — like the symbolic convulsions of an aging whore, trying to make herself more attractive to customers with extra layers of makeup and provocative clothing. And it's not even a matter of Britney's actual age (I mean, 34 years is nothing these days — the peak of sexuality for some!), it's a matter of how it all sounds and feels, with all these plastic electronic overdubs, ridiculous vocals, trashy lyrics, and, above all, the complete and total and utter reduction of all human qualities to one big bag of sexual urges. If this is really, in her own words, "the best thing I've done in a long time", wouldn't it be more honest to simply switch to pornography?

But forget about Britney herself, whose intellectual brightness was never legendary in the first place; and forget about several dozen highway robbers and agents of Satan masking as «produ­cers», «writers», and even «musicians» on this insult to humanity. The most awful thing, of course, are the «critics» who, according to Wikipedia, all gave «generally positive reviews» of the album. Almost nobody even began to look at the obvious — perhaps out of fear of being accused of sexism? — and almost everybody concentrated on the superficial aspects, faintly praising the (undeniable, but still cringeworthy) pop hooks and even, God help us, some of these vocals. It is not the dismal, trashy quality of the album that makes me so worried — it is the fact that it still seems to attract mainstream media attention in a respectful frame. If this is what our liberal framework has come up to — a complete robo-objectification of the woman under the false guise of «sexual empowerment» — then I must say that even conservatively grabbing women by the pussy seems like an innocent prank in comparison. A highly bleargh-style thumbs down here, and a hearty recommendation to retire — if the last ten years of Britney's career were all leading up to this, she should have been sent back to Mississippi a long, long time ago, because, in the immortal words of Timmy Shaw, "Girl that's where you belong — since you've been gone to the big city, girl you started doing wrong".

10 comments:

  1. Brilliant review, maybe your best for Britney, but... "taboons"? Are they baking the songwriters?

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  2. Yeah, I didn't know "taboons" either. But great review anyway.

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    1. Ha-ha, sorry, little Russianism creeping in. I meant to write "herd", of course.

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  3. I know I'm getting old, but what's the difference between an earworm and a hook? Not to defend the digital conglomeration known as Britney Spears, but hasn't all popular music always been based on broadly accessible earwormage? Lilting croons, killer riffs, cowbells, DJ break-beats, and etc., etc., etc.... Is it about the engineering that makes a hook and earworm.

    I'm sure my questions isn't new, but now that my kid is subjecting me to more of this corporate crap, I can't help but wonder if we've all been similarly led along into our various "tastes" by a solid century of predatory earwormage. Maybe Devo was right in their terrible cynicism of OH NO! IT'S DEVO; maybe the music industry is built upon little more than a repetitive, crowd-controlling game of "Peek-A-Boo". And Britney is back again. "Ha-Ha-Ha-Haughhh!"

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  4. Seriously, George, you are overthinking this. The album is nowhere near good, but the woman has a right to express herself as she sees fit. The problem is that it's boring, lacks energy and strong melodies.

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    1. Of course, she has a right to express herself as she sees fit (provided that these songs actually express herself and not somebody else, which I sort of doubt) - and we have a right to vent our indignation at this kind of self-expression if it is intended for public acceptance. And as far as I'm concerned, it goes way beyond simply "boring and lacking energy" - that was more the case with her previous album. In this case, I add "offensive" to the roster.

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    2. Yes, Britney is expressing herself loud and proud through the 3-5 corporate writers assigned to each track.

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  5. " . . . an artist who, all things considered, ultimately sounds like a blowup doll equipped with a Siri-like component."
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    Now that is devastatingly accurate. My reaction to Spears is complicated by the question of how competent she is to direct what she's doing. Apparently she's still under legal guardianship, which I think makes this kind of performance even ickier to contemplate.

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  6. Your reviews just get better and better.

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  7. Entertaining read, but it does beg the question: What were you thinking, George?

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