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BRITNEY SPEARS...In All Her "Glory"

It took Sin City to restore Britney Spears to her proper glory. When the Princess of Pop took up a residence in Las Vegas, many speculated that she had just signed her own way out of popular music relevance for a multi-year, multi-show commitment headlining at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino located in the heart of the strip. At the time she was on the verge of releasing a new album, her 8th — Britney Jean — and had hit gold with the provocatively entitled lead single "Work B**ch”

Though many of her contemporaries were hitting the road and raking in the cast in arena and stadium tours, Ms. Spears ever the doting mom, decide that providing a stable environment for her two boys, meant latching herself to one city, one venue. Advanced ticket sales for Britney Spears Live: Piece of Me were a sell-out as expected, but when the show opened, featuring a set list of greatest hits and new songs from Britney Jean the mostly lip-synced lap dance of a show came off as lack-luster.

Many assumed that Britney Spears had resigned herself to mediocracy and that taking up the Vegas residency was just the plummet into eventual obscurity, but like the phoenix Spears rose to the occasion and proved decisively cunning in her play. More Celine Dion than America's Greatest Talent hack, Spears took to retooling her show as often and as carefully as possible, and taking great advantage of the captive audience kept refining her spectacle into a "must-see" event!

Soon many other popular music and Hollywood notables started taking notice of the momentum that Britney Spears had created for herself. As an artist Spears had her share of ups and downs, bumps in the road, and especially bumps in the head, but she kept at her music and dedicated herself to enhancing her brand. Avoiding the pitfalls and expense of world touring, Spears remained stationary and tightly reworked Pieces of Me until it was just right.

The set list would be reworked. The costumes redesigned. The choreography becoming more complex as she regained her confidence on the stage and returned to form. She would release a couple of singles here and there, and kept her sound fresh and on the charts. It appeared that a new album was taking shape, but with the less than stellar response given to Britney Jean the anticipation was weak.

Still selling out and at the height of audience attention, Spears pulled a maneuver that was rather interesting and limited her show dates taking some time off, and shared the Vegas stage at Planet Hollywood with fellow triple-threat Jennifer Lopez. While on this short hiatus Britney Spears did something else that was rather remarkable. She went back into the studio and crafted some new music, but not just new music, Britney Spears evolved an entirely new sound.

The result is her latest full-length release Glory. It would be over simplistic to suggest that this is Spears most mature work to date. Her last effort, Britney Jean wasn’t an entire misfire. It’s lead single “Work B**ch” was a dance floor innovation and proved that Spears had a complete grasp of what the club tempo and tastes of EDM were driving on the scene, but overall the temperature of the LP was pretty “pop basic”. It sparkles with the sugary confections that were radio-friendly and popular of the moment.

But for an act that had been poised to inherit the throne of Queen of Pop and Spears often-insinuated inspiration Madonna, it lacked growth — to say that Britney Jean was pandering to her audience is not an insult; it’s proof that at that moment in time Spears wasn’t looking to stir the pot — she just wanted to keep it all status quo. Three years later, and innumerable live numbers gyrating nightly for a Vegas crowd, may have given Britney Spears “the act” the inspiration to remind herself she is “an artist”.

From the moment she released the first single from Glory Spears’ critics and especially her audience would be whipped into submission. The lead single the hip-swaying, syrupy intoxicating “Make Me…” teases and temps, and coos in the most familiar of fashions, but it also has a distinctly different sound. Co-written by Britney and produced by Burns (the English DJ aka Matthew James Burns) who has provided hit-making turns for Ellie Goulding, Kelis and Pitbull and features a rap solo with up-and-comer G-Easy, is already unlike anything that Britney Spears has ever put out there. The track is sensuous, and whimsy, smartly structured and not over-produced. It’s apparently a tone that the artist capitalized on.

Throughout Glory from track to track, Spears explores the same themes that she always has pursued, but her vocals (which have sometimes appeared thin and uninteresting at most) are well focused and arranged. It’s especially evidenced on “Man On The Moon” which follows the sumptuous “Private Show”. Eager to demonstrate that she hasn’t entirely forsaken catchy hooks and electronic programming “Just Luv Me” produced by Cashmere Cat is as its lyric suggests real simple.

For the dance floor fanatics who expect the Princess of Pop to keep things high-octane and engaging especially on the club scene, Spears raises the roof with the electro-bass heavy “Clumsy” and follows it up with the darkly sensual “Do You Wanna Come Over?” which features a groovy (and very familiar) sounding guitar lick that profoundly serves the songs ebbs and flows without compromising its relentless need to move you. Rounding out the more dance-friendly tracks is “Slumber Party”.

After that Glory takes a more reflective turn and Britney Spears has never been more mesmerizing then on the single “Just Like Me”. The track speaks volumes of Spears’ established relevancy on the popular music scene and why her longevity is legit. The fun-loving and unpredictable “Hard To Forget Ya” is also a standout track — sounding very classic Britney Spears, but still sparkling and brand new. Glory is an experiment in innovation for Spears unlike a pursuit she has never attempted before.

Glory marks a fresh new step in the journey that is Britney Spears, the phenomenon. One can only hope that this lesson has sunk in and that she has bathed in the experience. After the hangover of Femme Fatale and the indecision evident in Britney Jean here emerges an artist that first showcased some depth in Blackout and In the Zone. Her days of “Ooops!…” are behind her now, but she keeps on hitting us. Britney…hit us one more time — it’s glorious!

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