When you sire some number of daughters, certain inalienable truths worm their way into your consciousness as your metamorphosis from mere man to dad reaches its end. One such inalienable truth is that you may find yourself buying large amounts of rocks for the backyard.
Not all rocks are equal in fighting erosion while meeting aesthetic needs. Quality, size, and color matter. The same holds true when discussing pop. Some of it is puny and bland and unsuited for the job, while being aesthetically unpleasing. Then there’s Britney Spear’s “Glory,” which, if it were a movie, would be a gloriously explosive and eye-catching blockbuster directed by Michael Bay.
In “Glory” we find action; we revel in the gyrations between explosions and super mega-explosions. Of course, as with any Bay production, there are also boobs. “We pan to a beautiful woman: platinum blonde with a huge rack. She is the hottest woman in the world, but she wears glasses because she is also the smartest woman in the world.”
There, deep within that cleavage, is a hero. She’s the hero we deserve and the one we need, as such things tend to come in pairs. Britney, fresh off last summer’s teaser, is back on top again and dominating the stage, protestations of the most ardent Béyonce loyalists notwithstanding. No, their focus is too narrow, and they are to be ignored. They will have no pop star before or after Queen Bey.
Just as the rest of us can appreciate the precision of a finely tuned German car or the skill displayed by a rival neighborhood dad who orchestrated the perfect Independence Day fireworks show, we can appreciate Britney’s finely tuned precision and perfectly orchestrated fireworks, as evidenced by her performance at the Video Music Awards.
Parental Advisory: Explicit Content
Before you can get from that VMA performance to a spin through the entire album, you have to choose whether to buy the clean or the explicit version of “Glory.” Given my style of parenting (or “parenting,” as some helicoptering busybodies might call it), this choice was a no-brainer: the explicit version. I’m trying to raise future adults here. Part of that is teaching my little demons to discern the difference between not repeating things they hear me say and not repeating things they hear in my car, which are not always the same thing.
Should you go down this path, one of your daughters might note the prominent and repeated use of the f-word in the song “Slumber Party.” Once you let her know it’s the new Britney she’s listening to, you’ll have a bonding moment. The important part is that she recognized that she was hearing language of a colorful variety and you get to continue to exact revenge against Tipper Gore for making it vastly more difficult for you to hear such things back when you were a kid. Take that, you humorless scold!
Perfect Production Coupled with Lyrical Genius
Now that we’ve decided on the R-rated version, let’s head back to the magic of the Michael Bay formula. In its simplest form, it goes something like this: There’s the introduction of a “plot,” then some challenge to give our protagonists something to get sweaty about (this preferably involves robots), then boobs, then sweaty boobs, then chaos, then a sufficient resolution. It’s very much akin to a Vegas show, which Britney also has. She’s down with the formula, as evidenced by her performance at the VMAs.
Now some may scoff that this formula tends to skew towards overproduced tracks with little relationship to actual music and vocals that pitch-correcting magic known as auto-tune has altered beyond recognition. These are the opposite of the aforementioned Beyoncé loyalists, but are to be equally ignored.
I mean, overproduced? Too much auto-tune? Please. This is Michael freaking Bay on wax. If we wanted some arthouse musings about tortured dreams of grainy, lo-fi ennui, we have a wide variety of coffee shops offering that on open mic night. No, Michael Bay on wax is about fun, production magic, and action, and weaving them together into a perfectly choreographed symphony of destruction and cleavage, all backed with a whole bunch of synthesizers and drums and maybe even a few acoustic instruments.
With “Glory,” this is exactly what Britney has on offer. She has grown a perfect garden of pop mastery, an exemplar of orchestrated grandiosity that we can only hope our latest home renovation achieves. This isn’t about tortured dreams and ennui, but optimism and possibility. Nowhere is this more on display than less-than-subtly titled, or written, “Do You Wanna Come Over?” It begins, “Say on the phone that your day was the baddest, let me know you can’t sleep because of your mattress. Do you want to come over?”
It’s like Britney’s team took Cyrano de Bergerac, Don Juan, and James Bond and put them in a blender that spits out nothing but mad game. It’s poetry in motion. It’s alluring. It’s not in black and white and loaded with subtext, but again we’re talking about entertainment here. We’re talking about baby-making music that takes me back to 2007 and makes me want to recreate that scene from “Transformers” when Megan Fox and the male protagonist were getting frisky atop a robotic car. Alas, thus far my quest to find an affordable Autobot on eBay has proven futile.
Despite this lack of subtext, it’s not wham bam, thank you, ma’am, either. As the album starts to play, Britney first extends an invitation, appropriately named “Invitation.” It’s a slow and sultry number with some booty-rattling bass beneath it. Then “Make Me,” the number performed at the VMAs, slinks out of the speakers. It’s also sultry with some booty-rattling bass. In fact, let’s just apply that description to the entire album. Fortunately, unlike the sultry booty-rattling bass, G-Eazy only appears on “Make Me.” Unfortunately, he appears on “Make Me.”
By the sixth track, “Clumsy,” the music starts to get rollicking and slightly bouncy, if still sultry. (Remember Bay’s Rules for Cinema Magic.) So of course we want to come over once we get to track seven, and not just because of our apparent mattress discomfort. Britney does leave open the possibility of doing next to nothing, but we’re all adults here, so let’s be real.
Pardon My French
From there, there are nine more sultry songs with booty-rattling bass featuring various levels of double entendres, all with lyrical content on par with the lines quoted above. Whether we’re talking about the slumber parties—and I’m starting to detect a theme here—or how Britney is what we need, the blockbuster album keeps gyrating along between explosions and super-mega-explosions.
That is, until the closing track, “Coupure Électrique,” which I think is sung in Sanskrit, though maybe it’s French. This track, the title of which is loosely translated as “electric cleavage,” is the point-after-touchdown to “Glory.” It’s the finale that ties it all together and makes this album the masterwork that it is.
Sure, the sultry and the booty-rattling bass are there, but the song also makes no sense unless you speak whatever language it’s in. That’s a feature, not a bug. This is a Michael freaking Bay production, remember. It’s not supposed to make sense. All that matters is that it offers a subdued moment that closes the circle that began with that initial invitation.
That’s perfect, because now you need to go to Lowe’s and buy more rocks. Another inalienable truth is that you can never have enough of those; it’s another circle that will be unbroken. At least one of your kids is going to want to go with you, as they are of absolutely no help on such a mission, but you’re raising future adults and they need to learn about such things, so you take ‘em.
First, though, you’ll need some tunes to crank as you make your way to your destination and attempt to teach the next generation the finer points of river stones. Accept the invitation, pop on “Glory,” and get on with the task at hand. At worst, you’ll spend some time with a loved one. At best, maybe this will prove to be the day a Decepticon finally challenges you and you are so pumping the correct soundtrack for such an encounter.