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Album Review

"I don't believe in marriage anymore."

That's one of the confessions Britney Spears made to late-night host James Corden in a recent episode of his feature Carpool Karaoke.

And there was another admission as well: Even though she'd like more children, Britney's apparently not much interested in men or physical intimacy these days. "I might not ever go to men again," she told Corden. "I may French kiss someone, but I'm not going to marry anyone, no." Britney's candid, though admittedly brief, interactions on those subjects suggest she's perhaps weary of looking for meaning in relationships and sex.

Those statements, however, are at odds with the one on her ninth album, Glory. Indeed, the 12 tracks on the standard edition of the album (and five more on the deluxe version) focus almost exclusively on the subject of sex. So much so, in fact, that Salon reviewer Nico Lang wrote, "Spears is chained to her proverbial bed throughout Glory, her most overtly erotic record to date."

Positive Elements

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Sexual Content

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Pro-social Content

"Man on the Moon" could be heard as being romantic without being sexual. Spears sings, "I've been right here dreaming of you/Waiting for my man on the moon." And there's a fleeting suggestion on "Do You Wanna Come Over" that two people could do something other than getting physical: "Or we could be good and do next to nothin'." "Better" implies that actually knowing someone you're physically intimate with makes that experience more meaningful: "So right, so good/When you know somebody." "Liar" sends a serial cheater on his way, while "Just Like Me" suggests deep pain after discovering a man's infidelity. "Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortes)" features a guy who actually doesn't want to "cross the line" physically …

Objectionable Content

… even though Britney is determined to make him do otherwise throughout the balance of that track.

And on virtually every other track on this album, too, as it turns out. Album opener "Invitation" coos, "Let the inhibitions come undone/ … Put your love all over me." Bondage shows up as well ("I know it might seem crazy/But I'ma put you in this blindfold/I just need you to trust me"). "Make Me … " tells a would be hook-up partner at a bar to "cut the s---" so that they can get down to business: "No rules/From the bar to the car, let's take it back to my room/Igniting the heat of the moment, let the sparks fuse." Guest rapper G-Eazy adds, "I've always wondered what was off limits."

"Private Show" finds Spears playing the role of a stripper striving to please a man ("Work it, work, boy watch me work it/Slide down my pole, watch me spin it and twerk it"). The song ends with a giggling allusion to oral sex. We get similar winks at that activity in "Clumsy," which also talks about Spears and a partner "bangin' all over this bedroom."

"Just Luv Me" finds Spears almost desperately throwing her body at a man. "Ask for pieces of my body," she tells him. "Until all of it is yours/But I'm not gonna ask you for nothing/Just love me, just love me." The booty-call track "Do You Wanna Come Over" includes similar stuff: "Whatever you want/Whatever you need/I'll do it." Carnality, profanity and music mingle on "Slumber Party": "Neighbors say we're causing a commotion/ … We use our bodies to make our own videos/Put on our music that makes us go f---ing crazy." Alcohol gets added to the mix on "Hard to Forget Ya" ("Eyes locked on your body, sexy features, so iconic/ … Keep it going, let's get wasted"). In "What You Need", Spears purrs, "One time just ain't enough/ … I got that good, good stuff you can't erase/ … Give you what you want, I'm a certified expert."

After a breakup on "Man on the Moon," Spears turns to alcohol to take the edge off: "Drinking alone in my party dress/Would you come back if I looked my best?" "If I'm Dancing" mentions the Hindu concept of chakras (certain parts of the body imbued with specific spiritual powers according to some Indian religious traditions): "My chakra's all green and red/But he wants blue and green instead."

Summary Advisory

Britney Spears performed this album's first single, "Make Me …," at this year's MTV Video Music Awards. It was vintage Britney, a performance full of writhing and undulating, pouting and primping and posing. She even grabbed guest rapper G-Eazy's crotch a couple of times, as if to prove that she's still naughty enough to keep up with the young 'uns.

Yet I couldn't help but notice that her lip syncing was obviously off (something many others said via social media). She had all the "right" moves, but the whole thing just felt a bit off, as if maybe her heart wasn't quite in it anymore—even if she was obviously working very hard to prove otherwise.

I feel the same way about this sex-filled album after watching her Carpool Karaoke segment with James Corden. I'm just not convinced that Britney Spears is as interested in sex in real life as she insists she is throughout this album.

That said, many fans will likely take Britney Spears' latest effort at face value, accepting the message that's delivered from start to finish: that the greatest glory we can experience in life begins and ends with sex. Never mind that Britney may not even believe that hedonistic worldview she's still peddling after all these years.

Plot Summary

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August 26, 2016

On Video

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Adam R. Holz

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