FIRST PRESS: Ralph dazzles on self-titled, folk-disco EP

On her self-titled debut EP, Toronto's Ralph combines the jangly rock and smokey vibes of Stevie Nicks with deconstructed disco. Fans of Carly Rae Jepsen's love letters to pop music will find similar soundscapes in Ralph, which isn't surprising when you learn that the fellow Canadians are labelmates.

Take "Tease," a narrative track about a local fuck boy playing multiple girls and fooled by his own perception of his coolness. Modern lyrics like "I'll confess your sweet talk had me weak in the knees / But my friend got the same text, cut and copied" contextualize the song in the now, but the twinkling, synth-y post chorus places "Tease" and other moments from the EP within trendy, 80s-flourished indie pop.

However, something about Ralph's songs feels plugged into a different, less jaded era. "Lit The Fire," the set's power ballad closer, is tailor-made for lighters up moments with its sweeping drums and Ralph's pleading delivery. Meanwhile on "Busy Man," Ralph begs for affection from a distracted lover with towering beats, fingersnaps, and the audible slide of a guitar chord changes. "Something More" is equally pulsating, capturing the tug-of-war of 'what ifs?' in a romantic entanglement.

The EP is six songs of perfection. If they're any indication of the damage Ralph will do in 2017... wreck it, Ralph!

SiftThru's Top Albums of 2016

Before 2015 ended, I was optimistic about what the new year would bring. For many reasons, 2016 was an incredible year I’ll never forget. For others, it’s eternally earmarked with loss and sadness. We lose legends every year, but 2016 felt especially cruel to the music world; David Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones, George Michael, and more passed away in what felt like consecutive kicks to the gut.

During volatile times, we need what brings us the most comfort. I love doing this list every year because it reminds me of brilliance I forgot, makes me replay memories these records soundtracked, and gets me excited for another year of new music. Already, we’re set to hear new records from SiftThru favorites like HAIM, Lorde, Tori Amos, Sky Ferreira, Charli XCX, Goldfrapp, and many more.

Both writing and music center me, so here’s to finding balance before 2017 rolls in with more punches, and more music.

These are my 20 favorite albums of 2016.

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20. Solange - A Seat At The Table: Solange’s vibrant, honest approach to her music first revealed itself on her flawless True EP. After taking time to explore her identity and grow as an artist, she emerged with A Seat At The Table. The album’s unapologetic and culturally rich songs feature Solange using her voice in new, expressive ways. On the soaring “Cranes In the Sky”, Solange wrestles with mental illness in a familiar, exquisite takedown amidst a choir of voices. Key Tracks: Cranes in the Sky, Don’t Touch My Hair, Where Do We Go

19. Garbage - Strange Little Birds: Garbage’s sound doesn’t just age like a fine wine; with their new album Strange Little Birds, the rock vets reveal bolder, deeper flavors. For 90s fans of Garbage and the decade itself, the crunching guitars that sound like they’re being put through a paper shredder are comforting. “Empty” could have been a Garbage single at the start of their career, while “Magnetized” positions their signature sound in today. Key Tracks: Empty, If I Lost You, Magnetized

18. Gwen Stefani - This Is What The Truth Feels Like: Gwen Stefani’s voice is one of the most instantly recognizable sounds on the planet. After scrapping an entire album of safe, hollow songs, Gwen returned to the rawness that made her No Doubt songs “Don’t Speak” and “Simple Kind of Life” so compelling. Both vulnerable and vicious, the frontwoman is at her best when she’s writing about her pain. This Is What The Truth Feels Like is half divorce album, half diary entries about new love. The contrasting perspectives match perfectly with Gwen’s versatile voice. Key Tracks: Make Me Like You, Truth, Used to Love You

17. Lissie - My Wild West: You can always count on Lissie to roar. The central illinois native tried out the major label landscape in Los Angeles, didn’t like how it fit, and replanted her roots back in the midwest. My Wild West, the singer-songwriter’s third album, chronicles her adventures in California with a more somber tone compared to previous records. The constant is Lissie’s larger-than-life voice, an instrument in itself that captivates with each level of the stratosphere it breaks. Key Tracks: Wild West, Don’t You Give Up On Me, Together or Apart

16. case/lang/veirs - case/lang/veirs: In the 70s and 80s, country legends Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt formed a supergroup called Trio. The artists celebrated their love of the genre all while incorporating their distinct styles. In that same tradition, Portland residents Neko Case, kd lang, and Laura Veirs collaborated on a soulful record focused on blending their sound and crafting elegant songs. The musicians rotate who takes lead on each song, with the others providing supporting harmonies. The result is a cohesive album of pure artistry and beauty - the perfect representation of all three women. Key Tracks: Atomic Number, Behind The Armory, Best Kept Secret

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15. Mitski - Puberty 2: Some of the best 90s albums were from artists scratching away at their identities, hoping to reveal truths through song. Mitski’s Puberty 2 is an eccentric blend of genres anchored by the artist’s sharply cutting lyrics. As with 90s gems like Exile in Guyville and Tidal, Puberty 2 isn’t afraid to be contradictory, blunt, and ferocious. “Your Best American Girl” has one of the most anthemic choruses of the year. Key Tracks: Happy, Your Best American Girl, Thursday Girl

14. Tegan and Sara - Love You to Death: With their 2013 release Heartthrob, power twins Tegan and Sara made a full court press for pop. Many long time fans were confused by the shift, but the sisters sounded perfectly at home with the driving melodies and punchy beats of the album. Rather than retreating to rock, Tegan and Sara made another pure pop record. Love You To Death builds on the sound of Heartthrob, but its songs feel more personal than anything the duo has done. “100x” addresses the strife between the sisters, while lead single “Boyfriend” tackles a woman’s first fling with another woman. If they keep churning out records like this, pop would be an excellent permanent place for them. Key Tracks: Boyfriend, Stop Desire, 100x

13. Rihanna - ANTI: After running on an album per year streak, Rihanna left us hanging in 2015. Although she released a few one-off singles, the hitmaker waited until the beginning of 2016 to release her masterpiece. ANTI is easily Rihanna’s best album, and the most obvious sonic representation of her persona. While there’s still elements of her radio readiness, ANTI is a darker record with a commanding, sexual atmosphere. Vocally, Rihanna unhinges and lays perfection aside for revelation. It will likely mark a sea change in her sound and style going forward. Key Tracks: Kiss It Better, Needed Me, Love On The Brain

12. Britney Spears - Glory: It feels so satisfying including a Britney Spears record on the top albums of 2016, and arguably Britney’s best since 2005’s Blackout. With the appropriately-titled Glory, Britney hones in on what makes her brand of pop distinct. Even throughout the deluxe tracks, Glory olds steady in quality by delivering some of the best melodies Britney’s sang (and yes, she actually sings them on this one!) in over a decade.The biggest surprise is how engaged and alive Britney sounds on these songs; “Do You Wanna Come Over” is classic Brit, with a throbbing baseline, breathy vocals, and winking sexuality. It’s good to have her back. Key Tracks: Do You Wanna Come Over, Man On The Moon, Hard to Forget Ya

11. Margo Price - Midwest Farmer’s Daughter: In the tradition of of her defiant country idols like Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, Margo Price’s solo debut Midwest Farmer’s Daughter is a confessional, richly-rooted album spotlighting the Illinois-born, Tennessee native’s many talents. She laser-focuses on solid songwriting with a pure delivery. The autobiographical “Hands of Time” has a classic melody that unfolds with its tragic telling of Margo’s own tale. Margo is unafraid to go toe-to-toe with more controversial subject matter, making her and her album a welcome change to the country scene. She’s already hard at work on a follow-up, which she says will partly focus on the current political climate. Key Tracks: Hands of Time, Tennessee Song, Hands of Time

10. Lapsley - Long Way Home: The youngest artist on the list this year has a sound that defies age, and genres. Lapsley’s rich rasp is drenched with wisdom, underscoring a distinct sadness throughout her debut, Long Way Home. “Station” sounds like stripped down stadium rock. “Love Is Blind” is a massive pop power ballad worthy of Adele. In the middle of the set, Lapsley puts on her disco pumps for “Operator (He Doesn’t Call me), an upbeat reprise from the wintery sadness of the album as a whole. Her songs become stories with different sides represented by pitched vocals and instruments that dance in and out of the song. Key Tracks: Operator (He Doesn’t Call Me), Station, Love Is Blind

09. Miranda Lambert - The Weight of These Wings: If your ex husband flaunts his new relationship across all forms of media, you can get mad, and/or get even. With her double album The Weight Of These Wings, Miranda Lambert found a third option: make the best album of your career and let it speak for itself. Divided into two halves, 'The Nerve' and 'The Heart', Miranda crafts her story with the familiar wit and charm from her previous records, but newly present is a sophistication and palpable wisdom. Although it’s an intimidating listen, repeated listens reveal new highlights. As it matures, this set could go down as a country classic. Key Tracks: Runnin’ Just In Case, Vice, Pushin’ Time, Keeper Of The Flame

08. Shura - Nothing's Real: Shura’s hushed brand of indie pop is for the introverted and introspective sides of your personality. Within her songs, she’s both the soft-spoken girl tugging at her acid wash jacket, as well as the bombastic romantic scribbling your name in her notebook. Nothing’s Real is a meticulously crafted soundscape to get lost in, with dreamy production that delicately coats sugary toplines. Opening with the storming title track, the record sounds like an artist slowly climbing back into her shell but ultimately being satisfied with the world she’s created. On the way there, the sing-in-your-hairbrush pop of “What’s It Gonna Be?” and “What Happened To Us” make you want to live there, too. Key Tracks: What’s It Gonna Be, What Happened To Us, Make It Up

07. Lady Gaga - Joanne: This isn’t Lady Gaga going country. This isn’t Lady Gaga dropping the schtick. This is Lady Gaga, as she’s been since she danced on to the scene in a leotard with a disco stick. Joanne is simply Lady Gaga’s latest expression of herself. Named after an aunt who passed away before Lady Gaga was born, Joanne is a tried-and-true pop record with career-best vocals. Best of all, shades of Lady Gaga incarnations past join the party; “John Wayne” is the barn-burning counterpart to ARTPOP’s “Mary Jane Holland.” “Dancin’ In Circles” is the sun-soaked sister of The Fame Monster’s “Alejandro.” Even if you can appreciate the nods to old work, or a conscious step toward Americana, it’s worth celebrating the record for being a snapshot of an artist who’s already lived a thousand lifetimes since arriving almost a decade ago. If anything, Joanne proves nobody can compete with Lady Gaga’s pop sensibilities. Key Tracks: Diamond Heart, John Wayne, Come to Mama

06. NAO - For All We Know: NAO’s otherworldly voice is so alien it may fool listeners as a production effect. Her debut, For All we Know, is unlike anything you’ll hear this year, or ever. Throughout the record, NAO paints gorgeous, soulful strokes with layered harmonies, dance beats, and smooth grooves. Chilled out guitars, reverberated effects, and diva theatrics make the record sound simultaneously DIY and power-produced. Melodically, NAO draws influence from artists like Janet Jackson, Brandy, and Chaka Kahn. For All We Know is a uniquely-crafted album that will appeal to listeners of all types of genres. Key Tracks: Get To Know Ya, Bad Blood, We Don’t Give A

05. JoJo - Mad Love.: JoJo’s third album is absolutely worth the decade-long wait. While it would have been nice to have an official LP released sooner, the wait brought wisdom, love, and loss that all coat this confident, empowering album. JoJo’s been out-singing her peers since before she could drive, but Mad Love. takes her craft to a new level. On songs like “FAB” and “I Can Only”, JoJo is assured and all attitude. She was smart to scrap an initial batch of songs that were less R&B-focused, a genre in which JoJo sounds most at home. Take “Honest”, a transparent takedown of double standards in a relationship. The song has a smoky atmosphere with just enough vocal acrobatics to add drama to the stillness. The flipside of the record is raw, with JoJo singing out her heart in ways almost too painful to listen. Opening track “Music” is a love letter to her passion, complete with autobiographical lyrics about the loss of her father. JoJo is fearless in all areas of her music, and this feels like the strong beginnings of an artist with much to say. Key Tracks: Music, Mad Love, Honest

04. Beyonce - Lemonade: How do you follow up a visual album? Why, with another one of course! The difference between Beyonce’s surprise self-titled album and Lemonade is the latter’s visuals tell a story. However, it’s not as black and white as a divorce story, or even a reconciliation story. Beyonce pulls the focus away from her marriage defining her, and instead explores how she exists within the relationship, and outside of it. If the focus of her self-titled album was feminism, Lemonade is an unapologetic love letter to black women. Beyonce addresses the victories, the losses, and the contradictions in a world which celebrates her fierce performances, then admonishes her for making important statements about race relations in America. Thankfully, Beyonce recognizes her position and platform. Lemonade as a political statement would be impressive enough, but the music makes the album tower above her previous efforts. Throughout its twelve tracks, Lemonade explores hip-hop, R&B, rock, pop, and even Beyonce’s first country tune in the form of “Daddy Lessons.” Then of course there’s “Freedom”, the album’s battle cry. With an assist from Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce channels her anger towards being wronged by a relationship and society into an explosive rejection of oppression. The now iconic “Formation” closes the record, setting the course for organized action in a continually volatile era of our nation’s history. Key Tracks: Sorry, Freedom, Formation

03. Maren Morris - Hero: Some voices grind you to a halt. Maren Morris has the powerful pipes to sing stadium anthems, as well as the torchy touch to quiet a room. When she exploded on to the scene last year with “My Church”, Maren clearly contrasted the bro vibes of mainstream country, and had a sound completely her own. Like previous hits from Shania Twain and Faith Hill, the songs from Maren Morris’ major label debut Hero are both pop and country radio ready. “80s Mercedes” may have country twang, but it’s instant chorus casts it as a star on any format. “I Could Use a Love Song” is destined to be the “Need You Now” of 2017, only this time the saccharine is replaced by smarter songwriting. Maren’s found favor with music critics and fans of all genres, making Hero a promising start to a career with endless potential. Key Tracks: My Church, I Could Use a Love Song, 80s Mercedes

02. Ariana Grande - Dangerous Woman: Ariana Grande’s potential has been obvious since her debut, Yours Truly, dropped in 2013. Immediately, her voice transcended her peers as an invincible instrument that continues to reach new heights. Her follow-up, My Everything, felt like a conscious bid to position Ariana as the next big pop star with its head hitmakers. With Dangerous Woman, we begin to hear who the woman is behind the voice. While the image and overall message may be disjointed, listening to Dangerous Woman illuminates Ariana Grande as confident, romantic, and bold. If My Everything was a catchy yet confused record, Dangerous Woman is undeniably hook-laden and assured of its strengths. We begin to hear a signature sound from Ariana: hard beats, dreamy production elements, and maximum melisma. Sure, you could trace that blueprint to predecessors like Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera, but in Ariana's capable hands, the songs on Dangerous Woman capture a millennial mindset that makes her an icon to the young women and men who follow her. Further down the tracklist, “Knew Better / Forever Boy” captures the aforementioned signature sound to recap a failed relationship and celebrate a new one.For a pop album on the longer side, the quality rarely dips. Much like some of the best pop records of the last 20 years, Dangerous Woman sounds like a collection of singles. The actual singles from the record soundtracked 2016, with the clear standout being the massive “Into You.” The Max Martin-produced banger is hook after hook, building into a showstopping bridge that erupts with its final minutes. Album closer “Thinking Of You” brings it all home. Ariana is an outspoken fan of Imogen Heap, and this song captures the twinkling serenity Imogen does well. In its last moments, the song soars into the heavens and shatters itself into stars. If she’s capable of delivering an album like Dangerous Woman this early into her career, more masterpieces certainly await. Key Tracks: Into You, Knew Better / Forever Boy, Thinking Bout You

01. Carly Rae Jepsen - EMOTION Side B: When your b-sides make year end lists, you’re onto something. After winning over critics and fans alike with the immaculate EMOTION, Carly Rae Jepsen celebrated the rollercoaster year she had with a surprise release of eight songs that weren’t ready in time for Side A. That explains why some of these songs are better than the songs that were ready. Clocking in just under 30 minutes, Side B dials up everything we loved about Side A and injects us with a concentrated dosage. For that reason, it stands on its own in addition to being a companion piece. Although EMOTION was often compared to the greats of 80s pop, like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper. Opener “First Time” is the closest Carly has come to capturing the neon pastiche of Madonna hits like “Lucky Star” and “Borderline” with its fizzy synths and colorful chorus. On “Higher”, the only track from both sides that Carly didn’t co-write, she takes what would be a serviceable song by anyone else and cranks up the euphoria until the song levitates. It’s proof that Carly Rae Jepsen understands pop at its purist, primal level, giving her widespread appeal. She’s dethroned Robyn as pop darling of the indie scene, and songs like the heart-wrenching “Fever” and brilliant storytelling of “Store” will keep her ruling. The best of the set is clearly “Cry,” a moody, darker song with tight songwriting  With Carly beginning work on her fourth album, she’s provided two sets of pitch-perfect pop that will forever soundtrack our most memorable moments while we wait for its release in 2017. Key Tracks: Higher, Fever, Cry

FIRST PRESS: Toronto's LITEYEARS electrifies with debut EP

Meet LITEYEARS, a five-piece pop act from Toronto who recently released their debut EP American Towns. The band began under the Wirth brothers, Brent (Vocals, Piano, Guitar, Keyboards), and Brian (Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals). They were the winners of Slaight Music's It's Your Shot $50,000 grand prize for their track “If I Could Fix You (You Know That I Would)." Later, LITEYEARS added Adam Slinn on keyboards, Nick Haberer on bass, and Joey Muha on drums to complete their sound. 

American Towns is brimming with melody and a driving pop sensibility. The guys put enormous attention on the delivery of each song. Sometimes, they'll harmonize as the music drops, spotlighting twinkling production before the beat crashes back in. The title track is both a giant sing along and a campfire song, combining intimacy with unapologetic pop, while lead single "Rhythm In The Stars" is the perfect top-down tune for late night drives. 

Listen to the EP below. Be sure to check out their well-viewed Zoetic Sessions, which features the songs from American Towns with 40 piece orchestra, 10 piece drumline, and other off-beat interpretations. Be on the look out for LITEYEARS' full-length LP, which they're chipping away at as we speak. 

St. Vincent calls upcoming fifth album her "deepest, boldest work"

It's been three years since Annie Clark released her self-titled St. Vincent album. Since then, she's toured the world, had high profile relationships, and designed her own badass guitar

Now, she's ready to return to music. This spring, Clark will release her fifth album as St. Vincent, and calls it her "deepest, boldest work" in a new interview with Guitar World magazine. In addition to saying it marks a "real sea change" in her style and sound. 

I’ve been able to step back and reflect and not just be in the tour, record, tour, record cycle that I’ve been in for about 10 years. I think it’ll be the deepest, boldest work I’ve ever done,” Clark said about the new album. She continued, “I feel the playing field is really open for creative people to do whatever you want, and that risk will be rewarded—especially now that we have such high stakes from a political and geo-political standpoint. The personal is political and therefore the political can’t help but influence the art. And only music that has something pretty real to say is gonna cut the mustard.
— Annie Clark, Guitar World

Check out the cover image of Clark's Guitar World shoot, which she reveals in the interview is an absurdist take on the magazine's past covers that feature bikini-clad models.

Kylie Minogue promises "sparkling melancholy" on upcoming new album

While we're all busy stuffing our stockings and decorating the tree to the Snow Queen reissue of her fantastic Christmas album Kylie Christmas, Kylie Minogue is looking ahead to 2017. In an interview with The Standard, Kylie told us what we could expect from her highly-anticipated 13th album, set for release next year. 

"The last couple of years I’ve been doing lots of bits and pieces," said Kylie. "I’m looking forward to a solidified 2017. I’ve done a lot of random gigs, that’s the one thing that’s kept me busy. So I just want to make good music, music that people can have as part of their life. If I can just stick with that, that’s a good place."

Kylie's last outing was the American-aimed Kiss Me Once. While the record had serviceable singles completely in line with Kylie's brand of emotipop, the album felt like a deliberate attempt to break into the American music, again. For the new album, the Australian artist 

"Instead of thinking ‘how does the music industry work and how do I fit into it?’ I just want to do what I do. What’s worked well for me in the past is pop dance, obviously, melodies, emotional themes."

Kylie described her signature sound in a way that promises more songs in the vein of classics like "Love at First Sight" and "I Believe In You."

"I think most people think of my songs as joyful. But it doesn’t have to be just about joy — it can be sparkling melancholy — I don’t think I’ve ever used those words together before, I’m going to use it! And a slice of the unexpected, which we did with something like [2003 hit] Slow.

 

WATCH: Bonnie McKee goes Barbarella in "Stars In Your Heart" video

Now that hit songwriter Bonnie McKee is an independent artist, she can release whatever she wants, whenever she wants. As a holiday treat to her rabid fanbase of BonBons, the Hollywood-based singer just released a video from the vaults.

"Stars In Your Heart" is a three year old song intended for Bonnie's full-length album with Epic Records. The song is a tender power ballad with 80s rock flourishes, and the video is nod to the cult-classic Barbarella, one of McKee's favorite films.

Watch the galactically, scantily clad video below. 

FIRST PRESS: Dominique crawls across genres on debut EP

Some of the best musicians begin in the science realm. Meet Dominique, an NYU biology major-turned-triple threat producer, singer, and songwriter. In an age of DIY pop of varying quality, Dominique's sleek and meticulously crafted songs make an immediate impression. She pulls in some of electronic music's best elements while simultaneously painting with cinematic strokes, like the ones found on the bridge of "I Think I'm Falling." On highlight "If I Could Go Back," the NY native sings about regret with twinkling 80s synths and intergalactic backing vocals buoyed by the artist's gentle tone. 

Stream the EP below via Soundcloud, and Listen to Dominique on Spotify

Fiona Apple returns with Trump Christmas song

This is perhaps the best thing to come out of Donald Trump's unjustified, terrifying win in this year's presidential election.  

Fiona Apple took to her tumblr to post her take on The Christmas Song, but dedicated to our new Commander-In-Chief (still doesn't feel real). 

Trump’s nuts roasting on an open fire
as he keeps nipping at his foes.
you’ll cry creepy uncle
every time he arrives
for he keeps clawing at your clothes
everybody knows some money and entitlement
can help to make the season white
mothers of color with their kids out of sight
will find it hard to sleep at night.

They know that truuump is on his way.
he’s got black boys in hoodies locked up on his sleigh
and every working man is going to cry
when they learn that Letch don’t care how you live or if you die

Sooo I’m offering this simple phrase
to kids from 1 to 92
although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas
Donald Trump, fuck you
— Fiona Apple, The Trump Christmas Song

Listen below. 

Lizzy Land hypnotizes with debut single "Sweet Melodies"

Having a crush is like looking at the world through pink-tinted glasses with constant endorphin refills. Portland-born, LA-based artist Lizzy Land captures that vibe with her debut single "Sweet Melodies." As the beat rolls, Land glides over it all with a melody that's just as infectious as the person you're into. It's a promising preview of what a full-length might sound like. 

Listen below, and give it some love on Hype Machine

Britney Spears' blaze of Glory: A track-by-track review

Britney performs at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards 

Britney performs at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards 

Britney Spears is a vessel: songwriters, producers, and visionaries know she'll take their ideas and turn them into hyperrealities. Even when she's not the captain, Britney knows what it takes to steer the ship. 

That's what makes 2013's Britney Jean so baffling; how could a woman who delivered gems like "Oops!...I Did It Again" and "Toxic" put her name on a rushed, half-hearted effort, to the point of Britney not even singing parts of it? 

After releasing "Pretty Girls," a dated-upon-arrival, Iggy Azalea-assisted track, fans feared another Britney Jean debacle. When the song didn't perform to expectations, Britney and her team took a healthy step back. They asked themselves the important questions: why do people care about Britney Spears? How do we familiarize this current generation of Beliebers and Lovatics with the woman who influenced their sound and style? What are the signature elements of Britney Spears' music? 

Glory, her ninth studio album, curates the best of Britney Spears in a 2016 landscape.

01. Invitation

Glory opens with a subtle, warm "Invitation." Britney sings in a fragile falsetto, a method she employs throughout the album's 17-track deluxe edition. She sounds comfortable and sensual, inviting her lover to wear a blindfold: "I just need you to trust me / Oh, that you see more with your eyes closed." Critics will lazily compare this brand of hazy, erotic pop to more recent efforts by Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande. However, it's important to remember the role Britney had in shaping this soundscape before the women who followed her. Songs like "Breathe On Me" and "Touch of My Hand" were the blueprints for hits like "Good For You" and "Love Me Harder." 

02. Make Me... (feat. G-Eazy)

Lead single "Make Me..." gave fans a glimmer of hope for this record; rippling synths give way to a prismatically pulsating chorus, all underneath an unmistakably Britney vocal. Compare it to something like "Til The World Ends," which is club-ready, but lacks any soul. Britney doesn't have the vocal chops of her peers, but she knows exactly how to use her voice to sell a song. "Make Me..."'s chorus in her hands becomes a choir of electrified coos. The G-Eazy feature doesn't add much to the song, but it doesn't completely ruin the flow either. 

03. Private Show

Released ahead of the album to promote her new fragrance of the same name, "Private Show" is a playful strip song with a down-home vibe. Vocally, Britney hasn't sung this naked since 2007's "Hot as Ice." To some, it will sound jarring and a bit unpleasant. What Britney lacks in power she makes up for with character, and "Private Show" has it in spades. Bouncing from sassy to sexy to silly, the track introduces a new vibe to the record, but thankfully not one that persists. 

04. Man On The Moon

Britney hasn't had a melody like this in over a decade. "Man On The Moon" has the somber innocence of her first two records, and could even be a sequel to "Lucky" due to its emotional pull. Written by a team that includes pop upstart Phoebe Ryan," "Man On The Moon" shows Britney competing with the stars in the sky for affection. Lyrically, it's one of the strongest on the record with its Lana Del Rey, spacey undertones:

Last night I was in your arms so strong
One small step and, baby, you were gone
Now there's meaning in the saddest songs
All I do is cry and sing along

[Pre-Chorus]
Drinking alone in my party dress
Would you come back if I looked my best?
Put on a smile and I said to myself

[Chorus]
Patience, darling, wait for the night
Darkness comes and love comes alive
I've been right here dreaming of you
Waiting for my man on the moon

When the bridge hits, a rush of spoken French and strings delivers that emotional climax the song deserves. If this isn't a single, it will certainly be a fan favorite. 

05. Just Luv Me

Once again, the temptation to call this Selena Gomez-influenced will be strong, but it's inaccurate. In actuality, "Just Luv Me" could have found a home on 2003's In the Zone. Minimal production and Britney's dry, pleading delivery adds a vulnerability to the song, which was produced by Cashmere Cat (Ariana Grande, Ryn Weaver, Charli XCX) and Robopop (Kesha, Lana Del Rey, Marina and the Diamonds). Rumors are this is up for consideration as the second single, a justifiable choice with its current sound.

06. Clumsy

With an appropriate title, "Clumsy" shakes up the flow of the album to its detriment. While it's serviceable, the song's dated drop sounds like a volume knob being turned back and forth, making it hollow and anti-climactic. "Clumsy" is catchy, and sounds like a galactic hoe-down, but ultimately feels dwarfed by its surrounding songs. 

07. Do You Wanna Come Over?

The throbbing, driving beat. The sarcastic questioning. The pure sex of the chorus. "Do You Wanna Come Over?" sounds like a Britney classic on first listen. While the male shouts in the chorus can be a bit much, Britney balances the vibe with a simple "Uh huh." It's the same cool, confident Britney we've heard on songs like "I'm a Slave 4 U." The production plays special attention to detail: the off-melody backing vocals, sounds of an aluminum can being opened are meticulously crafted. "Do You Wanna Come Over?" may end up regulated as gay club fodder, but this is a giant banger only Britney could deliver. 

08. Slumber Party

Look no further than "Slumber Party" to hear the progression of Britney Spears, and one of the album's strongest single contenders. Dreamy synths that sound like blowing bubbles, syncopated handclaps, and warm island breeze vibes make "Slumber Party" effortlessly classy and camp. The chorus is a total earworm and brilliantly written:

Cause we got them candles hanging
Hanging from the ceiling low
We use our bodies to make our own videos
Put on our music that makes us go fucking crazy, oh
Go crazy, oh
Like a slumber party

The ending explodes with a fiesta of horns and beats, plus Britney injecting some of her signature adlibs, creating a "Slumber Party" worth attending.

09. Just Like Me

Glory finds its first moment of bite with "Just Like Me," a song tackling the shock of seeing your ex with a lover who looks identical to you. Once again, there's a sound reminiscent of her earlier work, specifically with the attitude found on 2001's Britney. Compared to the rest of the album, "Just Like Me" is relatively stripped down, includes an acoustic guitar, and has some of Britney's fiercest vocals. 

10. Love Me Down

"Love Me Down" is another track fairly on trend with 2016 pop, but with a Spears twist. A wobbly intro reminiscent of the griminess on 2007's Blackout transitions into stuttering beats one might hear on a Gwen Stefani record. The repetitive chorus immediately lodges itself in your brain, and picks the energy back up to carry you into Glory's stunning second half. 

11. Hard to Forget Ya

There's overwhelming nostalgia stitched into "Hard to Forget Ya." For one, it's the most assured and soulful vocal performance on Glory. The melody takes cues from the late 80s and early 90s work of her predecessors Janet Jackson and Madonna. Once again, the ad-libs Britney leans on to elevate her most dramatic songs storm in forcefully; she effortlessly glides over the ending while the chorus repeats. It's euphoric, anthemic, and feels like the album's victory lap.

12. What You Need

As with "Private Show," the vocals on "What You Need" will catch listeners off guard. She sounds the most unhinged, channeling a mix of funk and spunk. The growl she delivers during the line "bringing out the diva that lives in me," with 'me' sounding more like 'may,' is vintage Spears. This is basically the vibe Christina Aguilera and Cher went for on Burlesque, which will either rope you in or push you away. Regardless, the casual "That was fun" Britney utters at the end makes you want to give her a standing ovation, even with five songs to go. 

13. Better

You may recognize the name Bloodpop as the producer of Justin Bieber's monster hit "Sorry." For his contribution to Glory, he relies on the same tropical pop and trance vibes to give Britney her own variation. If released by Bieber, "Better" would be a monster hit. The highlight is the bridge, where the beat drops out to give way to a series of handclaps and falsetto vocal runs, before smashing back in. Coming from Britney, the song veers slightly towards being behind the times, but is nevertheless a serviceable bop. 

14. Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortes)

This is where things get weird. Yes, the parenthetical does not deceive you: Britney speaks Spanish on "Change Your Mind (No Seas Cortes)," which in English translates to, "don't be polite." Appropriately, a Spanish guitar eventually erupts into a four-on-the-floor beat. Britney's emotive vocals highlight the songs desperate nature, featuring production from the imaginative Mattman & Robin (Carly Rae Jepsen, Selena Gomez, Tove Lo). 

15. Liar

The fury from "Just Like Me" is back, but instead of disbelief, Britney sings with fire. There's a swagger, the sound of a scornful warning as Britney sings about not "fucking with your dirty laundry" and Kamikazee fire. Battlefield-style drums mix with a storming chorus you'd be more likely to hear on an angry Kelly Clarkson song make "Liar" a welcomed, rock-leaning direction. Again, this could have been found on earlier albums, and could even be the sequel to a woman burned by the protagonist of "Criminal" from Femme Fatale

16. If I'm Dancing

The reason many see In The Zone and Blackout as the Holy Grails of Britney Spears' discography is due to their adventurousness. On the former, Britney bounces between genres and incorporates just the right amount of distance and intimacy. With the latter, the producers involved pushed Spears to sound like she had never before, and cast her in progressive soundscapes. "If I'm Dancing" marries those two worlds with hypnotic, electronic wonder. Britney sounds like an aquatic goddess, dipping and crooning as synths drop in and out of the mix. It's the closest she's gotten to sounding like Robyn or Grimes, and would be a promising direction for future albums. 

17. Coupure Électrique

We end with a French kiss-off. Clocking in at just under two-and-a-half minutes, "Coupure Électrique" is a sparse electroballad in which Britney sings completely in French. Her pronunciation may need some work, but the fact that Britney is taking these sonic risks at this stage of her career revitalizes the excitement around seeing her continue to build an untouchable pop legacy. 

A generation of music listeners grew up with Britney Spears. We watched her as the Catholic school girl, the cat-suited femme fatale, the snake charmer, the spy in a flight attendant disguise. She's withstood personal and professional tribulations that made many wonder if she'd burn out or give up. Thankfully, she's done neither, and Glory proves that Britney Spears isn't done carving out her place in music history. It's a triumphant return to form that not only stands on its own as a solid Britney Spears record, but also as one of 2016's most bombastic pop efforts.

Sure, the lyrics are impersonal. Yes, most of the songs are about sex and pleasure. We shouldn't be asking why that's so, we should be asking why not? Why do we assume a woman singing about pleasing a man isn't also trying to please herself? Why do music reviews of pop albums from women desperately search for authenticity and intimacy? Especially when the artist in question has had her most intimate moments invaded to the point of nearly losing her career, and her life. We don't come to Britney Spears for sprawling, radical political statements. From Britney, it's about the persona; we want someone who can collaborate with those who understand her, and create something with polish to soundtrack our nights out, our gym trips, and our relationships. 

There's much to appreciate about this album, especially for fans who resigned themselves to accepting Britney Spears as a legacy act and nostalgic piece of their childhood. We're quickly approaching two decades of Britney Spears, and Glory is the perfect album to celebrate where she's been and where she's going.