The Dean tackles Britney Spears, Tegan & Sara, Bibi Bourelly, and Empress Of.
The self-proclaimed “Dean of American Rock Critics,” Robert Christgau was one of the pioneers of music criticism as we know it. He was the music editor at the Village Voice for almost four decades where he created the trusted annual Pazz & Jop Poll. He was one of the first mainstream critics to write about hip-hop and the only one to review Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water with one word: “Melodic.” On top of his columns, he has published a number of books over his career including his autobiography, Going Into the City, which was released in 2015 to critical acclaim. He currently teaches at New York University. Every week, we publish Expert Witness, his long-running critical column. To read more about his career, read his welcome post; for four decades of critical reviews, check out his regularly updated website.
Britney Spears: Glory (Deluxe Edition) (RCA) Not much music that aspires to pornography achieves the purity of its pleasure principle, and not much pornography does either—not if the ideal is physical sensation undiluted by either the distractions of romance or the power trips of big-dick netsmut. So Glory's fast-tracked eroticism is an unprecedented achievement even for this longtime professional sex toy. If she has "personal" issues, and why shouldn't she, they go unaddressed. But that doesn't mean there are no signs of growth here. Never has she slammed less or cooed more, and never has she seemed so in command of her desires, or so comfortable with them. She always likes her partners and sometimes loves them, but only three of the 17 songs go off message unless you count the voyeuristic one where she catches her doppelganger atop the cad she's driven 250 miles to dump. My favorite sequence tops the single "Clumsy," where they're banging all over the bedroom, with the single "Do You Wanna Come Over?," where she promises not to start kissing and touching without his go-ahead. But since tastes in sex differ radically, you may have your own. A MINUS
Tegan and Sara: Love You to Death (Warner Bros.) It's kind of a hoot for twin sisters to begin Indigo Girls, wind up Maroon 5, and just get gayer as they do. In the synth-cushioned highlight "Boyfriend," Sara wheedles/implores her bi-or-not gf to make up her mind with a hook that goes "I don't want to be your secret anymore." Other winners include the contrite "That Girl," the erotic "Stop Desire," and the anti-marriage "BWU." But thematically, these women are adaptable. Every track is a three-minute formalist construct that captures a mood rather than a three-minute romanticist statement that expresses an emotion. Some of these moods are more complex than others. But every one is catchy. A MINUS
Bibi Bourelly: Free the Real (Pt. # 1) (Circa 13/Def Jam) More breadth and personality than the topliner norm, rawer guitar too, but that don't equal hitbound or even cult hero ("What If," "Ego") **
Ravyn Lenae: Moon Shoes (Atlantic) Birdlike 17-year-old romantic proves how precocious she is with jazzy keyb chords I hope she outgrows and tricky beats that mark a way forward ("Moon Shoes," "Free Room") **
Empress Of: Me (Terrible) Independent female's reports from the hookup zone heat up as they go along and her relationship(s?) wax(es?) and wane(s?) ("Make Up," "Icon") *
Tegan and Sara: Heartthrob (Warner Bros.) Not exactly the first pop stars to be better at sex than love ("Closer," "Drove Me Wild") *
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