New Britneyology

Shattered Glass (In Depth series)

Posted by: Karenannanina on: November 7, 2015

Shattered Glass was written by “Doctor” Lukasz Gottwald, Claude Kelly and Benjamin Levin. It was produced by Dr. Luke and Benny Blanco and mixed by Serban Ghenea. Real instruments were involved: drums and keyboards as well as the usual programming were the responsibility of Benny Blanco and Dr Luke; the latter also played guitars. The unobtrusive background vocals were by Benny Blanco and Windy Wagner.

These are the lyrics:

Ooh, hah-ah
Ooh, hah-ah

[Verse 1]
Did I wake you?
Were you sleeping?
Were you still in the bed?
Or is a nightmare keeping you up instead?
Ooh baby, are you feeling guilty for what you did?
If you think you’re hurting, you ain’t seen nothing yet

[Chorus Part 1]
Was it really worth it?
Was she everything that you were lookin’ for?
Feel like a man?
I hope you know that you can’t come back
Cause all we had is broken like shattered glass

[Chorus Part 2]
You’re gonna see me in your dreams tonight
My face is gonna haunt you all the time
I promise that you gon’ want me back
When your world falls apart like shattered gley-ess
Gley-ess, gley-ess, gley-ess

[Verse 2]
Are you having trouble focusin’ throughout the day?
Do you find yourself still callin’ my name?
Do you wish you could rewind time and take it back?
I bet you realize that she ain’t half the woman I am

[Chorus Part 1]

[Chorus Part 2]

Gley-ess, gley-ess, gleyess,
Gley-ess (gl-gl-gl), gley-ess (gle-gle-gle), gley-ess, gley-ess

Ooh, ha-ah
Ooh, ha-ah

I must admit, when Circus (the album) first came out, I always regarded Shattered Glass as a minor and (very) brief intrusion into the generally solid achievement of the album; a filler, in other words. However, my friend Jason, owner of the original Britneyology site, disagreed. He considered it a perfect little gem, contemporary and exactly right for its time, and certainly not to be discounted – especially by reason of its extreme brevity or of Britney’s annoying pronunciation of “glass” as “gleyess” (which is, perhaps, a hook of a sort).

Anyway, I thought it was shallow and bubblegum-ish, and typical of Dr Luke’s output. Indeed, a few years later I wrote an article for the dear departed old Poor Britney site, wherein I roundly lambasted Luke and all his works. This, however, provoked a storm of protest from an unsuspected phalanx of silently lurking Luke fans, who demanded that I be sacked immediately (I wasn’t)!

In recent times I’ve had something of a rethink – about Shattered Glass at least, if not about Dr Luke in general – and I now find it quite a tasty little item, and well-placed on the album as a refreshment break or mini-diversion after the more serious matters of Circus, Out from Under and Kill the Lights. It can be regarded as a companion piece to Lace and Leather.

The track is stark, unadorned, abrasive and dramatic. It begins with some random bleeping, tinkling, whirling and grinding and a few glass-shattering noises before Britney begins at center with some introductory ooo-oohs and continues with the first verse against a simple background of percussion, guitar ticks and occasional synth stabs. For Chorus Part 1, Britney is multi-tracked in a narrow “V” around centre and soft string-like synth and a limited bass make for a springy, bouncy backing. For Chorus Part 2, the percussion track drops out until the repeats of “gley-ess” towards the end, and Britney, still multi-tracked, is now accompanied by piano-like synth prodding and occasional, dramatic bass booms. Chorus Part 2 ends with a final, loud glass-shattering. For Verse 2, Britney returns to center and simple percussive backing resumes, with some additional synth blobs. The chorus parts proceed as in their first occurrence.

For those who are bothered about production values, it would have to be said that this production has a cheapskate air about it. The final product hangs together, yes, but a listener with reasonable headphones will not fail to notice the blatant way in which the track is assembled from various parts spliced together. One might even wonder in what order the verses and even some of the lines were originally recorded. Serban Ghenea is usually a lot better than this, so maybe this was how the masters were delivered to him by Dr Luke.

Lana del Rey once remarked that she wasn’t really interested in a lot of other female singers, but there was something about the way Britney sings that compelled her. What distinguishes Lana’s style is that atmosphere of sad nostalgia, the same “Sehnsucht” that I have remarked upon in Britney’s singing. But that was in older material, like When I Found You, not in Shattered Glass. Yet the Shattered Glass approach – smooth and competent but short of distinctiveness and emotion by her standards – has persisted in her style for all her recorded vocals in the years since then.

After 7 years there should be a sense of yearning and nostalgia for our lost youth attaching to her vocals on the Circus album, as there was in 2008 for her 2001 output, but somehow she seems to be stuck in a timewarp. It’s as if she has either adapted to, or been adapted by, her own personal genre of dance-pop that seems to exist on a planet of its own, timeless to those who love it, out of step with modernity to those who don’t.

5 Responses to "Shattered Glass (In Depth series)"

Nice review, and so good to see you back.

I’ve always rated this song very low in the Circus album. It’s obvious filler but it’s cute and I agree it makes for a refreshing break from the intensity of the previous and subsequent tracks.

However I think it’s has a very interesting structure. The way it’s written & produced makes me think the writers conceptualized it as a memory that Britney remembers for us to hear.

Still it has this cheesy pop sound which would please those who prefer the big pop Britney over the urban / electronic one. It’s a nice little song.

I tend to see this song as the demo for “Hold It Against Me”. Same progression and agressive affectation. That’s one of the reason this and “My Baby” would be the song that would get the axe in my self chosen “Circus” tracklist. 🙂

I love this song, its nice to hear your perspective. I always found this song a campinion to Lonely, back on her Britney album. Its made to be performed and it has that sort of performing vibe to it.
Its deliciously short too. She sounds really angry when she sings the versus and very taunting in the choruses. I just love it, its a highlight of the album.

I have, mixed feelings about Luke himself, he has contributed to some amazing songs in the past, but he also does go slack with his productions, recycle things, and how he allegedly treated Kesha also raises some red flags.

Loved this song the first time I heard it. Still love it today. The only thing I don’t like is the short length.

Comments are closed.

  • Karenannanina: I agree with you about the residency. It's the road to irrelevance for an artist. But a new album would be a golden blessing for her fans. Her albums
  • George: Spot on thoughts on the issue. Honestly, I don't... really care whether she does the residency or not? As long as there is new music, I'm fine. P.S: G
  • Sarah G: You should write an In-Depth of Glory or even Mood Ring (that's a groovy tune)