[midlife 150] #137: britney spears “toxic”
April 11, 2010
#137 Toxic by Britney Spears (taken from In The Zone, 2003)
Toxic is not merely a perfect guilty pleasure, it is a perfect pop song – one of the very few moments in the last decade where songwriting, production, performance, promotion and star power align, well, perfectly.
Co-written by Cathy Dennis (also responsible for another moment of noughties pop perfection, Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head) with Swedish writing/production superstars Bloodshy & Avant, Toxic mixes Original Sin and, yes, guilty pleasure (of the biblical kind) with a weird blend of western and Indian pop melody. You just can’t get it out of your head.
But it’s the studio work that lifts this song from great to awesome. Bloodshy & Avant meshed R&B grooves, an insane electro squelchy bass, spaghetti western guitar and Bollywood strings (apparently sampled from 1981 movie Ek Duuje Ke Liye) and somehow came out with the most coherent soundworld this side of Quincy Jones.
Meanwhile Spears (thankfully) delivered possibly her best vocal performance – breathy, urgent, intimate and ranging over two octaves or so with as much fluidity as that bassline, those strings. Then there’s that video and the fact that, at that point, Britney v2.0 was at the top of her game, critically and commercially.
Everything was in alignment – and the rest is endlessly blogged history. Falling from a peak this high makes it all the more tragic, and all the more inevitable.
This review is part of close to 94 ‘s [midlife 150] series, which counts down favourite music 1970-2009.