Monday, April 05, 2004


I have had the Britney Spears song "Toxic" in my head for three days now. As much as I have always adamantly insisted that she was little more than talentless arm candy, I am now at somewhat of a loss.

I think "Toxic" is a great song.

(Waiter... Yes, I believe for an entrée I'll eat crow today.)

Ok, ok, so why do I like that tune? Well, for starters it's completely unlike anything she's done so far. I am always fascinated when artists do this. In some cases it changes them for the better (Kid Rock) and in some cases it ruins them (Dave Matthews). Since literally everything she had done up to this point was crap, there was only one direction to go. This song is not only very catchy, it's well-produced, well presented in terms of Britney's vocal ability (not particularly strong, but not bad either), and has an original and unique sound. It doesn't mimic other songs of Britney's genre and it has more in common with Portishead and Garbage than Christina Aguilera or Jessica Simpson. No one is saying that Britney is creatively on the same level as Portishead or Garbage, but "Toxic" is a significant step for Britney in terms of making music that may not have a universal appeal, in favor of creating something individually and uniquely hers. Even if you aren't caught by the track's infectiously grooving tempo or Britney's airy, understated vocals, "Toxic" is a respectable stab at reinventing what was admittedly becoming a tiresome image.

I told a coworker who is not a Britney Spears fan that I was hooked by this tune, and the coworker responded "well, she could never perform it live..." Admittedly, this is true. The song is so well produced for the album recording that reproducing the sound of it onstage will be problematic. But since when does that matter? I refer you to the scores of critically acclaimed bands and artists whose records have won awards and who sound like utter shit onstage. No Doubt, Celine Dion, Madonna, Limp Bizkit, Meat Loaf, Joe Cocker, LED ZEPPLIN... Just off the top of my head. So, if that's the worst thing that can be said about Britney, then I'd say she has taken her music up a step.

The tune is original, the video for the song is interesting (those of you who were drooling over her bodysuit missed the visual and costume refences to Adrien Lyne's film The Fifth Element), and instead of making an album that sounds exactly like her last (Pink, Jessica Simpson), trying to be the next Cher or Whitney Houston (Christina Aguilera, Beyonce), or making someone else's music and calking it your own (Joss Stone, etc...) Britney did the last thing anyone would expect; she recorded a single worth listening to.

Better late than never, Britney. Turn it up.

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