Britney Spears

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The Only Britney That Matters

Britney Spears's oeuvre is filled with songs about taboo attraction—pop confections that freeze the moment when lust becomes a dangerous obsession, or, more often, when she realizes that whoops, she's led another poor man down the road to ruin.

Most of these transgression tales are audio soft porn, with melodies as threadbare as the outfits la diva Spears wore in the big-budget videos. Not "Toxic." Though the message is totally typical—she knows better, but she's addicted to that dangerous kiss—the means of conveying it are unique, a blur of Bollywood strings and last-roundup cowboy guitars and chittering electronic beats. Over these shifting elements, Spears sings the hypnotic refrain in a twisting swirl that screams, "Somebody help," because these feelings inside are careening out of control. For once, she's actually believable.

The most successful of the pinups who followed the Madonna handbook to pop stardom in the '90s, Spears hadn't had a Top 40 hit in three years when she began recording her fourth album, In the Zone, which appeared in late 2003. Like her previous albums, this one relied on a cluster of producers, and for "Toxic," which became the album's second single, she turned to the then-unknown Swedish team of Bloodshy and Avant. The duo organized the song into episodes—the brief "verse" section features Spears in a breathless falsetto, followed by a moment of odd electronic buzzing, followed by the psychedelic patchwork of that sticky chorus. Though the sounds in some sections are pretty far-fetched—one wonders whether Spears even knows that the strings here are a winking reference to the soundtracks of countless Indian movies—when combined like this, they lead to something far more electric than the average naughty-girl pop song.

Genre: Pop
Released: 2003, Jive
Appears On: In the Zone
Next Stop: The Raspberries: Go All the Way
After That: Christina Aguilera: Stripped
Book Pages: 727–728

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#1 from Bryan, St. Paul, MN - 11/04/2008 9:27

Awesome. Really.

#2 from Tamil Songs, India - 03/02/2011 7:36

I heard Toxic only day before yesterday and i am stick with it for the whole day. i really like Britney and her songs

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