The Good: Mildly interesting song
The Bad: Overproduced, Duration, Insipid remixes that are just terrible.
The Basics: An inane dance-pop single performed by Britney Spears is made even worse by remixes which make it less melodic and more dancable.
I've hit my limit on the works of Britney Spears the day she has released the third and final version of her current attempt to cash in on her celebrity with The Singles Collection, which has now taken three forms and pushed me back to my shelves to the actual c.d. singles I have there, which include one of my few Britney Spears guilty pleasures, "Toxic." And as I consider this four-track "single," all I can ask myself in honest incredulity is, "What was I thinking?!" I do not recall where I was at the time I first heard "Toxic," but I imagine I was single and alone and the up-tempo single was soothing my battered heart. Or, perhaps, I was just young and stupid.
The Britney Spears fad mostly passed me by and as I encounter her works now, I find myself mortified by what passes for decent music at any given time. That said, I am relatively convinced that Toxic did not rise to prominence based on any sense of musical class, more the constant replay of the music video, which seems to be a trippy Britney Spears remake of Alias. That said, this c.d. single illustrates some of the worst trends in pop-rock music today.
With four tracks, Toxic is remarkably focused on the one song, which Britney Spears did not write or co-write, nor have any form of production credit on. Spears does not play any musical instruments on the song and she barely sings on the song, which has overbearing backing vocals. In fact, vocally, Toxic comes at a point in Britney Spears' career where she has more or less mortgaged any sense of a natural voice that she actually possesses in favor of an overproduced, mechanized sound which is hardly representative of a human voice. What's worse, on Toxic, the vocals go from overproduced to even more so, which is troubling. This is Britney Spears the brand name making money for Jive Records with little sense of artistry. On this single, she is little more than a performer and a mediocre one at that.
In addition to the studio/album cut of "Toxic," this single has three alternate versions of the song. There is the version that appears on the album as just an instrumental version. This is basically the sweeping keyboard and wrenchingly high guitars screeching along with the pounding bass track which forms the background music for Spears' vocals being presented as a standalone track. The other two tracks are just remixes of "Toxic." Both make the already dance-pop number into more of a dance track by highlighting the bass, keyboards and repetition of the simple refrain line "You're toxic I'm slipping under." In fact, one of the two remixes eliminates most of the actual stanzas to just repeat that line with the swirling dive down the scale that accompanies it.
For those unfamiliar with the song, Britney Spears sings about a bad relationship (sing about what you know, right?) and the song is dominated by a produced string orchestra section that makes it sound like it could be a James Bond theme. The string influence is lessened for the keyboards and bass for both remixes and this is very much a pop-dance number. As such, the lyrics are very simple and there is a great sense of musical and lyrical repetition to the song. That sense of repetition is increased when the remixes use loop after loop of the refrains two line melody. They repeat that a lot.
As for the lyrics, those who wrote the song - who include remixers Bloodshy & Avants, who I suppose just don't have the name to make this a hit single without Spears - are not in the running against Shakespeare and they seem to know it. While the writers manage to make a refrain without any predictable and obvious rhymes, "With a taste of your lips / I'm on a ride / You're toxic I'm slipping under / With a taste of a poison paradise / I'm addicted to you / Don't you know that you're toxic / And I love what you do / Don't you know that you're toxic" (save "do/you"), the song lacks any real emotional resonance. Instead of leading to a complex exploration of a relationship that is worse than the musical protagonist actually wants, the writers make banal statements like "Baby, can't you see / I'm calling / A guy like you / Should wear a warning / It's dangerous / I'm fallin’/ There's no escape / I can't wait / I need a hit / Baby, give me it / You're dangerous / I'm lovin’ it." Instead of making predictable rhymes, these writers seem to take the even lazier route of rhyming the same words with themselves.
In the end, though, this is the same song played four times and it's a terrible waste of the c.d. medium. Fans of Britney Spears will be unimpressed that none of the "b-sides" are actually different songs that lend additional value to the album. Those unimpressed with Spears' works to begin with will just be reinforced in their disappointment; this single shows an utter lack of real creativity which critics against the works of Britney Spears will easily recognize. There is nothing on this single, save the basic vocals which are altered in the original and even more in two of the remixes, that Spears actually created. Brand Britney strikes again.
For other reviews of Britney Spears music, please check out my reviews of:
. . . Baby One More Time (single)
Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know (single)
I'm A Slave 4 U (single)
The Singles Collection
For other music reviews, please check out my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |