Elton and Britney’s mashup: a ‘star reborn’ or a ‘ruined song’?
Pop superstar Britney Spears has released her first single since regaining control of her personal and financial affairs.
The singer has collaborated with Elton John on the duet, Hold Me Closer. John told The Guardian that his team had been “holding her hand through the whole process, reassuring her that everything’s going to be alright”.
John said he thinks the mashup “may be” a “big hit” – and said that if it is, it will give the American pop star “so much more confidence”, with Spears seeking to reestablish her career after “such a traumatic time”.
Now she has released her first new music for six years, but some critics are less convinced that the song will shoot to the top of the charts.
‘A ruined song’
“As a paterfamilias to pop stars of all stripes, John is ideally placed to duet” with Spears, said The Times: “what could possibly go wrong?”. In the eyes of the newspaper’s chief rock and pop critic Will Hodgkinson, “plenty”.
“Oops, we did it again and ruined [a] song,” said the paper. The track’s opening bars are “overproduced”, there’s a “hotel foyer-friendly funky bass” and the singers’ voices have been “treated in a way that makes them sound like they might dissolve into the background entirely”.
The song takes its verses from John’s 1992 hit The One, and the chorus is adapted from the 1971 anthem, Tiny Dancer. Parts of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, from 1976, also feature.
To hear Spears sing “a simple, heartfelt rendition” of Tiny Dancer “could have been extremely affecting”, wrote Hogkinson, but “instead all the soul has been stripped away”.
The Telegraph’s music critic Neil McCormick described Hold Me Closer as “an ephemeral trifle” that is “cobbled together from two far better songs”. The end product is “one of the most pointless records in pop history”, he wrote. Both he and Hodgkinson gave the song a one-star review, with The Times’s critic describing the collaboration as “a massive opportunity wasted”.
Spears’ return “should be welcomed with open arms, but Hold Me Closer is a false start”, he said.
‘A star is reborn’
But the track has won some plaudits. The Guardian’s music writer Michael Cragg gave the song a four-star review, describing it as “another svelte, disco-tinged reworking” of an Elton John classic, following in the footsteps of the prolific artist’s recent collaboration with Dua Lipa on Cold Heart.
“This is no ordinary streaming-friendly curio from a legend looking to fluff their back catalogue,” added Cragg. “It comes tinged with something close to bittersweet; an example of what could have been if Spears’ megawatt pop-superstar shine hadn’t been dimmed all those years ago.” In his view, “a star is reborn”.
The “club thumper” is “a little bit pop, a little bit disco and, as Spears’ fans will relish, a lot of her recognizable baby doll voice”, said USA Today. The Guardian reported that the popstar “nailed” her vocal performance “in less than two hours”.
The track is “a neat, astute, carefully finessed piece of pop music”, said Clash magazine. And, it added, it’s “worth absorbing the gesture from Elton – it’s easy to pay lip service to #FreeBritney, it’s another to immediately put her on your record”.
The song had Vogue’s Christian Allaire wondering who Spears could collaborate with next: “Cher? Mariah? Her close friend, Selena Gomez? The opportunities are endless.”