Single Review: Britney Spears – ‘Hold It Against Me’

Some people are born to fame for many different reasons. Some are born into fame because of the wealth or celebrity status of the parents á la Miley Cyrus, Willow/Jayden Smith. Some are born to fame purely because that’s their sole aim in life – to be as famous as they possible can and hope to leave behind some kind of ‘legacy’, á la Lady GaGa. But then there are others, who have all the credentials – personality and performance-wise – to be successful recording artist, but almost none of the singing/musical talents of their lesser known peers, yet still ‘make it’ because they are, above and before all else, simply destined to be that famous.

Britney is one of the lucky ones – someone who’s built her entire career on a pretty face, the ability to carry a pretty decent tune and a revealing school girl costume, not to mention one of the most fiercely loyal fan-bases in the whole of current music. Sure, there’s been a few catchy tunes along the way, a couple of interesting, experimental tracks, and a whole host of ups and downs in both her personal life and her musical endeavours. But scouring through her back catalogue of chart-topping hits, substance, by ‘Everytime’, is as hard to come by as an entirely live (vocally) performance from her, these days. Still, she remains held high upon a towering pedestal by her endearing fans, overlooking her competition.

A true testament to Britney’s popularity, the loyalty of her fans and the anticipation behind her comeback is that, when one particular statement was released by Dr. Luke on the new single ‘Hold It Against Me’ – “the new song will be something new, unique and really fresh”; it divided casual listeners and fans alike. Some stuck to their guns and remained adamant that Britney would deliver. Others remained unsure, straddling a nice, cosy fence, while the cynics and wits among us bathed in the naïveté of that overly optimistic statement from her and her producer as the foundation of Britney’s pedestal began to show signs of wear and tear.

In retrospect, Britney’s career is a bit of a fluke: from ‘… Baby One More Time’ through to ‘Circus’, you get the disappointing feeling Britney’s whole career has been paved with success because of the people who paved it for her – the Dr. Luke’s, the Max Martin’s, and the Claude Kelly’s – she doesn’t seem to have helped in away other than do some stuff over the work that’s put in front of her. She may get some well-deserved co-writing credits for the still-very-brilliant-in-it’s-own-way ‘In The Zone’, but since then, all we have to go on is ‘Circus’, and in my honest opinion, the half-arsed and “cohesion is not important” attitude to the melodically flat ‘Circus’ was some of her weakest work thus far.

Amidst the rush about the news of new material from Britney, many have speculated what the new “unique” sound both Britney and Dr. Luke have promised us might be, and whether it will indeed live up to those claims of being “unique”, “new” and “really fresh”. Some even celebrated simply the news, instantly branding the song a massive hit-in-waiting, without even hearing it – another testament to Britney’s perpetually loyal fanbase, or perpetually stubborn, depending on which angle you’re looking at it from. There was one particular demo that was leaked last week and it made the whole BRITNEY’S BACK hot air balloon deflate a little… Okay maybe a lottle – like a whoopee cushion, fart sound included because let’s face it, that demo was embarrassing. Clutching straws, I hoped that the proper Britney version would be better just because it was, well, Britney. Fortunately I was right, but that doesn’t mean ‘Hold It Against Me’ is any good when it stands by itself.

Upon listening to it myself, ‘Hold It Against Me’ fails to even gather the energy required to look up from the depths below at those bold claims that it was something “new, unique and really fresh”. It may be driven by a stomping Eurodance beat that channels influences of British grime and dubstep, but it’s hard to find any redeeming qualities after that. I also don’t quite understand why Dr. Luke and Max Martin decided it would be a good idea to take the beat – the monstrous underbelly that just about keeps the song afloat – away for the chorus. Maybe they were trying to be innovative, but it appears to have backfired. Musically, it borrows heavy influences from Ke$ha’s ‘Take It Off’ – incidentally, also produced by Dr. Luke – only with less obvious hooks and an additional dubstep breakdown. The breakdown adds a much needed injection of surprise, not a great one because dubstep isn’t all that exciting and amazingly innovative to someone who’s musical tastes tend to stretch a bit farther than commercial radio’s highly limited playlists, but at least it manages to add an optimistic spark to the song’s dying embers.

Lyrically, it’s shocking. It crams uninspired, unexciting lyrics that would’ve once sounded erotic, but thanks to Britney being auto-tuned to within an inch of her life, she now sounds like a caricature of her own voice welded onto a into a song with less cohesive structure than haphazard pile of bricks. In the chorus, she sounds vacant, and against the thumping music she fades far into the background, like she’s detached herself from them. It doesn’t help that the lyrics during said chorus just aren’t interesting to the listener either – “If I said my heart was beating loud/If we could escape the crowd somehow”, and “‘Cause you feel like paradise/And I need a vacation tonight”, fail to deliver on those claims it promised us.

Unfortunately, as is the case with most rush-releases, there is no video as of yet.

Alas, to think I actually got a little excited to hear this after all the hype about it being something it’s clearly not. It’s soulless, generic, and gives the impression it was knocked together by GCSE Music students in about three days – the arrangement is all over the place and the overuse of auto-tune render it a poor lead single with no memorability whatsoever.

It seems the pedestal’s foundations are continuing to crumble beneath Britney’s feet and it won’t be long till even her fans will abandon her because if everything on her new album resembles similarly abhorrent, hookless drivel with Britney presenting her best Ke$ha facsimile, there’s only a certain amount of tolerance that even her hardest fans can manage without ending up sounding like unjustified Britney-whores.

It appears to me, that whilst her musical output since ‘Everytime’ doesn’t please myself particularly, Britney has always been more of a trend-setter in the huge arena of popular music (mainly during her earlier active years). Not really striking up a battle or chart feud with any other artist, she’s generally been the one other’s have aspired to be like; the person many other new artists have been influenced by. However, with the release of ‘Hold It Against Me’, Britney appears to have run out of her own ideas and has been left to play catch-up to the likes of the newer dance-pop singers, all of whom deal within this genre and produce far better results better than what Britney has just spat out in the form of ‘Hold It Against Me’. The style particularly (or lack thereof) is soon going to have it’s own cliché status at this rate.

Rating: 1.5 STARS

Download: January 17, 2011

Album: TBA

END NOTE: Britney fans, this review does not leave a loop hole for you to attack me about my comparison between ‘Hold It Against Me’ and ‘Take It Off’. Yes, people, it’s a hard truth but it is possible to copy, or be influenced by, someone who rose to prominence years after you did; it’s even easier to do that if you change your musical style to a near-on carbon copy of that of the other artist’s particular sound.

I have clearly defined my argument and will not appreciate the Britney fan club attacking the comment box unless your own opinions on the song are as detailed and as justified as my own. Comments like – “BRITNEY’S STEALIN DA CROWN BACK!!!!!!!!! LMAO YO FAVES NEVA CUD!!!!!!! LOLXXX”, will not do, sadly. I have no faves.

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