We stan, but the song leaves a lot to be desired.
Like I keep yelling at people already posting images lusting for fall to come sooner, summer isn’t over! And Britney Spears and Elton John are here to say so as well, releasing their new single “Hold Me Closer” today that sounds like it’s straight from a summer pool party. With its deep, rolling disco bass and swirling vocal trills from Spears the song begs you to dance. And people will most certainly be turning it up at their respective Labor Day turn-ups — but is the song any good, or is it just riding on the reputations of its makers who happen to be two of the most iconic people in music?
I wager it’s a little bit of both. The song isn’t necessarily bad. It just leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a reimagining of John’s 1971 hit “Tiny Dancer,” so there’s already a lack of innovation to the track. When this new music was initially teased on Spears’ now-deleted Instagram, people didn’t know what to expect, but putting “Tiny Dancer” through an autotune car wash wasn’t what we needed. That’s probably the biggest problem with the song: it’s so edited that John and Spears both sound like robots, and using that effect on such a classic song comes across as jarring and lazy.
John has been busy collaborating recently, which might be another reason why “Hold Me Closer” doesn’t quite meet expectations. His other collabs just slap a bit harder. His feature with Gorillaz and 6LACK was a trippy, piano-laden slowdown. His reworking of “Chosen Family” with Rina Sawayama had deep meaning behind it, along with moving vocal performances. Most comparable to “Hold Me Closer” though is probably John’s duet with Dua Lipa, “Cold Heart.” It feels a bit like what Spears and John were shooting for, but missed by a hair. It’s dancey, disco, and even interpolates a bit of John’s 1972 smash “Rocket Man,” without resting too much on the interpolation.
“Hold Me Closer” will certainly get spun across many a gay nightclub, because at the end of the day “It’s Britney (and Elton), Bitch.” It’s unclear though if it has what it takes to get the hit radio treatment like “Cold Heart” did. It’s just not serving dance hall realness hard enough. However, as Spears’ first return to music since her 2016 Glory days, we will still stan. While Spears has every right to take time away from music after her bitter conservatorship battle, the world misses her, and we’re happy to see her get to shine alongside Sir Elton John as her first foray back into the scene. Let’s hope that her next song is a better representation of her talents.