“Toxic” by Britney Spears
Britney Spears has described this song as being about a girl who finds herself “addicted to a guy”. Over time we have come across a number of similarly-themed tunes, perhaps she being the artists who started the trend. But what’s slightly different about this outing is that, truly like a drug, she actually refers to her romantic interest as being “toxic”.
Why she considers him so is never specified forthrightly. But the implication is that she is alarmed by just how much of an ‘intoxicating’ effect he has over her. Or put differently, the vocalist is so much in love with the addressee that she’s concerned. And perhaps such is understandable considering that she doesn’t appear to be attracted to him outside of arguably superficial reasons. For instance, the only positive attribute he is noted as possessing is the ‘taste of his lips’. And such an exclamation would imply that what it is which the vocalist is actually “addicted to”, i.e. something like his lovemaking skills.
But we’re not trying to bash the Brit. Attraction is attraction, and she has obviously been stricken with a severe case of such. And by the time all is said and done, instead of being intimidated by these feelings she obviously embraces them.
So this is a bit of a contradictory – for lack of better word – song. “Toxic” is a term which intrinsically connotes a type of danger which should be avoided. Indeed in more recent times, referring to a romantic interest as being “toxic” is synonymous with saying that he or she is someone whom you and perhaps others even should not be dating.
But obviously the narrator of this song does not mean so literally. Either that or she is the type who gets turned on by courting romantic danger. Or perhaps, more plausibly, the appeal this person possesses is too strong for her to resist, making her powerless, so to speak. In fact that last postulation appears to be the actual thesis sentiment of this track.
The highly-cinematic music video to this track was directed by one Joseph Kahn, who possesses an extensive filmography working alongside musicians of such caliber. Possessing Hollywood experience himself (being the director of Torque, a major motion picture starring yet another musician, Ice Cube), the video derived inspiration from two famous films:
- The Seven Year Itch (1955)
- The original Blade Runner (1982)
It was also inspired by the works of iconic action director John Woo. It is most notable for Spears appearing nude therein, albeit “covered in diamonds”. And to note, the fictional secret agent which the songstress portrayed in the visual was also the one used on the official visual to a song she dropped a few years later, “Break the Ice” (2008).
That said, the video to “Toxic” was well-received – for instance being the recipient of four 2004 MTV VMA nominations, albeit not taking home any of those awards.
And speaking of MTV, when this song came out it also happened to be around the time of the infamous Super Bowl Halftime Show in which Justin Timberlake revealed Janet Jackson’s breast during a live televised performance. And Nipplegate, as that incident has been creatively termed, had wide-reaching repercussions. For instance, it resulted in MTV moving the music video for “Toxic” (as well as a handful of other clips) to late-night spots as opposed to playing them during the daytime, as censors weren’t having it.
Achievements of “Toxic”
In the first two decades since she first came out as a musician, Britney Spears was never a professional failure. The lowest any of her first 9 studio albums reached on Billboard 200 was a peak position of number 4. But it would appear that her heyday was definitely around the turn of the century, when she was just getting started. And “Toxic”, which was featured on her fourth album, “In the Zone” (2003), is one of Britney’s biggest hits from that era.
For instance, this song charted in nearly 30 nations, scoring over a dozen number ones in the process. And that included doing so on arguably the two most important music charts in the world, the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart.
It has also been certified platinum in the UK, as well as Australia. Additionally, “Toxic” has sold over 2,000,000 copies stateside. However, it has only been certified gold as opposed to double-platinum, apparently since the overwhelming majority of those sales were digital.
Additionally “Toxic” represents the first Grammy Award which Britney Spears ever won. This transpired in 2005, and it was in the category of Best Dance Recording.
In winning that Grammy, Spears somewhat ironically bested a song by Australian songstress Kylie Minogue, entitled “Slow” (2003). And the reason we put it like that is because “Toxic” was actually initially offered to Kylie Minogue to record. However, she turned the song down, which is how it ended up with Britney.
And to note, when composing the tune its authors reportedly did so as if they were writing it for yet another A list songstress, Janet Jackson. However, another report says that Cathy Dennis, who appears to be the main author of the track, was in fact penning with Spears in mind.
Britney Spears and co. also won quite a few other awards as a result of this song, with the track (or its video) receiving over 30 major nominations from various institutions. And its other victories include the following:
- 2005’s ASCAP Pop Music Award (Most Performed Song)
- 2005’s Ivor Novello Award (PRS Most Performed Work)
- A 2004 Teen Choice Award (Choice Single).
Credits for “Toxic”
This song was produced and co-written by a pair of musicians from Sweden known as Bloodshy & Avant. And additional co-writers are Henrik Jonback and Cathy Dennis. And Toxic samples a 1981 Bollywood track by a famous Indian lyricist named Anand Bakshi (1930-2002), which is entitled Tere Mere Beech Mein.
More Facts about “Toxic”
The official clip of this song also features famous American supermodel/actor Tyson Beckford. Some other notable music videos Beckford has appeared in include:
- Toni Braxton’s “Breathe Again”
- Pet Shop Boys’ “Go West”
- Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart“
- 50 Cent’s “21 Questions“
And one last note concerning this track’s success is that it was reportedly the most Google-searched song of 2004. And it is also said to be Jay-Z’s favorite Britney Spears’ track.
Artists who are on record as having covered this tune include:
- Mark Ronson (2007)
- The cast of Glee (2010 and 2014)
- Madonna (2016)
And in terms of other pop media appearances, this song has been utilized on a few movies and television shows (outside of Glee) such as the following:
- Doctor Who (2005)
- Knocked Up (2007)
- Pitch Perfect 3 (2017)
When did Britney officially release “Toxic”?
Jive Records made this song public on 13 January 2014 as the second single from “In the Zone”. This was after Britney debated whether to have “Outrageous” or “(I Got That) Boom Boom”, two other tracks from the album, serve said purpose instead. The latter never actually came out on its own. But “Outrageous” was eventually issued as the fourth and final single from the project.