Let’s get one thing straight: Britney Spears knows how to do electropop.
If nothing else, Britney’s always managed to snag the best producers for her sludgy diva’s growl, giving her songs all sorts of animated musical backdrops that invite repeat listens. Britney’s songs—the singles, especially—always seem to push the mainstream pop conversation forward without shedding her Top 40 appeal.
So, imagine my surprise when I started to play Brit’s latest single “Hold It Against Me” and was greeted with, of all things, a tired Jersey Shoreclub beat and crunchy dustup synths that sound ripped from the Queer As Folk soundtrack.
Not 40 seconds in, the rhythm stops as Britney tells her man that he feels “Like paradise/And I need a vacation tonight.” I’m pretty sure Cascada would have passed on the cherubic keyboard and simple melody that this chorus offers. So far, I’m indeed holding this hackneyed dance number against Britney (or at least the song’s producers, Max Martin and Dr. Luke). “Hold It Against Me” chugs along through another verse and chorus, and it’s hard to not be a little disappointed.
Then, however, comes a dubstep breakdown, entirely unexpected yet definitely fitting. Anyone who’s followed the dub renaissance of the past few years has heard a breakdown like this a thousand times before, but it’s a brave choice for a mainstream audience (image what the remix will sound like). And it’s the first moment that the song feels like a new Britney Spears single, as opposed to a generic Bar Mitzvah party-starter. “Pop it like a hood,” Britney encourages the listener against a muddy swirl of glammed-up Aphex Twin synth squelches. It’s followed by another keyboard buildup and final reiteration of the chorus that gives the driving beat something to play with—a climactic finale to an otherwise underwhelming song.
“Hold It Against Me” is as catchy as you’d expect a Britney Spears track to be. It’s not very clever, but then again, it’s not really trying to be (and yes, the title is exactly the double entendre you think it is). Despite the fact that Britney wants to “escape the crowd somehow,” this song was made for a packed, throbbing, sweaty dance floor. And you know what? That’s fine. Despite my initial displeasure, I really can’t hold that against her.