Oops – he did it again.
Elton John released his new single ‘Hold Me Closer’ on Thursday night, a smashing duet with Britney Spears that mixes John’s early 1970s classic ‘Tiny Dancer’ with the title track from his 1992 album ‘The One’.
As blatantly ravishing as it is, the new song is a clear attempt to replicate the success of ‘Cold Heart’, John’s 2021 collaboration with Dua Lipa, which mixed several of his old tunes – most notably ‘Rocket Man’ and ‘ Sacrifice’ – in a slim piece of radio bait that propelled John into the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 for the first time in over two decades.
And the gamble will probably work: produced by Andrew Watt, who paired Ozzy Osbourne with Post Malone a few years ago for the a lotTimes-streamed “Take What You Want”, “Hold Me Closer” is a bop, a bang, a vibe: three and a half minutes of glittering LA lady electro-pop sung by the world’s most fantastic 75-year-old and the preeminent blue-jean baby of the 90s. That you can’t really tell their voices apart thanks to Auto-Tune’s buckets only sweetens their pairing.
For Spears, 40, “Hold Me Closer” — which, according to the song’s credits, also interpolates “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” John’s hit 1976 duet with Kiki Dee — serves as a sort of coming-out party after the recent legal victory that freed her from the arduous conservatorship that dominated her life and work for nearly 14 years. The song is her first new music since her 2016 album Glory, a fact that clearly left her vulnerable when she recorded her vocals in Los Angeles.
“She’s been gone for so long – there’s a lot of fear because she’s been betrayed so many times and she hasn’t really been in the public eye for so long,” John told The Guardian in an interview published Thursday. “We held her hand throughout the process and reassured her that everything will be fine.”
For John, a proudly admitted trend watcher, “Hold Me Closer” registers as the latest sign of his pop lore: not only did he understand how much pent-up goodwill existed for Spears in the wake of #FreeBritney; he knew, in a summer marked by a revival of house music, that the way to frame her return was with funky bass and airy piano laid to a thumping four-on-the-floor groove.
And of course a melody that everyone already knows by heart. Remixing himself has long been a specialty of Elton John: next month — not long before he’s due to play Dodger Stadium in a rerun of his iconic 1975 performances — the singer’s 1997 remake of “Candle in the Wind,” whose lyrics about Marilyn Monroe he had Bernie Taupin rewrite in honor of the late Princess Diana, turns 25.