I'm a Slave 4 U

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"I'm a Slave 4 U"
Single by Britney Spears
from the album Britney
A-side "Overprotected"
B-side "Intimidated"
Released September 24, 2001 (2001-09-24)
Format
Recorded 2001; Right Track Studios (New York City), Master Sound Studios (Virginia Beach)
Genre
Length 3:24
Label Jive
Writer(s)
Producer(s) The Neptunes
Britney Spears singles chronology
"Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know"
(2001)
"I'm a Slave 4 U"
(2001)
"Overprotected"
(2001)

"I'm a Slave 4 U" is a song recorded by American singer Britney Spears for her third studio album, Britney (2001). It was written and produced by Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams (known collectively as The Neptunes). The song was released on September 24, 2001, by Jive Records, as the lead single of Britney. The urban song, has a similar soundscape to Vanity 6's 1982's song "Nasty Girl", while its lyrics talks about being a slave to the music.

"I'm a Slave 4 U" garnered mixed reception from music critics. Some critics argued it was the singer's most mature sound at the time compared to her previous singles, while other noticed the song's attempt to leave behind Spears' girl next door image and said her vocals were unnatural. "I'm a Slave 4 U" achieved commercial success, peaking inside the top-ten in almost every country that it charted on. However, the song peaked at number 27 in Hot 100 and at number 85 in Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, both being the lowest chart positions of the single worldwide.

A music video for the single, which was directed by Francis Lawrence, was released along with the single released. It features Spears dancing in a sauna. Spears' performance of the song at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards in New York City was highly criticized by animal rights group PETA for the inclusion of exotic animals. Spears performed the song on every tour since its release, including the promotional The M+M's Tour.

Background and composition[edit]

A sample of the song's chorus backed with breathy and moaning vocals.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"I'm a Slave 4 U" was written and produced by Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo,[1] best known as The Neptunes, who also collaborated with Spears on another album track, "Boys",[1] for her third and self-titled LP, "Britney". "I'm A Slave 4 U" was originally intended for Janet Jackson for her "All for You" album.[2] Spears' single "Boys" was also intended for Janet, who recorded an unreleased demo of the song before it was recorded by Spears.[3] "I'm a Slave 4 U" was recorded by Andrew Cleman at Master Sound Studios in Virginia Beach, Virginia and by Brian Garten at Right Track Studios in New York City, being later mixed by Serban Ghenea in New York City. Audio engineering was done by Ryan Smith and Tim Roberts.[4][5] After reading the lyrics for the first time, Spears stated it talks "about me just wanting to go out and forget who I am and dance and have a good time. That's kinda where I am now right now. I love working, but at the same time, I love having a good time."[6] The urban song is backed with breathy and moaning vocals and scratching. The soundscape of the song has been noted to be similar to Vanity 6's 1982's song "Nasty Girl"[7] and contains traces of minimal electronica courtesy of The Neptunes.

Critical reception[edit]

Spears performing "I'm a Slave 4 U" on the Britney: Piece of Me show in 2014.

The song was met with mixed reviews by critics. A review from NME magazine stated that "the song is funk the way God intended —hypnotic, insistent, mysterious, suggestive— and if Prince was a nineteen-year-old former Disney Club host and virgin, he'd be proud to create such a record".[8] Other reviews from Rolling Stone magazine[9] and Allmusic[10] agreed that "I'm a Slave 4 U" was a step towards a more mature sound. Bill Lamb from About.com listed at number nine, on her Top 10 Songs, saying: "By the time of this single off her third album, it was obvious Britney Spears was becoming an adult. This song is a radical shift from the "not quite innocent" 16 year old schoolgirl of Britney's first album. Slinky and sexy have crept into the Britney Spears style".[11]

"I'm a Slave 4 U" received several comparisons to Janet Jackson, with one critic noting "Spears’ main musical and visual influence has not been Madonna but Janet Jackson". "But Jackson’s not the only influence to appear on “Slave:” the Neptunes’ minimal, electronic production and Spears’ breathy, cooing delivery create a track that smacks of Prince." "Spears, on the other hand, became more and more interesting – and enjoyable – as she continued to explore elements of Janet Jackson and Prince throughout her career."[12] Lyndsey Parker of Yahoo! Music wrote "'Slave,' written and produced by the Neptunes and originally intended for OG pop bombshell Janet Jackson, evoked the old-school sexcapades of Prince and his protégés Vanity 6—and in many ways, it was a real artistic leap."[13] Stephanie McGrath from All Pop despite considering "I'm a Slave 4 U" as a "huge step away from the bouncy pop that made her a superstar" and was an "attempt to leave behind her pigtails and chirpy image", stated that the track "did not suit her style, the vocals were forced and the Janet Jackson slinkiness was unnatural".[14]

Chart performance[edit]

"I'm a Slave 4 U" peaked at number 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the issue date of December 1, 2001,[15][16] becoming Spears' first lead single from an album not to crack the U.S. top ten. The track also became a top 30 hit on the Hot 100 Airplay,[17] but just barely made into the Hot 100 Singles Sales peaking at number 73.[18] The low sales points are due mostly because of the song's 12-inch single release instead of a competitive regular CD single. Despite the little sales, "I'm a Slave 4 U" became Spears' first dance hit, reaching number four on the Hot Dance Club Play chart.[16] It is also her first and, so far, only song to appear on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, peaking at number 85.[16] In Europe "I'm a Slave 4 U" was more successful, becoming a top ten hit in nearly every country that it charted in, including big markets such as Germany and France, where it was certified Silver by the Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique for selling over 125,000 copies.[19] The track spent two weeks at number-five on the European Hot 100 Singles chart provided by magazine Music and Media at the time.[20] "I'm a Slave 4 U" peaked at number-four on the official UK Singles Chart[21] and spent a total of 14 weeks within the top 75 and sold over 150,000 copies.[22] In the Pacific, the track was somewhat successful, debuting at number seven on the Australian Singles Chart. Despite spending a very short period on the chart, eight weeks,[23] it was certified Gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association for shipments of over 35,000 units.[24] In New Zealand, "I'm a Slave 4 U" debuted at number 46 on November 4, 2001 and missed the top ten, peaking at number 13 in its third week. The song spent just six weeks on the chart.[25]

Music video[edit]

A still from the music video for "I'm a Slave 4 U" featuring Spears dancing in a sauna.

The music video was shot on a soundstage in Universal City, California, over Labor Day weekend (Sep. 1–2), under the direction of Francis Lawrence, and is one of her most risqué videos ever.[26] It made its world premiere on MTV's Making the Video on September 24 at 5 p.m. EST,[26] the same day the song officially hit the American radio stations,[27] and debuted at number one on Total Request Live two days later.[28] Choreographed by Wade Robson and Crystal Chewning though some of the dancing was choreographed by Puerto-Rican dancer Mayte Garcia, who taught Spears bellydancing for the video.

In the video, Spears and fifteen dancers employ the same choreography seen in her with Spears looking over a balcony whilst singing with cars down in the distance. Spears is portrayed as a slave to the music who dances all day until she and the other dancers are sweaty and near dehydration, forcing them to search for water, Spears is standing by a mirror at the sink. Two alternative versions of the video clip can be found on the Greatest Hits: My Prerogative DVD released on November 9, 2004.[29] The music video was nominated in three categories at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Female Video, Best Dance Video, and Best Choreography. The video clip for "I'm a Slave 4 U" was noted for its influence from Janet Jackson, with one review saying "Spears’ main musical and visual influence has not been Madonna but Janet Jackson, particularly in her visual element. The Jackson influence can be seen in the video for 'I’m A Slave 4 U', and it continues through 'Me Against the Music,' 'Boys,' and 'My Prerogative,' as well as her live performances in general."[12] The video ranked #1 in the list of the "50 Sexiest Music Videos of All-Time" published by Canadian music channel MuchMusic in 2007.[30] An official remix video used the "Miguel Migs Petalpusher Vocal Mix" was also released. There are another 2 unreleased remix videos using the Thunderpuss Club Mix and the Thunderpuss Dark Mix. Nearly 10 years later in 2011, the video would be compared to her "Till The World Ends" music video. Several references from the "I'm a Slave 4 u" video were made in the video for "Till The World Ends", such as the dancers crowding around her and the sweaty dancers scene.

Live performances and covers[edit]

Spears performing "I'm a Slave 4 U" at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards wearing an Albino Burmese python on her shoulders

Spears first performed "I'm a Slave 4 U" publicly at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on September 6, 2001.[31] Along with dancing in a very revealing outfit, the performance is probably most remembered for featuring a number of exotic animals, including a white tiger and a live albino Burmese Python on her shoulders, the latter of which has become one of Spears' most iconic images. The inclusion of the animals in the performance brought a great deal of criticism from animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).[32] In August 2008, MTV Network named the performance the most memorable moment in VMA history.[33] Spears was extremely terrified of the Python but went ahead with the performance. Other performances include several television appearances to promote her third album, Britney. She performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on October 11, The Rosie O'Donnell Show on November 5 and the Late Show with David Letterman on November 6.[27] A special named Total Britney was made by MTV on November 3 where the singer performed the song with Stronger and I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman. A month later, Spears opened the 2001 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas on December 4 with a performance of the track on a stage inside the fountains of the Bellagio Hotel.[34] The song was also performed at the 3rd NRJ Music Awards in 2002. Notably, the song was performed at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to kick off the 2003 National Football League season.[35] In 2003 the singer performed in Korea at the BoA Special Rate the song in a medley with Boys (The Co-Ed Remix). In that occasion Britney performed also Me Against The Music and Toxic. Spears performed the track on her latest four world tours, Dream Within a Dream, The Onyx Hotel, The Circus Starring Britney Spears and The Femme Fatale Tour. She has also performed the song on her residency concert Britney: Piece of Me.

"I'm a Slave 4 U" was covered by the musical television show Glee in the episode "Britney/Brittany" sung by Heather Morris. In a dream sequence, Morris's character Brittany S. Pierce sings the number, while recreating several iconic looks from Spears's videos: the red catsuit from "Oops!... I Did It Again", the outfit with a snake from Spears's "I'm a Slave 4 U" performance at the VMA's, and the white diamond bodysuit from "Toxic". Morris also performed the song during the live 2011 Glee Tour.

Track listings[edit]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[71] Gold 35,000^
France (SNEP)[72] Silver 125,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[73] Gold 5,000*
Sweden (GLF)[74] Gold 15,000x

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label
United States[27] September 24, 2001 Contemporary hit radio Jive
Germany[75] October 15, 2001 CD single Sony
United Kingdom[76] RCA
United States October 30, 2001 12" (The Remixes)[77] Jive
Japan[78] November 6, 2001 CD single Sony

References[edit]

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External links[edit]