|Single by Britney Spears|
|from the album In the Zone|
|B-side||"Me Against the Music"|
|Released||January 13, 2004|
|Producer(s)||Bloodshy & Avant|
|Britney Spears singles chronology|
"Toxic" is a recorded song by American singer Britney Spears for her fourth studio album, In the Zone (2003). It was written and produced by Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (known collectively as Bloodshy & Avant), with additional writing from Cathy Dennis and Henrik Jonback. The song released on January 13, 2004, by Jive Records, as the second single from the album. After trying to choose between "(I Got That) Boom Boom" and "Outrageous" to be the second single from In the Zone, Spears selected "Toxic" instead. A dance-pop song with electropop influences, "Toxic" features varied instrumentation, such as drums, synthesizers and surf guitar. It is accompanied by high-pitched Bollywood strings and breathy vocals. Its lyrics draw an extended metaphor of a lover as a dangerous yet addictive drug. The song has received critical acclaim by music critics, who deemed it as the strongest track of In the Zone, while praising its hook and chorus.
"Toxic" attained worldwide success, reaching the top-five in 15 countries, while topping the charts in Australia, Canada, Hungary, Ireland, Norway and the United Kingdom. In the United States, it became her fourth Top 10 single. The accompanying music video for the song was directed by Joseph Kahn and features references to Blade Runner, The Seven Year Itch and the films of John Woo. It portrays Spears as a secret agent in the search of a vial of green liquid. After she steals it, she enters an apartment and poisons her unfaithful boyfriend. The video also includes interspersed scenes of Spears naked with diamonds over her body. After Janet Jackson's Super Bowl incident, the video was considered too racy for MTV and was moved to late-night programming.
Spears has performed "Toxic" in a number of live appearances, including the 2004 NRJ Music Awards and in three of her concert tours. It was the opening number of The Onyx Hotel Tour (2004), where she sang atop of a bus wearing a black catsuit; Spears also performed remixed versions of the song at The Circus Starring Britney Spears (2009), the Femme Fatale Tour (2011) and Britney: Piece of Me (2013). "Toxic" has been covered by artists such as Mark Ronson, A Static Lullaby, Reece Mastin and Ingrid Michaelson, and in television series Glee. The song has also appeared in feature films such as Knocked Up, You Again and television series Doctor Who. "Toxic" won Spears her first Grammy at the 2005 ceremony in the category of Best Dance Recording, while gaining her credibility amongst critics. The song has been included in lists by Pitchfork, NME and Rolling Stone as one of the best songs of the decade. It has been noted for redefining the sound of dance-pop music.
- 1 Background
- 2 Composition
- 3 Critical reception
- 4 Chart performance
- 5 Music video
- 6 Live performances
- 7 Cover versions
- 8 Samples
- 9 Soundtrack appearances
- 10 Legacy
- 11 Track listings
- 12 Credits and personnel
- 13 Charts and certifications
- 14 Release history
- 15 References
- 16 External links
"Toxic" was written by Cathy Dennis, Henrik Jonback, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg from production team Bloodshy & Avant, while produced by the latter two. The song was originally offered to Kylie Minogue for her ninth studio album Body Language (2003), but she rejected it. Minogue later commented, "I wasn't at all angry when it worked for her. It's like the fish that got away. You just have to accept it." "Toxic" was recorded at Murlyn Studios in Stockholm, Sweden and Record Plant in Hollywood, California. The song was later mixed by Niklas Flyckt at Khabang Studios in Stockholm. In December 2003, it was announced by MTV News that after trying to choose between "(I Got That) Boom Boom" and "Outrageous" to be second single from In the Zone, Spears had selected "Toxic" instead. She described it as "an upbeat song. It's really different, that's why I like it so much."
"Toxic" is composed in C minor and is a dominant dance-pop song with elements of electro-pop.
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"Toxic" is a dance-pop song with elements of electropop and bhangra music. It features varied instrumentation, such as drums, synthesizers, violins and high-pitched strings. It also contains surf guitar, that according to Caryn Ganz of Spin, "warps and struts like it’s been fed into the Matrix." The music was also compared to the soundtracks of the James Bond film series. The hook of "Toxic" samples a portion of "Tere Mere Beech Mein", from the soundtrack of the 1981 Hindi film Ek Duuje Ke Liye. However, it is not lifted verbatim from the score and mixes two different sections of the piece. Spears sings the song with breathy vocals.
According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by EMI Music Publishing, "Toxic" is composed in the key of C minor, with a tempo of 143 beats per minute. Spears's vocal range spans from the low note of F3 to the high note of G5. Lyrically, "Toxic" talks about being addicted to a lover. Spears refers to her addiction in the lyrics, and sings lines such as "Too high / Can't come down / Losing my head / Spinning round and round" in a falsetto. A reviewer from Popdust called the verse "The most representative lyric of the song’s delirious, disorienting charm." "Toxic" ends with an outro in which Spears sings the lines, "Intoxicate me now / With your lovin' now / I think I'm ready now." Nick Southall of Stylus Magazine said the lyrics made Spears sound afraid of sex.
The song received general acclaim upon release. Heather Richels of The Paly Voice complimented its hook and catchiness, while deeming it the most appealing song of the album. While reviewing The Onyx Hotel Tour, Pamela Sitt of The Seattle Times called it the album's strongest single. Eric Olsen of msnbc.com said the song could be the biggest hit of In the Zone, while calling it "powerfully addicting." Caryn Ganz of Spin commented that, "Spears hits pay dirt on 'Toxic'". Christy Lemire of Associated Press said it was one of Spears' greatest hits and deemed it as "insanely catchy", saying that the chorus alone "makes you want to forgive the Alias wannabe video that accompanies the song." Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic called it along with "Showdown", "irresistible ear candy in what is surely Britney's most ambitious, adventurous album to date". In a separate review of Spears' greatest hits album Greatest Hits: My Prerogative (2004), Erlewine selected it as one of the "track picks" and described it as "a delirious, intoxicating rush". Jeffrey Epstein of Out compared the innovative sound of "Toxic" to Madonna's "Vogue".
Dave De Sylvia of Sputnikmusic deemed it as her first real crossover track since "...Baby One More Time". Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine said that "Toxic" and "(I Got That) Boom Boom", "find Britney dabbling in hip-hop, but it's clear her heart lies in the clubs." Jamie Gill of Yahoo! Music Radio commented that, "In the name of fairness, it will be noted that 'Toxic' and 'Showdown' could well have been good pop songs in the hands of any other singer than Spears." Joan Anderman of The Boston Globe named it "a well-titled cascade of frantic, mechanized glissandos and dreadful canned strings that buries the album's coolest (only?) chorus under a joyless mass". The song was ranked at number five in the 2004 Pazz & Jop poll by The Village Voice. "Toxic" was nominated for Best Song at the 2004 MTV Europe Music Awards, but lost to Outkast's "Hey Ya!". It won Best Single at the 2004 Teen Choice Awards. Pitchfork listed the song at number three on their Top 50 Singles of 2004 list. Rob Mitchum commented that Spears "finally, she just acted like an adult, rather than constantly reminding us she wasn't a girl anymore."
"Toxic" entered at number 53 on the Billboard Hot 100, on the issue dated January 31, 2004. It became the week's "Highest Debut". On March 27, 2004, it peaked at number nine; it was her fourth single to reach the top-ten and became her first single to reach the top ten since "Oops!... I Did It Again" in 2000. "Toxic" also topped both the Pop Songs and Hot Dance Club Songs charts. On October 25, 2004, the song was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), for sales of 100,000 copies. As of June 2012, "Toxic" has sold 1,815,000 paid digital downloads in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It is her fifth best-selling digital single in the country. The song also topped the Canadian Singles Chart. "Toxic" debuted at the top of the Australian charts on March 15, 2004, and stayed in the position for two weeks. The song received a gold certification by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for shipments over 35,000 units.
In New Zealand, "Toxic" debuted at number 38 on the issue dated February 16, 2004, and peaked at number two on March 29, 2004. It stayed at the position the following week, held off from the top spot by Eamon's "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)". On March 7, 2004, "Toxic" debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart for the week ending date March 13, 2004, becoming her fourth number-one hit in the United Kingdom. In April 2004, it was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), with sales over 200,000 copies. According to The Official Charts Company, the song has sold 408,000 copies there. "Toxic" also peaked inside the top-ten in every country it charted. The song topped the charts in Hungary and Norway; reached the top five in Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, France, Sweden and Switzerland; and the top ten in Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), Finland and the Netherlands.
Development and release
The music video for "Toxic" was filmed over three days in December 2003, on a sound-stage in Los Angeles, California. It was directed by Joseph Kahn, who previously worked with Spears on the music video for her 2000 single "Stronger". Spears first approached Kahn with a story sketch of a secret agent out for revenge against an ex-lover, to which Kahn created a treatment for. Her concept was almost fully formed and detailed, exemplifying the scene in which she drips water in the passenger's lap. Kahn said, "That's part of her brilliance [...] She totally understands that she's naughty and nice, that she's the girl-next-door gone bad who is constantly titillating you". Spears said she wanted to join the mile high club and be a stewardess that kissed a man in the bathroom. Kahn suggested making him a fat man, so the "common man" would feel represented. Spears also told him about a scene in which she would be naked and covered in diamonds. Kahn stated he was "not sure what I was thinking about when she told me about that scene, maybe those intros to James Bond movies, but every video needs an iconic image to remember, and that's it".
The choreography was a collaboration between Brian Friedman and Spears, and every scene had a completely different strictly structured routine. After the treatment was finished, Kahn proceeded to cast his friends and acquaintances, as in most of his projects. The plane passenger in which Spears drips water was played by his long-time casting director, while the fat man in the bathroom was played by the casting director's assistant. Spears's boyfriend is played by Martin Henderson, who starred in Kahn's directorial debut Torque.
For the naked scenes, Spears made Kahn clear the set, leaving them alone to shoot the sequence. Spears also shot scenes in which she had to dance through a hallway of imaginary lasers in front of a green screen, something that Kahn deemed as "incredible to watch". The last few scenes of the video in which Spears murders her boyfriend, concerned Kahn, who thought they would be censored. He explained "the trick was to make it look pop at the same time" and told Henderson "'Would you like to be kissed by Britney Spears?'". According to Kahn, the hint of a smile that appears on Henderson's face before Spears pours the poison into his mouth was what managed to get the shot past censors. Although Spears was at first going to be involved in the editing process, she did not contact Kahn after the media scandal over her wedding in Las Vegas. "Toxic" is Spears's most expensive music video to date, at a cost of $1 million. The music video premiered exclusively on MTV's Making the Video on January 13, 2004. The following day, Spears appeared on TRL to premiere the it on regular rotation. The video was first released on the In the Zone DVD. An alternate karaoke version featuring the diamonds scene was released on the Greatest Hits: My Prerogative DVD.
The music video begins with an open shot of an airplane flying surrounded by many doves, referencing the works of Hong Kong director John Woo. Spears appears with blond hair dressed as a flight attendant, receiving a phone call. After serving some of the passengers, she leads a bald overweight man to the bathroom and seduces him. She takes off the man's mask to reveal an attractive man (Matthew Felker) and steals a black pass from his pocket. Spears is then dropped into the back of a Ducati 999, driven by a shirtless male (Tyson Beckford) in a futuristic Paris, that was compared to the 1982 film Blade Runner. She wears a tight black catsuit and sports red hair, inspired by the character of Sydney Bristow from television series Alias. They pass a woman and lift up her dress, a homage to the iconic Marilyn Monroe scene in the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch. They also pass two women frolicking in a store window.
Throughout the video, there are scenes of Spears naked covered in diamonds. The look was compared to that of Kate Bush in the music video for her 1978 single, "The Man with the Child in His Eyes". Spears then enters Toxic Industries, and gains access to a vault from which she steals a vial of green poison. She accidentally triggers a laser trap when she leaves that she evades with elaborate dance moves, including a back handspring. This is followed by scenes of Spears wearing a black superheroine outfit and black hair. She scales a building and enters an apartment, where her unfaithful boyfriend (Henderson) is waiting. She kisses him just before pouring the poison into his mouth, killing him. Spears kisses him again and jumps out of the window. She lands back on the plane sporting her flight attendant outfit, and winks at the camera. The video closes with a shot of the airplane flying surrounded by doves like the beginning.
Reception and impact
Jennifer Vineyard of MTV compared the video to Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River", saying that "Where her real-life ex just stalked his cheating lover in his clip, [...] Spears takes a more lethal approach." On February 10, 2004, MTV announced that due to the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy in which Janet Jackson's breast was exposed on live television, "Toxic" along with other five music videos would be moved from daytime to late-night programming from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. A spokeswoman for MTV announced that "given the particular sensitivity in the culture right now, we're erring on the side of caution for the immediate future." The video was nominated at the 2004 MuchMusic Video Awards in the category of Best International Artist Video, but lost to Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love". It was also nominated for four VMAs at the 2004 awards in the categories of Best Female Video, Best Dance Video, Best Pop Video and Video of the Year, but lost all of them. Corey Moss of MTV said that Spears "remains the Susan Lucci of the VMAs." Visual effects supervisors Chris Watts and Bert Yukich won the category of Outstanding Visual Effects in a Music Video at the 3rd Annual Visual Effects Society Awards.
In September 2009, the music video for "Toxic" was voted by users of the music video website MUZU TV as the sexiest music video of all time. The video was also used on Life is Pornography, a 2005 video art by Jubal Brown. Amy Schriefer of NPR noted that in the video, Spears was no longer trying to break away from her 1990s teen pop image and style; she was comfortable and having fun, not trying to generate any type of calculated controversy. The anime music video for Spears's single "Break the Ice" (2008) was based on the secret agent character of "Toxic". The video for "Womanizer" (2008) was created by Spears as a sequel to "Toxic". The diamond encrusted look of Lady Gaga in the music video for "LoveGame" (2009) was compared to that of "Toxic". In the 2010 Glee episode "Britney/Brittany", the character of Brittany Pierce danced in a diamond suit during a cover of "I'm a Slave 4 U". In a 2011 poll by Billboard, the song's music video was voted the second best music video of the 2000s, behind only Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" (2009). Jillian Mapes of Billboard wrote that Spears "proved that she comes in every flavor [...] But the one role that stays constant through the dance-heavy clip: Sultry maneater."
"Toxic" was performed by Spears at Britney Spears: In the Zone, a concert special that aired in ABC on November 17, 2003. She also performed "Toxic" as the headliner of the Jingle Ball on December 8, 2003, at Staples Center. It was the opening number of her set, and Spears appeared wearing a black top and a white fur cape. While the choreography was deemed as "erotic", Corey Moss of MTV commented that some of the effect was lost due to Spears's lip synching and a stagehand fixing a prop during the song.
On January 24, 2004, Spears opened the 2004 NRJ Music Awards with a performance of "Toxic". During the ceremony, she also presented the NRJ Award of Honor for the Career to Madonna. Spears performed "Toxic" as the opening number of 2004's The Onyx Hotel Tour. Previous to the beginning of the tour, she deemed it as the song she was most excited to perform, along with "Everytime". After an introduction in which she briefly appeared on a large video screen, Spears took the stage standing on top of a hotel bus, wearing a tight black catsuit. She was surrounded by dancers dressed as employees and columns of LED lighting, suggesting the façade of a glitzy hotel on the Vegas Strip. MTV UK commented, "OK, so she doesn't so much sing than mime along with Toxic, [...] But what do you expect when she's simultaneously performing a vigorous dance routine, ascending moving staircases and descending fireman poles?". "Toxic" was also performed as the last song of the concert during The M+M's Tour. After "Do Somethin'", in which Spears wore a hot pink bra, a white fur coat and a jean skirt, she ended the set with "Toxic", with four female dancers in a Shakira-like style. Following the performance, she thanked the audience and introduced her dancers.
"Toxic" was also performed at 2009's The Circus Starring Britney Spears. Following an interlude in which the dancers showcased their individual moves, the stage was lit with green sci-fi effects and Spears appeared over moving jungle gyms. Jerry Shriver of USA Today said that "fan-favorite Toxic [...] succeeded because the focus was solely on the star." Jane Stevenson of the Toronto Sun named it one of the standout performances of the show, along with "...Baby One More Time" and "Womanizer". Screen commented, "The high point of the show was the back to back performance of two of Britney's biggest hits, 'Toxic' and 'Baby One More Time' [sic], which had the crowd break out in wild applause."
The song was performed at 2011's Femme Fatale Tour. After a video intermission in which Spears finds and captures the stalker that follows her, the show continues with a martial arts-inspired remix of "Toxic", in which Spears wears a kimono and battles dancing ninjas. Keith Caufield of Billboard felt the performance was comparable to Madonna's "Sky Fits Heaven" at 2001's Drowned World Tour. Shirley Halperin of The Hollywood Reporter stated that "[the] mid-tempo numbers [...] seemed to stall out quickly, where faster offerings like 'Womanizer,' 'I Wanna Go' and 'Toxic' had the sold out crowd jumping in place and pumping their number twos in the air." August Brown of the Los Angeles Times said "The set’s only weak spots were sonic revisions of catalog staples – the Bollywood spy-flick vamp of 'Toxic' remains utterly groundbreaking and didn’t need an Ibiza-inspired revision.".
Spears performed the song during the last act from her 2013-15 Las Vegas residency Britney: Piece of Me. The number begins with a ballad version of "Toxic" and Spears is seen over a giant tree. Before the chorus begins Spears jumps from the tree in a kind of bungee jump under a water curtain. As Spears lands in the stage, the first chords from the song starts and the performance keeps going on.
The song was covered on the 2010 American series Glee episode "Britney/Brittany" by New Directions, in a Bob Fosse-inspired performance led by the character of Will Schuester. In the United States, their version debuted at number sixteen on the Hot 100 and sold 109,000 copies on its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It also charted at number thirty-seven in Australia, fifteen in Canada and seventeen in Ireland.
Other recorded covers
Northern Irish singer-songwriter Juliet Turner covered "Toxic" for the 2004 covers compilation, Even Better Than the Real Thing Vol. 2. In 2005, American folk group Chapin Sisters recorded an acoustic cover of "Toxic", which was featured on PerezHilton.com and became one of the most requested songs of the year in KCRW. German country-rock band The BossHoss recorded a cover of "Toxic" for their debut album, Internashville Urban Hymns (2005). American rock duo Local H covered the song for their first live album, Alive '05 (2005). An instrumental rendition of the song was released by American surf rock band Monsters from Mars. Norwegian alternative rock band Hurra Torpedo covered "Toxic" in their fourth release, Kollossus of Makedonia (2006). English producer Mark Ronson recorded a hip hop cover of the song, featuring American singer-songwriter Tiggers and a verse from American rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard. It was included in his second studio album, Version (2007).
English indie rock band Hard-Fi covered the song for the compilation album Radio 1 Established 1967 (2007). The song was fused with The Clash's cover of "Brand New Cadillac". American musician Shawn Lee covered the song in the album Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra (2007). French singer-songwriter Yael Naïm released a piano-driven version of the song in her eponymous debut album (2007). British electronic music group Metronomy's cover was described as "something out of a "Weird Al" Yankovic polka medley, only not kidding". Israeli pop singer Shiri Maimon recorded a version of "Toxic" in Hebrew. American comedy singer Richard Cheese recorded a cover for his eight album, Viva la Vodka (2009). American post-hardcore band A Static Lullaby released a cover in the compilation album, Punk Goes Pop 2 (2009). A music video was released, which featured different Spears look-alikes wearing iconic outfits from various music videos, such as "...Baby One More Time" and "Womanizer".
A cover of the song by American singer-songwriter Christopher Dallman was included in an EP titled Sad Britney, released on November 9, 2009, along with covers of "...Baby One More Time", "Gimme More" and "Radar".
Australian singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke did an opera-pop version of "Toxic" during a mobile phone launch in Sydney in August 2007. She dedicated it to Spears, adding, "She's going through a bit of a hard time at the moment. [...] This one's for you, mate." American singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson covered "Toxic" regularly on her 2010 Everybody Tour. Michaelson's version ends with her and the band doing a dance break set to Spears's original song.
American pop band Selena Gomez & the Scene performed a tribute to Spears during their 2011 We Own the Night Tour. The medley of hits included "...Baby One More Time", "(You Drive Me) Crazy", "Oops!... I Did It Again", "I'm a Slave 4 U" and "Toxic", mixed similar to the Chris Cox Megamix included in Greatest Hits: My Prerogative. They also performed a cover of "Hold It Against Me".
In the 2005 episode "The End of the World" of the TV show Doctor Who, the character of Cassandra unveils an ancient jukebox that reproduced "Toxic" as an example of “a traditional ballad” from 5 billion years prior. NME stated that the inclusion of the song marked its cultural impact.
In the 2007 film Knocked Up, the song is played when Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd are driving to Las Vegas. Director Judd Apatow explained that he originally tried to use "Toxic" in the 2005 film The 40-Year-Old Virgin in the scene where Leslie Mann is drunk driving.
"Toxic" earned Spears her first Grammy at the 2005 ceremony in the category of Best Dance Recording and gained her credibility amongst critics. The song also won Most Performed Work at the 2004 Ivor Novello Awards.
"Toxic" was ranked at number fourteen on Stylus Magazine's Top 50 Singles between 2000 and 2005. In a 2005 poll conducted by Sony Ericsson, "Toxic" was ranked as the world's second favorite song, only behind "We Are the Champions" by Queen. Over 700,000 people in 60 different countries cast their votes. The song was also included on The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born list by Blender. Pitchfork listed the song on The Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s. Jess Harvell commented that Spears had great pop instincts and that "Toxic" showed how "Britney always had more individualist pep than her peers, important when you're dealing with steamroller productions from the mind of Max Martin."
In 2009, NPR included "Toxic" on their Most Important Recordings of the Decade list. Amy Schriefer noted that the song's synths defined the sound of dance-pop for the rest of the decade, while adding that it "still sound[s] fresh and futuristic." "Toxic" was listed on several others end of the decade lists; at number forty-seven by NME, forty-four by Rolling Stone and seventeen on The Daily Telegraph. NME called it the soundtrack to all of the fun of the decade, from "little girls at discos" to "gay clubs and hen nights". In addition, the song was voted in Rolling Stone's end of the decade readers poll as the fourth best single of the decade.
Bill Lamb of About.com listed the song at number twenty-seven on the Top 40 Pop Songs of All Time. Evan Sawdey of PopMatters commented that "Toxic" is a rare kind of song that transcends genre boundaries, and added that Spears delivered the track that defined her legacy.
Credits and personnel
Charts and certifications
Chart precession and succession
"Milkshake" by Kelis
|Irish Singles Chart number-one single
March 4, 2004–April 1, 2004
"Yeah!" by Usher featuring Lil Jon & Ludacris
"Mysterious Girl" by Peter Andre
|UK Singles Chart number-one single
March 7, 2004–March 13, 2004
"Cha Cha Slide" by DJ Casper
"Superstar" by Jamelia
|Australian ARIA Singles Chart number-one single
March 14, 2004–March 21, 2004
"Yeah!" by Usher featuring Lil' Jon & Ludacris
"Hey Ya!" by OutKast
|Canadian Singles Chart number-one single
March 20, 2004–April 3, 2004
"Solitaire" by Clay Aiken
"Shut Up" by The Black Eyed Peas
|European Hot 100 number-one single
March 20, 2004–April 3, 2004
"Yeah!" by Usher featuring Lil' Jon & Ludacris
"Face to Face" by Daft Punk
|Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
March 27, 2004–April 3, 2004
"Love Profusion" by Madonna
|United States||January 13, 2004||Mainstream radio|
|Germany||February 9, 2004||CD single||Sony|
|United Kingdom||March 1, 2004||12"||RCA|
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