I'm a Slave 4 U

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"I'm a Slave 4 U"
I'm a Slave 4 U.png
Single by Britney Spears
from the album Britney
A-side"Overprotected"
B-side"Intimidated"
ReleasedSeptember 24, 2001 (2001-09-24)
Format
RecordedJuly 2001
StudioMSR Studios (formerly known as Right Track Studios) (New York City), Master Sound Studios (Virginia Beach)
Genre
Length3:24
LabelJive
Songwriter(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)
Music video
"I'm a Slave 4 U" on YouTube

"I'm a Slave 4 U" is a song recorded by American singer Britney Spears for her third and eponymous studio album, Britney (2001). It was released on September 24, 2001 through Jive Records as the lead single off the record.[1] The track was written and produced by Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes.

"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 on the Billboard 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]

"I'm a Slave 4 U" was written and produced by Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo of The Neptunes, who also collaborated with Spears on another track from Britney, "Boys" (2002).[2] Both recordings were originally intended for American singer Janet Jackson's seventh studio album, All for You (2001), with her recording an unreleased demo version of the latter before handing the track to Spears.[3][4] "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.[5][6] 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."[7]

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 song "Nasty Girl."[8]

Critical reception[edit]

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

Ted Kessler 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".[9] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic agreed that "I'm a Slave 4 U" was a step towards a more mature sound.[10] According to Rolling Stone's Barry Walters, "although they're not the album's most melodious cuts, the Neptunes' 'I'm a Slave 4 U' and 'Boys' could be Britney's most important".[11] 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".[12]

"I'm a Slave 4 U" received several comparisons to Janet Jackson's songs, 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."[13] 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."[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 accompanying music video for "I'm a Slave 4 U" was filmed on a soundstage in Universal City, California, over Labor Day weekend on September 1–2, 2001, under the direction of Francis Lawrence.[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.[1] It was choreographed by Wade Robson and Crystal Chewning, though some of the dancing was choreographed by Puerto-Rican dancer and Prince's ex-wife Mayte Garcia, who taught Spears bellydancing for the video. Spears told MTV that the theme of the song and the video really matched who she was at the time. Director Lawrence wanted the video to move far beyond the "sleek" dance clubs of Los Angeles or New York. He wanted it to go global: "I came up with this concept of having this club be in this abandoned Asian bath house and having it be filled with young world travelers, the kind of people who would go to these far exotic places to go to a place like this".[27]

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.[28] 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."[13] The video ranked #1 in the list of the "50 Sexiest Music Videos of All-Time" published by Canadian music channel MuchMusic in 2007.[29] 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[edit]

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" at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on September 6, 2001.[30] The performance featured a white tiger and a live albino Burmese Python on her shoulders.[31] 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] Other performances include several television appearances to promote her third album, Britney. She performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on October 11.[1] A special named Total Britney Live was aired by MTV on November 3, where the singer performed the song with "Stronger" and "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman".[33] Two days later, on November 5, Spears performed "I'm Slave 4 U" on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, and on the Late Show with David Letterman the day after.[1] A month later, she opened the 2001 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas on December 4, 2001, with a performance of the track on a stage inside the fountains of the Bellagio Hotel.[34]

Spears performed the song on the 2001–02 Dream Within a Dream Tour, in a setting resembling the performance at the MTV Video Music Awards.[35] According to Jim Farber from New York Daily News, "But for all the bumping and grinding that went on, parents had no reason to cover their daughters' eyes".[36] To promote her fourth studio album In the Zone, she performed the track at the 2003 NFL Kickoff Live on September 4, 2003 at the National Mall. Other songs performed included "Me Against the Music" and "...Baby One More Time".[37] On September 14, Spears played a surprise concert at Rain Nightclub in the Palms Casino Resort, and performed the aforementioned songs along with a new song titled "Breathe on Me".[38] On November 17, a concert special titled Britney Spears: In the Zone aired on American Broadcasting Company (ABC), and included a mash-up of "I'm a Slave 4 U" and "Boys".[39] On The Onyx Hotel Tour in 2004, the track was included on the setlist, and had a "Flintstones-meets-Survivor" set.[40]

"I'm a Slave 4 U" was performed as a shortened version on the 2007 The M+M's Tour.[41] On The Circus Starring Britney Spears in 2009, Spears performed the song in a setting "complete with flames and a fierce dance routine", which managed to "rise above all the ephemera" according to MTV News' James Montgomery.[27] For the Femme Fatale Tour in 2011, "I'm a Slave 4 U" was performed as fetishistic shots of naked, bound men were displayed on the backdrops.[42] On her residency concert in Las Vegas, Britney: Piece of Me (2013–17), Spears initially started the performance sat on a throne surrounded by her female dancers who are playing in a fountain.[43] Later on, the throne was removed in favor of a pole. At the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, the song was once again on a stripper pole as part of agreatest hits medley.[44] While promoting her ninth studio album Glory in 2016, Spears performed the song at several music festivals worldwide, including the iHeartRadio Music Festival,[45] Apple Music Festival,[46] KIIS-FM Jingle Ball,[47] and the 99.7's Triple Ho Show.[48] "I'm a Slave 4 U" was performed on the 2017 Britney: Live in Concert Asian tour,[49] as well as on the Britney Spears: Piece of Me Tour in 2018, which covered North America and Europe.[50]

Cover versions[edit]

"I'm a Slave 4 U" was covered by the musical television show Glee in the episode "Britney/Brittany" sung by Heather Morris in her singing debut. In a dream sequence, Morris's character Brittany 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 and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[87] Gold 35,000^
Belgium (BEA)[88] Gold 25,000*
France (SNEP)[90] Silver 197,000[89]
Norway (IFPI Norway)[91] Gold 5,000*
Sweden (GLF)[92] Gold 15,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[93] Silver 200,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label
United States[94] September 25, 2001 Contemporary hit radio Jive
Germany[95] October 15, 2001 CD single BMG
United Kingdom[96] RCA
United States October 30, 2001 12" (The Remixes)[97] Jive
Japan October 17, 2001 CD single BMG

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External links[edit]