Britney Spears is back, with a club banger in tow.
Spears teamed up with Elton John for the new song “Hold Me Closer,” a collaboration marking her first music release since her 13-year conservatorship was terminated late last year.
Released Friday, the track, which begins with a verse from John’s “The One,” is an upbeat bass-heavy take on his 1971 classic “Tiny Dancer,” featuring vocals from both singers and notable riffs from Spears. John announced the single on Instagram this month, sharing album art of the artists as children alongside a more recent photo of them both.
On Wednesday, Spears described the new studio recording on Twitter as “my first song in 6 years.” (The singles she released in 2020 were recorded around the time of her 2016 album “Glory.”)
In November, a California judge ended the conservatorship over Spears, an arrangement in which her father and others outside their household exercised almost complete control over her personal life and finances. Spears, who was placed under the conservatorship in 2008 after exhibiting erratic behavior in public, argued in court that it was “embarrassing” and “abusive” toward her.
Spears also described being stripped of her sense of autonomy under the conservatorship. In addition to having to seek permission for medical treatment, such as the removal of her IUD, Spears recalled being forced to perform while unwell. Soon after the conservatorship was lifted, she said on Instagram that she would take a break from making music, in part as a form of retaliation.
“After what I’ve been through, I’m scared of people and the business!” Spears wrote in a caption on her since-deleted account. “They really hurt me! Not doing my music anymore is my way of saying ‘f— you,’ in a sense when it only actually benefits my family by ignoring my real work.”
Though Spears later changed her mind, writing Wednesday that she tells herself “every day to let go of the hurt bitterness and try to forgive myself and others to what may have been hurtful,” John suggested in an interview with the Guardian that some hesitancy remained.
“She’s been away so long. There’s a lot of fear there because she’s been betrayed so many times and she hasn’t really been in the public eye officially for so long,” he said. “We’ve been holding her hand through the whole process, reassuring her that everything’s gonna be alright.”
John has collaborated with a wide array of artists in recent years, including Brandi Carlile, Nicki Minaj and Yo-Yo Ma. The new “Hold Me Closer” is reminiscent of John’s “Cold Heart (PNAU Remix),” a 2021 duet with Dua Lipa mashing up “Rocket Man,” “Kiss the Bride,” “Sacrifice” and “Where’s the Shoorah?”
In the Guardian interview, John noted that he related to Spears’s journey in particular.
“It’s hard when you’re young. Britney was broken. I was broken when I got sober,” he said. “Now I’ve got the experience to be able to advise people and help them because I don’t want to see any artists in a dark place.”
On Twitter, Spears describes it as “pretty damn cool that I’m singing with one of the most classic men of our time.”
“I’m kinda overwhelmed,” she added. “It’s a big deal to me!!!”