Cover of Hold Me Closer

Elton John and Britney Spears’ ‘Hold Me Closer’ Halts the Surging Remix Movement

The British rock star reinvented the remix last year with 'Cold Heart (PNAU Remix),' but fails to follow his formula with the iconic pop star's landmark return to music.
September 23, 2022
6 mins read

On Aug. 26, Sir Elton John released “Hold Me Closer,” a remix of one of the most famous songs in his discography, 1971’s “Tiny Dancer.” However, the song is not a solo outing; the track is a collaboration that features Britney Spears in her first music release in six years. The release also marks the first time Spears has recorded music of her own volition following the end of her 13-year conservatorship in November 2021.

The song received bouts of anticipation for many reasons, including Spears’ outspoken love for “Tiny Dancer” — leaving fans hoping that the song would be a top-tier outing.

The remix also follows the recent wave of tracks that have reinvented the form for the streaming age. John himself has popularized the concept of reworking the rhythm and lyrics of one’s older tracks into something that is both familiar and fresh. Just last year, John remixed two of his songs, 1972’s “Rocket Man” and 1989’s “Sacrifice,” for Dua Lipa’s “Cold Heart (PNAU Remix)” in 2021. The remix became a global sensation, and though familiar, it was an entirely new song with an identity of its own.

Beyoncé, too, released a premiere remix, “BREAK MY SOUL (THE QUEEN’S REMIX).” The track remixed her latest album’s lead single, “BREAK MY SOUL,” with Madonna’s 1990 smash hit “Vogue.” Though both tracks stand on their own, together, they create a new track that feels brand new.

While it seemed “Hold Me Closer” would advance this wave of remixes, it ultimately halted the movement.

Prior to the track’s release, fans heard several leaks, whose brevity led listeners to believe that they had only heard a teaser of a longer song.

The worst part, unfortunately, was that the leak was essentially the entire song.

“Hold Me Closer” contains eight stanzas of lyrics, and three of them consist only of the words “hold me closer” accompanied by the occasional “baby, baby.” The lyrics truly lack substance and depth — which is ultimately a shame because “Tiny Dancer” contains some of John’s most remarkable. Not that the quantity of lyrics determines a track’s quality, but the decision to only use a few stanzas from the lyrical marvel that is “Tiny Dancer” is head-scratching.

It could be argued that John and Spears wanted the track to stand on its own, so they made drastic changes to the lyrics. However, clearly, their remix is missing something — a second track. Both “Cold Heart (PNAU Remix)” and “BREAK MY SOUL (QUEEN’S REMIX)” rework two songs. In the case of “Hold Me Closer,” they didn’t even need to find another track from John’s discography; he could have taken a note from Beyoncé and sampled a song from Spears’ discography. This would have felt even more significant following the termination of Spears’ conservatorship — a beautiful reworking of one of her best songs with one of John’s marvels could have easily soared.

Cover art shouldn’t undermine the strength of a song, but the cover for “Hold Me Closer” is particularly weak. Though the cover art for “Cold Heart (PNAU’s Remix)” and “BREAK MY SOUL (QUEEN’S REMIX)” were essentially illustrations, that doesn’t mean “Hold Me Closer” also had to drop the ball. The initial promotional artwork featured a pink background paired with the words “Hold Me Closer” and a few emojis. The final cover art displays childhood photos of Spears and John, but not even in a creative way. The use of childhood photos on record covers has been long overdone. A brilliant photoshoot could have been easy and taken the song to new heights.

Ultimately the song is still charming, Spears sounds great and the track is a return to form for her. However, that’s what is most disappointing. “Hold Me Closer” is her first release following the tumultuous and abusive conservatorship that took complete control over her music career. Her first song should have been a solo outing with evocative lyrics and vocals. She doesn’t need anyone to hold her hand, especially on a relatively weak track on which John’s vocals are indistinct and his presence is almost entirely unnoticeable.

“Hold Me Closer” should have been an easy success. John failed to replicate the simple formula he popularized just a year earlier. Spears’ fans enjoyed the track and the song itself charted No. 1 in 40 countries — and perhaps that was the sole point of “Hold Me Closer.” Perhaps minimal effort was always the plan, as this track was always going to be a roaring success.

Kylie Clifton, Loyola Marymount University

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Kylie Clifton

Loyola Marymount University

Originally from Michigan, Kylie loves trying new foods, asking questions and curating outfits. She’s passionate about all kinds of diverse reporting, especially with film and television.

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