Why is Britney Spears’ new song so significant?

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Like Spears, John has been reinventing his back catalogue. In the tradition of late musical stars like Barbra Streisand and Tony Bennett, has been using duets with new pop stars to do so. Last year, she collaborated with Dua Lipa on “Cold Heart,” a deconstruction of her ’80s hit “Sacrifice.” Lipa’s 2021 debut album, the disco vehicle of the ’80s nostalgia for the future, made it perfect for reinterpreting John’s “Rocket Man” lyrics about not being “the man they think I am back home.” In that way, “Sacrifice,” originally a straight adult contemporary ballad about marriage and monogamy, becomes a queer dance about desire. She also got John back on the US charts. the first time in more than two decades.

John and Spears’ combination of their bombastic ’90s love song “The One” with their iconic ’70s piano ballad “Tiny Dancer” follows the same pattern, but is more cohesive as a standalone single. These tracks are reworked in the tradition of dance songs about ephemeral connection. “I saw you dancing in the ocean,” Spears sings in the opening. “A spirit born of earth and water.”

The lyrics about nature match the production: chill disco with a summer vibe, and Spears’s voice sounds clear and intimate. In the original “Tiny Dancer,” the chorus is addressed to a mystery woman, a collage of earthy women dressed in blue ’70s jeans, inspired by Maxine Feibelman, John’s collaborator and then-wife of co-writer Bernie Taupin. In the new song, Spears becomes the interpreter in charge of the message, not just a muse.

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As Britney and John sing the famous “hold me closer” refrain, there’s an ethereal quality to the fusion of their voices. And the meaning of the song changes, from a speech from a straight man to a woman, to a love letter to Spears as an icon. John has a history of honoring famous women whose images were swallowed up by fame, such as 1973’s “Candle in the Wind,” written for Marilyn Monroe and then retouched and re-recorded in 1997 after Princess Diana’s death.

Spears has lived long enough to be able to fix the record herself, instead of having people worship her after it’s too late for her to benefit from it. And there’s an added layer to her return alongside one of the world’s most respected gay pop stars. Her collaboration feels like an acknowledgment of paper of queer people – especially gay men — on #FreeBritney and her passionate fandom.

Of course, Spears doesn’t need saviors. Ultimately, it is her speaking of herself that set in motion the events that led to her freedom. It was her retrieval of her body that allowed him to revive her love of dance and music that had once been her prison.

In “Mona Lisa,” Spears warns that a woman has been cloned, but she is there to “release her from her spell.” “She’s the original,” Britney sings, almost to herself. “She is unforgettable.”

In an Instagram post late last year, the pop star listed all your sales records and achievements, “reminding myself and the world who I am!” She also shared her sadness at having been diminished by his “‘classy’ white family”, causing her to withdraw into a state of denial.

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But she sounded excited by the promise of new music. “Pssss new song in the works… It’s already making itself heard.