Britney Spears took “complete control” when recording her vocals for Elton John collaboration Hold Me Closer, says producer Andrew Watt

Elton John and Britney Spears have released Hold Me Closer, their hotly anticipated new single. The upbeat track features elements of three songs from John’s back catalogue - The One, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart and, most notably, Tiny Dancer - and was produced by Andrew Watt.

Watt produced several tracks on The Lockdown Sessions, John’s most recent album, and has also worked on records for the likes of Justin Bieber, Ozzy Osbourne, Miley Cyrus and Eddie Vedder. He’s set to be at the helm for the next Pearl Jam album, too.

Hold Me Closer follows the blueprint laid down by Cold Heart, John’s 2021 duet with Dua Lipa. Featuring elements of the singles Sacrifice, Rocket Man and Kiss the Bride, this was produced by PNAU, who released a whole album’s worth of reworked John material, Good Morning To The Light, back in 2012.

The Guardian reports that Spears’ vocals for Hold Me Closer were recorded at Andrew Watt’s LA studio - the producer used John’s original vocal recordings - and that the star had strong views on the kind of performance she wanted to give.

“She’s unbelievable at layering her voice and doubling, which is one of the hardest things to do,” Watt told The Guardian. “She really pushed herself, vocally. ​​Sometimes when you produce, the greatest thing in the world you can do is say nothing, so I just let her do her thing. She’s so good at knowing when she got the right take. She took complete control.”

Watt added that Spears was also “incredibly specific” about how her vocals were mixed. “She was really collaborative and had really good ideas about the production,” he explained.

While John didn’t re-record his vocals for Hold Me Closer, he did play a new Rhodes piano part, and there are some acoustic piano flourishes that we assume are his as well. Watt also used some of the original Tiny Dancer guitar parts, pushing them higher in the mix than on the original record.

Commenting on Hold Me Closer’s release, Elton John says: “I am absolutely thrilled to have had the chance to work with Britney Spears; she truly is an icon, one of the all-time great pop stars and she sounds amazing on this record. I love her dearly and am delighted with what we've created together.”

Britney Spears added: “I was so honoured when the incredible Sir Elton John asked me to join him on one his most iconic songs. We are so excited for the fans to hear it! Thank you, Elton, for having me! I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to work with you and your legendary mind.”

Hold Me Closer marks Spears’ return to the music industry following the termination of her conservatorship in 2021. Her most recent album, Glory, was released in 2016.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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