switched on pop

The Vocal Turbulence of Britney’s ‘Gimme More’

Illustration: Iris Gottlieb

It’s 2007, four years since Britney Spears dropped a new album. But with Blackout and its uptempo lead single, “Gimme More,” she lets the world know that she is affirmatively back. To preclude any doubt, she starts the song with a soon-to-be-iconic lyric: “It’s Britney, Bitch.”

Built around a driving riff and off-kilter drums produced by Floyd Nathaniel Hills, who works as Danja, the song echoes the dance-pop Neptunes sound of “I’m a Slave 4 U.” But each time Britney sings “more” her voice is pitched down to a devilish growl. The disturbing vocal processing mirrors the vulgar paparazzi and public scrutiny in her personal life. The year after Blackout’s release, she was placed under a conservatorship that significantly curtailed her creative control.

Later in her career, as she merged her sound with EDM, her voice was increasingly altered to fit a genre that privileges synthesis over performance. Many of her highest-performing singles from the 2010s obscure rather than enhance her vocal nuances. But in 2016, when she began publicly discussing how unhappy she was in her conservatorship, she released her album Glory. Its lead single, “Make Me…,”* places her voice front and center.

That was the last time we got new music from Britney, and now that her conservatorship is over, she’s free to make the music she wants. On the fourth and final episode of our series Listening to Britney, we want to once again focus on her voice, how it was manipulated, how it has evolved, and where it might be going.

*A previous version of this story misnamed Britney Spears’s song “Make Me…”

The Vocal Turbulence of Britney’s ‘Gimme More’