Remember Britney Spears circa 2007? It was one of her most iconic—and troubled—years, with the pop star losing custody of children and releasing her stunning fifth album, Blackout, within the same month. Chris Crocker had shared his famous “Leave Britney Alone” video just a few weeks earlier.
Today Chelsea Collins channels ‘07 Britney in one of this year’s catchiest pop songs. The track—naturally called “‘07 Britney”—sees the LA singer-songwriter and producer delivering a lavish ode to one of her personal heroes.
“Anyone who knows me knows I’m her number-one fan,” Collins tells American Songwriter in an interview featured below. “Everywhere she went she just had so much attention. There’s the lyric ‘all eyes on me.’ I just remember from that time period she was on every performance show—she was this phenomenon. Even through her low points she always came out more golden and iconic. I really look up to her because of that.”
In the track, Collins seems to nod to Britney’s February 2007 head-shaving fiasco with a line about “bleach blonde hair on the bathroom floor.” But the line is actually about Collins giving herself bangs, and the song is ultimately a celebration of Britney’s glamour and resilience.
“If I’m gonna break down, I’ma break down pretty / I love myself but I hate this city,” Collins sings over crisp production and explosive melodies. “If I’m gonna break down, I’ma break down pretty / all eyes on me like I’m ‘07 Britney / I’m running out of crazy / are you entertained yet?”
Collins dropped the self-produced track with a spot-on period piece video that she shot in just two days. “There wasn’t time to get a huge crew,” says Collins of the production. “It was literally just me, the camera guy, and my creative director filming in random spots. It was cool because I used all my clothes, makeup, and hair stuff. Believe it or not I’m actually kind of a tomboy, so I never have the confidence to do that. The video was really fun but really scary. It was the week leading up to social distancing and everybody was manic, every place we went was super empty.”
“‘07 Britney” follows Collins’ previous singles “Used to be (L.O.V.E.)” and “Tobacco and Tears.” The singer-songwriter and producer tells us that she’s signed a publishing deal with Savan Kotecha and Sonny Takhar’s S2 Songs, but she hasn’t announced a debut EP or album yet.
Speaking by phone, Collins brought us up to speed on her new single and video, her love of Britney, and her approach to writing and producing. Check out the full interview and listen to “‘07 Britney” below.
American Songwriter: Tell us about your new track, “‘07 Britney.”
Chelsea Collins: Basically it’s about my experience living in Los Angeles. I’ve been here for about five years and obviously living out here is very crazy, very hectic. You meet a lot of shady people who can try to bring you down and make you feel like you have no voice. In the time period of writing this song I was going through a lot of situations with shady friends, shady industry people, and I wrote this song to tell myself that even when you’re in this state of mind you still have to find your confidence and you still have to love yourself. It’s okay to break down and let it out.
I always try to find the light in dark situations and I feel like [this song] really helped me overcome this situation. Music is so therapeutic. If you go through a breakup, you write a song about that breakup and you’re able to finally let it out and make peace with it and feel better. I wrote that song for that reason.
The Britney reference came in ‘cause during that session I was watching Britney videos. Anyone who knows me knows I’m her number-one fan. Everywhere she went she just had so much attention. There’s the lyric “all eyes on me.” I just remember from that time period she was on every performance show—she was this phenomenon. Even through her low points she always came out more golden and iconic. I really look up to her because of that.
Where were you before LA?
I was in San Francisco. It wasn’t a far commute but the two cities are very different.
How’d you go about making the video?
We had to scram really fast ‘cause quarantine was happening. It was like two days to get a whole video done. There wasn’t time to get a huge crew. It was literally just me, the camera guy, and my creative director filming in random spots. It was cool because I used all my clothes, makeup, and hair stuff. Believe it or not I’m actually kind of a tomboy, so I never have the confidence to do that. The video was really fun but really scary. It was the week leading up to social distancing and everybody was manic, every place we went was super empty.
What were the looks you were going for? How’d your styling come together?
I packed up boxes and went to my creative director’s house and we pieced together outfits. For Halloween I was the “Hit Me Baby One More Time” Britney and I had pom-poms and a similar outfit. With the looks, I just collect a lot of clothes and I literally never wear them. They just sit in my closet. I usually only wear sweatpants. My mom was always like “One day you’re going to be able to use your clothes,” and I was like “I don’t know mom, I just want to be able to wear a hoodie.” This was the perfect opportunity.
What artists other than Britney are big influences for you?
One of my favorite artists growing up was Gwen [Stefani]. I loved No Doubt and I loved her solo project. I love Kanye. I love Taylor Swift. Max Martin, obviously. I think with Britney he’s my second biggest idol. He inspired me to write and produce. The moment I started writing and producing I could never stop. It was my drug of choice.
When you’re writing a song it’s a melody riff, right? Well when you’re producing there’s a million melody riffs going on. This might sound weird, but when I’m producing I have the underdog sounds and then I have the popular kid sounds and I always try to fight to make the underdog sounds work. I’m okay taking out the popular kid sounds like ‘Fuck this sound—I’m doing the weird sound and I’m going to leave that one there because I have a big heart for this sound.’
Have all the tracks you’ve put out so far been self-produced?
Usually either just me or me and one other person. I actually collaborate a lot with my brother [Nico] because he’s literally me but a guy. He helps me so much with production, and I help him too. It’s just so dope to have someone else that does the same thing.
What’s next for you? Do you think you’ll put out a collection of tracks or continue putting out singles for now?
I want to release a few singles then hopefully release an EP and then release an album. I definitely have enough songs for it, I just have to figure out the right order. And getting stuff mixed takes some time. But I’m just so excited to share the music. Over two years I’ve been in my room making songs. To see them come to life in the world always just feels so great.