Did You Know?: Britney Spears’ “Toxic” Was Originally Meant for Another Artist

Pop icon Britney Spears had one of the biggest hits of the early 2000s with the techno-pop tune “Toxic.” The song dominated the charts and was inescapable for the better part of 2003. Spears’ breathy falsetto added a unique texture to the flashy tune, a pairing that seems inseparable now. However, she was not the initial artist in mind when the song was written. She wasn’t even the second.

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“Toxic” was written and produced by production duo Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg, known professionally as Bloodshy and Avant, respectively. Songwriters Cathy Dennis and Henrik Jonback also provided additional writing for the tune.

The song was initially conceptualized with artist Janet Jackson in mind, Dennis explained. “That was written in Sweden,” she said of the song. “I was there for about ten days in total. I’d had a meeting with Janet, I think in London, but it may have been in New York. I thought I’d have a go at writing something that would work for her.” 

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In their writing circle, “Toxic” came to the group on their first day of writing, however, finishing the tune proved difficult. “Because I couldn’t quite finish it, I said, ‘Look, let’s start on something else,’” Dennis continued. “So we wrote another three songs that week and in my spare time while I was in my hotel room I was very busy editing my lyrics on ‘Toxic.’ Eventually, on day seven, which was the day I was flying back to England, I had run out of time. I knew that it was D-Day and I had to sing and that was what I came up with after a lot of editing.”

“Toxic” was not a match for Jackson, so the tune was offered to Australian pop star Kylie Minogue, who had previously garnered a chart-topper with another Dennis-penned tune, “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.” It was pitched to her for her 2003 album, Body Language, but she decided not to record it.

“I wasn’t at all angry when it worked for her,” Minogue later said of turning down the Spears hit. “It’s like the fish that got away. You just have to accept it.”

All “Toxic” needed was its Goldilocks, someone to deem the song just right and Spears did just that. “I really like ‘Toxic,'” Spears told MTV in 2003. “It’s an upbeat song. It’s really different, that’s why I like it so much.”

Listen to her take on “Toxic” below. Can you picture anyone other than Britney singing this 2000s pop staple? Comment below.

Photo by Randee St. Nicholas / RCA Records

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