Producer Bloodshy on Working with Britney Spears on “Toxic”: “She Was Great”

Christian Karlsson, one-half of the hit songwriting-production duo Bloodshy & Avant, has a particular mentality he takes into the studio. “I feel like stepping out of your comfort zone and using a new method is always how the best ideas come about,” he shares with American Songwriter via Zoom from his home studio in Sweden. “I believe it’s when you’re out of your comfort zone when you dare to go somewhere you wouldn’t have gone if you were doing something that you’d done so many times.”

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It’s that mentality he took into the studio when working on Britney Spears’ smash hit, “Toxic.” Karlsson co-wrote the track with Pontus Winnberg (aka Avant), Cathy Dennis, and Henrik Jonback. Bloodshy & Avant handled the production. The song’s signature mark of the screeching Bollywood strings was sampled from Hindi composer duo Laxmikant–Pyarelal’s “Tere Mere Beech Mein” featured in the 1981 film, Ek Duuje Ke Liye.

Karlsson started on the song in 2002. He was working on another project at a studio in Los Angeles when Spears’ A&R rep at the time paid him a visit. “You’re not supposed to invite anyone from another label, that’s a no-no,” Karlsson laughs. “But he really wanted to say hi and I didn’t have anyone in the studio yet, so I invited him in.”

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

When the A&R rep asked if Karlsson had anything to share, it prompted him to play the rough demo of “Toxic” that he wrote with Kylie Minogue in mind. “I played it and he was really into it, but it didn’t end up being that song at that time,” Karlsson explains. “It became the start of a relationship with Britney.” Though he says the two began working together in 2001, it wasn’t until Spears’ 2003 album In the Zone that their creative collaboration caught fire.

In addition to helping to produce In the Zone as a whole, Bloodshy & Avant also co-wrote and produced the deep cut “Showdown” and the bonus track, “I’ve Just Begun (Having My Fun).” Karlsson was working in the studio with Spears on other songs when he pitched the idea of doing “Toxic” to which the singer was “down” to try, he says.

Karlsson also had the opportunity to travel with Spears, working with her on her tour bus as she traveled across Europe. “She was always great, she was always great to work with. I felt like she had a lot of respect for my crazy ideas,” he praises. “Sometimes I had her sing a huge part of a song in only one note and I said, ‘I’ll do the melody later’…and she hung in there and stuck with me and trusted my crazy ideas.”

“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.” Spears insisted that “Toxic” be released as the album’s second single, and her instincts were spot on. The song charted all around the world, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart and the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also gave her her first and only Grammy Award so far, winning for Best Dance Recording in 2005.

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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