Britney Spears and Justin Timerlake’s relationship is well-known, however, not everyone knows Timberlake had some influence on her music. Interestingly, so did Jay-Z. One of her hit songs only exists because Jay-Z introduced someone to Timberlake at a club.
How the careers of Britney Spears, Pharrell, Jay-Z, and Justin Timberlake intersected
Firstly, some background. Pharrell is arguably most known for his 2014 smash hit “Happy.” However, he has an impressive history as a producer, as he’s produced hits for Gwen Stefani, Kelis, Usher, and many others. During an interview with Vibe, he revealed Jay-Z introduced him to Timberlake at a club.
“Jay-Z introduced me to him (at a club) in New York,” he said. “He was there with a couple guys from NSYNC and Jay was like, ‘You have to meet this guy Justin Timberlake from N’Sync.’ I was like, ‘Oh, OK, cool.’ Jay was like, ‘Y’all need to work together.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah. Sure.’”
Afterward, Pharrell’s working relationship with Timberlake had an impact on Spears’ career. “So we met up and we did ‘Girlfriend’ and funny thing is the song’s called ‘Girlfriend’ and Justin’s like, ‘I want you to work with my girl’ and I was like, ‘All right, cool.’ ‘So he set it up and we did like two songs. You know, we thought it was interesting, but I remember people going, ‘Oh you shouldn’t do that. You shouldn’t work with people in pop.’ And I was like, ‘Man, we have to have way more vision than that and we have to be open to… other types of creativity and what that may bring.”
The hit Janet Jackson turned down
This networking helped “I’m a Slave 4 U” to become a Spears song. According to Mic, Pharrell did offer the track to Janet Jackson but she turned it down. He said the song didn’t make sense for Jackson because of where she was in her career at that time. He didn’t elaborate as to what he meant.
How the world reacted to Britney Spears’ collaborations with Pharrell
Because Timberlake introduced him to Spears, he gave “I’m a Slave 4 U” to Spears. The track reached No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of Spears’ bigger hits from the early 2000s. While the song itself is memorable, it’s arguably less famous than its music video. The bold video portrays Spears dancing provocatively in a club or sauna, showing her in a more grown-up light. In addition, Spears performed “I’m a Slave 4 U” with a snake on her shoulders at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Pharrell also worked on another one of Spears’ songs from the same era: “Boys.” “Boys” didn’t chart on the Billboard Hot 100. It may not be Spears’ most famous song, but it’s definitely the only Spears song whose video includes an appearance from Austin Powers. To think, Spears may never have sung these songs if it weren’t for Jay-Z and Timberlake.