New Britneyology

Tom’s Diner (with Giorgio Moroder)

Posted by: Karenannanina on: April 25, 2015

Britney must have been hearing this song in her head for years, because it was she who approached legendary 70s and 80s disco producer Giorgio Moroder with the idea of recording it. However, the outcome of the collaboration sounds more like a half-forgotten impression of Suzanne Vega’s hit than a vivid memory.

Suzanne Vega recorded the song as an acapella, but the single release was a remix. The single, especially, evokes an empty stillness that conveys quite brilliantly the banality of quotidien life in the Diner. The observations are trivial but engaging – the man behind the counter who only half-fills her cup but transfers his attention before she even has time to complain; the woman who, the singer realizes, doesn’t see her because she’s seeing her own reflection; the sudden sound of the bells of the cathedral. The track was mesmerizing in its simplicity, the melody line intriguing and the backing track, with its Soul 2 Soul-style beat and haunting synth, wonderfully atmospheric.

Britney’s version shouldn’t be seen as a copy or cover. It spirit is different. It’s a reimagining more than an updating. It’s what Tom’s Diner might have turned out like, in a parallel universe, back in its own era, with a different producer. It’s a kind of disco/rock hybrid, much faster, much busier, full of motion and incident. Much of the lyrical content has been jettisoned in favor of instrumental passages and an amusing (if irritating) male novelty vocal interjection halfway through. It’s not so much a half-hour wait for the train in Tom’s Diner as a gulped coffee.

The themes are distraction and alienation nonetheless, and Britney has always been able to express these feelings when she wants to. But things are a little rushed here, and her voice is subjected to electronic overlays which help her to create the desired effect in a more compressed timeframe. She does a good job, but there isn’t much space for her creativity. Moroder’s work is competent but unexciting. There are synth strings that are reminiscent of Suzanne Vega’s version, but otherwise it’s just a thrashier beat and some electric guitars. Most of the press comment has been positive so far, but if criticism starts flying around, I hope Britney doesn’t get the blame.

29 Responses to "Tom’s Diner (with Giorgio Moroder)"

I love it, it’s a good mesh of sounds. It’s sort of like how modern life is like.
The only part I don’t get is the weird male voice in there.

I also don’t get why she omits to sing “raise my head” after “I’m feeling someone watching me and so…” Very odd.

I’ve read on a review that it was so as to instill a sense of fright and mystery. “Suspense! What’s happening after having feeling someone’s staring at me?”

Fright and mystery having half a cup of coffee in Tom’s Diner?! Sounds more like Hotel California!

Lmao! I don’t know it fits the dark vibe of the production, adding tension to everyday events. Also, I thinks George’s right, she sings the part but it’s not that audible and it’s repeated two or three times.

The “raise my” part is perfectly audible. “Head” is very low in the mix and buried in the production, but still audible, too! (she sings it softly.) And then she sings “so I raise my head” twice as you’ve just said.

Seriously lol.

She does sing that part though…

She does sing that part? You might have listened to a different version, here’s the full HQ:

Thanks, all who have replied. You definitely could NOT hear “head” on the version I heard.

I heard the Head part. It’s one of my favourite bits

I like it but I would have loved it if she had played all the lyrics as only she can. Really, I was literally listening to the original with Britney’s vocal acting in mind but there’s a gap between my fantasies and the final product… However, I think it’s getting good feedback thus far but I tend not to read it because it always mentions the “So much better than “Britney Jean”” moto which is perfectly untrue IMO.

Hmmm. I have to say I never cared for the original version. I understand the quality of the song but it never clicked.

So I can’t come here and say that I suddenly LOVE Britney’s version. I don’t think that would make sense. But at the same time I find it a very addictive song. It’s catchy in it’s own special way. And I do like what they did with it. That beat and the rest of the production… It’s good. Nothing spectacular either, but still good. In a way it turned out better than I expected. But my expectations were never high to begin with. Not because of Britney, but because I don’t really like the song.

Most of the people that heard it seem to like it though. I guess most of them are just urprised that Britney can record a song like that. You know, these days peope think Britney can only make autotuned EDM about sex.

I quite liked the contrast between her voice/lyrics and the production. It’s oddly fitting in that she’s stationary and singing about mundane observations while the whole world is happening around her.

I was explaining the meaning of Britney to a cynic on youtube, who rubbished her cover of this song and compared it to ‘toilet paper’. Why? Simply because she didn’t write it herself.

“I don’t think I’d define her as a creative artist, per se. More like an interpreter, a work of art unto herself, like Elvis and Sinatra. Britney expresses the vision of her collaborators, through her iconic voice, her phrasing, her distinctive remarkable persona. She is the celebrity of our time in that regard, the manifestation, the process. There are a million more technically talented performers but who sounds like Britney? Who phrases a story within a song like she does? Who resonates in ways that are both sweet and disturbing? If we listen back on her music, there is a narrative arc there and it is a mirror to the life of young women in society dealing with sex, love, heartbreak, danger and the gamut of human emotions. It’s all distilled in this simple native of Kentwood Louisiana, this peasant who has become this universal persona, this symbol, this figure of great prestige.”

That’s beautiful. I know you don’t like the direction her career has taken but it’s nice to see you haven’t forgotten what makes Britney “oh” so special!

By the way, coming back to beat the dead horse that is “Britney Jean”. A famous forum i frequently visit made a poll about the albums the poster didn’t or barely listened to and the winner was “Britney Jean”. Keep in mind, it’s also the most criticized & mocked album around here since 2013!
I think it says a lot about Britney and how she naturally attracts abuse and “bandwagonism” from people that have 0 knowledge about her… And don’t want to educate themselves or just give her a fair chance. It’s Britney so it’s automatically “manufactured, bad, low quality and not worth my time”. The little praise that some dare applying to her is often made through gritted teeth.

At NewBritneyology we begin with the premise of liking and admiring Britney. At other sites, many people begin with snarky second-hand premises derived from something they’ve read or heard. It’s a shame that she has the misfortune to live in an era when generic mindless formulaic belting has become the only acceptable form of singing. It disturbs me how often I read that she “isn’t the greatest singer”. She isn’t a great belter, but there’s more to interpreting songs than that.

I agree and she’s one of the most interesting pop singer ever, in my book. Her interpretations not being conventional is both her biggest strenght and why she will always be criticized as if she didn’t “earn” the career she has. When someone goes against the grain, which is ironical because she’s the mould of that grain, everything will be done to dismiss him.

Things have gotten to a ridiculous stage when singers as strong as Sam Bailey (X Factor winner a couple of years ago) are being bashed for not having “big enough” voices to sing the popular ballads of today. She uses light and shade creatively, knows when to sing softly and sweetly, brings climaxes where they’re appropriate. But there’s a trend for people to want their singers to yell every word. Responding to this trend, established singers like Alicia Keys, Rihanna and Beyonce are gradually changing themselves from soulful singers into belters. What hope does Britney have, traveling in exactly the opposite direction?

She has us.

I think that Tom’s Diner is a really important and special addition to her sound. I love the update of this classic and I think Moroder helped capture the brilliant observationist character in the song, that is both alienating and heartwarming.

Half the time singers like that fly in the face of the rules of music anyway. Go off key. Malisma the affection out of a song. Pick shitty songs. Just singing lacking emotion. None of that Picking A Moment to highlight nuance. I prefer artists who pick a moment, are subtle, unusual, emotional, fit the song. Pick good songs.

The Britney Jean miscommunication is just unfortunate. If they knew Britney like they think they knew her they’d get it. Electro personal.

Okay this is random and I hope not offensive to the site or anyone….

Smoking weed/being high while listening to Tom’s Diner is excellent. I like to smoke pretty often and I listen to Britney a lot regardless. Music definitely is a variable experience for me, even when I’m sober. Sometimes different sounds in the production or certain vocal choices/ticks really affect me. Anyone else?

I haven’t done that, but I have played it a bunch of times.

I agree . i to indulge myself everyday and love her music. Sounds so much more soulful if that makes sense

I hate to say it, but I prefer the Suzanne Vega version, JUST because she makes more of the observations that the song is about. At the same time I accept that the “Soul 2 Soul” (or Innocence) beat mentioned in the review is old-fashioned now.

I prefer Suzanne’s version too. But not the accapella one, the one that DNA remixed. However, Britney did it justice, and I look forward to the official HQ version so we can hear more of her voice under the vocoder layer.

I just got home from subbing dance classes 9-2, so much traffic. Finally make something to eat and sit down. I google, Britney Spears, as I so often do and discover Pretty Girls is OUT!!! I’m so excited. It’s hot. Nice to have Britney hitting hard again, showing some strong vocals. I love the beat and it’s very female strong.

I stayed up late to review it for you guys!

Thanks! 🙂

What I really loved about Britney’s version of “Tom’s Diner” is that it joins a very small number of songs where she gets to explore introspective or detached feelings by telling a story about someone else she’s observing. These songs include “Lucky” and “If You Seek Amy”, which are actually thinly veiled parables about Britney herself, but at the very least she gets to play out the role of a narrator. Most of the time female pop stars like Britney have to sing about themselves as this object, so I find it so refreshing that Britney gets to sing the monologue that is Tom’s Diner’s lyrics.

It’s low-key and detached, which is why I don’t mind and actually really love how unaffected Britney’s vocals are. She perfectly captures the ennui of the song. I think Gorgio Moroder’s production is so fun and catchy, doing the unexpected in an EDM track by putting a little electric guitar into the chorus.

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  • Karenannanina: I agree with you about the residency. It's the road to irrelevance for an artist. But a new album would be a golden blessing for her fans. Her albums
  • George: Spot on thoughts on the issue. Honestly, I don't... really care whether she does the residency or not? As long as there is new music, I'm fine. P.S: G
  • Sarah G: You should write an In-Depth of Glory or even Mood Ring (that's a groovy tune)