Monday, January 12, 2009

All of the Boys & Girls @ Radio Are Begging For A Different Britney Single

Be forewarned -- this post contains "foul" language often deemed not suitable for children.

It was recently announced that Britney Spears' third single from Circus will be the cryptically provocative "If You Seek Amy", which was written by Max Martin. The choice has garnered a firestorm of criticism from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) because of lyrical content, and the implications of the being played on the radio.

In case you are unaware, the song is a raunchy little romp in which Britney asks where is "Amy", a fictional "friend" she is looking for in a club, during the verses until it breaks in to the chorus which states:

"Love me, hate me
Say what you want about me
But all of the boys and all of the girls
Are begging to if you seek Amy."

Looking at the text on paper (or rather on screen) may cause you scratch your head, both in why this is lyrically offensive and why this song seems congruent. However, if you say the phrase "If You Seek Amy" aloud rather fast, you realize this is a thinly veiled "F-U-C-K me". Hence: "All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to f-u-c-k me."

So yeah, I guess I can see the FCC's concern. Sorta.

However, this age old debate is nothing new in music since the days of N.W.A. and the "Parental Advisory" stickers on physical CDs. Radio cuts would usually try to cover up offensive language in a lame attempt to shield younger ears, while the rest of us giggle at how stupid the split second of instrumental is. In rap songs, it's downright pointless, because half the song is bleeped out.

There is no question that the FCC has reveled in their new found relevance following the events of Nipplegate following Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's halftime performance at the Super Bowl back in 2004. My thoughts on the subject is: people are human, and musicians express their creativity in many different ways. In the aftermath of the aforementioned "horror", I was so peeved by the media firestorm. Why? Because Janet was basically outcast for sort of baring her breast (whether it was an accident or not...I'm staying out of that one), while Justin, who was the one who peeled her top off, came out rather unscathed. In fact, CBS refused to let either performer attend the Grammy Awards that year if they did not make a public apology. Justin did, and all was good. Janet refused, and I stand by her "Pleasure Principles." At the end of the day, it's just skin. Everybody has breasts. It's the American culture that makes it so taboo.

But back to Britney. Again -- this is America, and we do have the freedom of speech. For certain songs that are so scathingly disgusting, peverse and violent -- yes, I suppose they do deserve censorship, but I'm also in the camp that if it's really so bad, maybe it shouldn't have been chosen as a single or played on the radio at all. "If You Seek Amy" is clearly very tongue in cheek (Britney even cackles a "ha ha hee hee ha ha ho" at the end of the pre-chorus). It would take someone of a certain maturity level to glean the real meaning from the song. Indeed, if this was 1999, I wouldn't have expected to have a censorship conversation about Britney Spears, but I also didn't expect to witness her shaving her head and beating up a car with an umbrella. Times change and so do people.

The only reason this is making noise is because it's a pretty popstar like Britney. In fact, I really kind of hate it when a song I like, no matter it's content, gets censored for asinine reasons. Really -- how are they going to even "hide" this? Are they just going to take out the "If you seek Amy" bit of every chorus? Imagine how irritating that's going to be! It's being likened to the Black Eyed Peas single "Don't Phunk (Funk) With My Heart", which was a play on ears to sound similar to "fuck", or their other earlier single "Let's Get It Started", whose original version on the album was titled "Let's Get Retarded."

A more recent example of this melodrama would be how they butchered the radio cut of Rihanna's "Disturbia" for reasons unknown, or how they got into a tizzy when her earlier single "Unfaithful"'s bridge which states "I might as well take a gun and put it to my head/Get it over with." They "censored" it to be: "I might as well as take a --------/Get it over with." Does that make sense? No. Do we still know what she's saying? For the most part.

One of my age old complains with this debate is that its very very sexist. Besides Janet and Rihanna before Britney, women tend to have their songs more censored than others. Christina Aguilera's most recent "Keeps Gettin' Better"'s chorus begins: "Somedays I'm a super bitch..." which has turned into "Somedays I'm a super (simulated smack)". P!NK's 2002 single "Just Like A Pill" received similar treatment for the word "bitch" during the pre-chorus ("Tried to call the nurse again/But she's being a little bitch.")

Meanwhile, around a similar time, Eminem's "Without Me" also played on the radio (granted, with it's fair share of bleeps), however at one point he spouts during the second verse:

"Little Hellions, kids feelin rebellious
Embarrassed their parents still listen to Elvis
They start feelin like prisoners helpless
'Til someone comes along on a mission and yells BITCH!!!"

All of this was heard on my radio at least, uncensored. Please tell me the difference there.

At the end of the day, here's what I think. If its explicitly bad, maybe it shouldn't be a single or played on the radio at all, but by releasing it, it is perpetuating this "negative" publicity. However -- we do have the freedom to speech, and it isn't like this is yelling "fire" in a crowded room. If you don't want your kids to hear it in the car on the way to field hockey practice, maybe you do something crazy like...oh, I don't know...change the station...or (gasp!) play a CD of an artist you feel more suitable. It's not really rocket science.

I've probably rambled on about this for far too long, but this is a topic that fascinates me. What are your thoughts on "If You Seek Amy"? Honestly, it was the first song from 'Circus' I heard (after "Womanizer"), as my interest was peaked by it being written by Max Martin. I found it quite enjoyable honestly, but not really single worthy.

PS - MTV had an interview/article about this which included some words by John Ivey, the program director for radio station KIIS FM Los Angeles, in which he states: "[Spears' label, Jive,] might also be just floating it out there to see if they can stir things up a bit."

Riiiight. A goofy tongue-in-cheek 3rd single from a popstar in decline is "stirring things up". So having two failed marriages, two kids, a very public mental breakdown, a visible sadness over still having no control of her career (or her life for that matter), is just business as usual, I guess.

1 comment:

Ken said...

I'm sick of hearing all of those stupid censorships. I agree that "If U Seek Amy" is not a single worthy but it's actually radio-friendly and somehow resembles Pink's "So What".

Nice point of view. :)

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