An in-depth and qualitative comparison of the Bellamy Brothers’ “If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body, Would You Hold It Against Me” and Britney Spears’ “Hold It Against Me”

February 6, 2011

You’ve heard the new Britney Spears song, I’m guessing. But have you ever heard the Bellamy Brothers’ “If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body, Would You Hold It Against Me?” Probably not. I am likely the only person in America who has them both downloaded.

You might have seen this part: The Bellamy Brothers say Britney Spears stole this lush, lyrical concept from them. They’re straight whitewashing over well-known fact that D.H. Lawrence and T.S. Eliot feuded for years over the rights to the phrase, “If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?” ultimately leading to Eliot shooting Lawrence in 1920 in a duel officiated by Virginia Woolf — the true source of his declining health for the rest of his life.

But the more important question is: Which song is better? In one corner, the Tequila Sunrise hangover music, in the other Max Martin’s EuroPop. There can only be one.

A. Choruses of Disputed Language

Is it best when it’s original?

If I said you had a beautiful body,
Would you hold it against me?
If I swore you were an angel,
Would you treat me like the devil tonight?
If I was dying of thirst,
Would your flowing love come quench me?
If I said you had a beautiful body,
Would you hold it against me?

Well, yes, it probably is. Not only do the Bellamy Brothers get one double entendre in there, they sort of work two others in there, which is more than we can say about Brit, who’s forcing the issue a little. The angel/devil turn of phrase isn’t bad, either. Is “your flowing love come quench me” dirty or a reference to “Let Your Love Flow”? The longer you look at it on the page, the dirtier it looks — and, hey, this is a song about getting a woman to sleep with you, it’s not like it’s a Sunday School hymn or something, so don’t tell me which zone is for stopping and which zone is for loading.

Meanwhile, from Louisiana:

If I said my heart was beating loud,
If we could escape the crowd somehow,
If I said I want your body now,
Would you hold it against me?

‘Cause you feel like paradise,
And I need a vacation tonight.
So if I said I want your body now,
Would you hold it against me?

When you listen to the song, the line “I need a vacation tonight” is delivered basically like Britney Spears is reading it off the Google Translate page for the first time and can’t understand what it’s doing there either, like “I’m sorry I just said that” should follow it.

Points: Bellamy

B. Other lyrics

Despite what the Bellamy Brothers might tell you, there are other lyrics in these songs. Now, the first verse of the Bellamy song is all about how talking about the weather is a waste of time when you can entreat a woman to pointed entendres, because apparently the only options for conversations are WEATHER and SEX. On the other hand, Jimmy Carter was still president — those very well might have been the only options.

When we get into verse two, however, we’ve clearly run out of weather talk:

Now, rain can fall so soft against the window
The sun can shine so bright up in the sky,
But Daddy always told me, “Don’t make small talk.”
He said, “Come on out and say what’s on your mind.”

“Rain can fall so soft against the window”? Come on now. Here in 2011:

Hey, you might think
That I’m crazy,
But you know I’m just your type.
I might be ‘little hazy,
But you just cannot deny

There’s a spark in between us,
When we’re dancing on the floor.
I want more,
Wanna see it.
So I’m asking you tonight

I’m not saying it’s going to show up on the AP English Language test next year, but this isn’t bad. It makes sense. It’s to the point. It lays out a few reasons why you should want to sleep with her tonight. It does not involve statements like “rain can fall so soft against the window.”

Did I just blow your mind?

Points: Brit

C. Cheesiness

A life dream of mine involves writing a romantic comedy — let’s be real, a disaster awkward romantic comedy — in which the entire soundtrack is, like, Don Williams’ “Tulsa Time” and Freddy Fender, and Charley Pride’s “You’re So Good When You’re Bad.” Oh, and “Night Moves.” Not ironically either. I really liked Murphy’s Romance, grew up on what could be an alarming amount of Jimmy Buffett music. What I’m telling you is this: I am biased towards really cheesy music.

Britney Spears has given us these gifts before — songs to which you know all the words, that often feature melodramatic, spoken asides that you then emphatically recite in the car and at frat parties. But I thought the old lady dropped it into the ocean in the end? Love me, hate me, but can’t you see what I see, all the boys and girls are begging to if you seek Amy, and so forth. Things that actually cannot make sense, literally, but are charming in spite of that.

But that’s the dilemma with “Hold It Against Me.” Like its predecessor, “3,” it’s not that cheesy.

Which is weird, actually, because here in real life, if you said to somebody “If I said I want your body now, would you hold it against me?” well, you wouldn’t, because if you actually wanted to have sex with that person, you wouldn’t risk dropping that pun on them, which you probably would not be able to deliver, anyway, without laughing. The Bellamy Brothers get that aspect of the pun, so it’s all 1980 destination wedding, pastel bridesmaids dresses and margaritas. Britney, meanwhile, sounds like she got trapped in a level of Inception.

Points: Bellamy

D. Directness

Britney Spears wants to have sex with you.

Points: Brit

E. Concluding thoughts

That, of course, is a tie. It all comes down to the cheesiness vs. directness scale, however.

If you’re going to be so direct with your double entedre, you really have to have a little more fun with it, “If You Seek Amy” style, where your song inspires people to text each other “Ha ha hee hee ha ha ho” or drop “Love me hate me, all the boys and girls are begging to if you seek Amy” when arriving somewhere in public. “Hold It Against Me” is a song that doesn’t appear to get the joke. It might be because it’s so hopped up on the autotune, or maybe the “the woofers are up too high” beat, but it ends up a grim march through double entendre, “YOU FEEL LIKE PARADISE, I NEED VACATION. PINA COLADAS. JOHN MILTON. HOLD IT AGAINST ME?”

This won’t stop me from running on a treadmill to it, but it will stop me from crowning it champion of this qualitative comparison.

Winner: The Bellamy Brothers

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