“Hey Brit…If I said you ripped off our song, would you hold it against me?” -Howard Bellamy
This song wasn’t in my queue of Overlooked Hooks until Britney Spears forced my hand. I heard a sample of her “new” song “Hold it Against Me”, and immediately recognized that she (or more likely her handlers) is ripping off the greatest double entendre in song title history.
By 1995, the Bellamy Brothers were at the end of their hit making days but were still cranking out albums and selling out shows. I picked up a greatest hits compilation around this time after seeing some of their videos on CMT. While the Bellamy’s were most famous for “Let Your Love Flow”, “Beautiful Body” was the track I wore out the most.
The song opens with some simple strumming on what sounds like a palm-muted 12 string, and kind of catches a listener unaware when the song jumps right into the chorus and the song’s title. This type of sequencing actually mimics the topic of the song, getting right to the point without making any “small talk”. Verse 1 begins after the chorus, then the rest of the song follows a more traditional structure, with the chorus repeating after Verse 1 and again after Verse 2, then finishing up on a fade out.
Throughout, the song maintains sort of a Jimmy Buffet-esque Caribbean feel with an electric piano played in the upper octaves and steel drums prominent in the chorus. The verses add some down-home country sound with steel guitar (check out the close up the steel player in the video posted at the end of this post).
This is the hook of hooks as far as lyrics go. I imagine the Bellamy’s offering their soul to the devil like Garth Brooks but actually getting something great in return, other than the great comedy in this video.
“I SAID THE GUITAR WAS OUT OF TUNE!”
According to SongFacts.com, the title actually came from a Groucho Marx line that the Bellamy family liked to toss around when the boys were growing up.
This is a classic case of less is more. The whole song centers around the title’s clever pickup line (all the more reason to call shenanigans on Britney’s new song, even though this is the only part it steals). The chorus continues to back up the initial ballsy question with a few more that actually show some vulnerability on the part of the suitor: “If I was dying of thirst, would your flowing love come quench me?”, hinting that a quick hook-up might not be all he’s after.
I may sound like an old curmudgeon, but seriously, the Bellamys took this song to number one in 1979, and a song like this wouldn’t have a chance today. Apparently, Britney Spears’ people were so unaware of it that they released a single with the same words and premise. It’s just one more trance/house groove from a former teen queen fighting to stay relevant. The song sounds like someone fed the opening line into some kind of random noise generator and recorded whatever came out. So Britney, yes I do hold this against you, and whomever runs your show these days. You used to be the queen of hooks! “Sometimes”, I’ll even play one of your early singles secretly through my headphones when no one’s the wiser. But now most of your tunes are just “Toxic”, poisoning the lake and waiting for your listeners to go belly-up. Now you’ve resorted to ripping off a classic song. Ironic that you still get by on your “Beautiful Body”.