A MinD in MoTown

“If you seek Amy.”
July 10, 2009, 10:07 am
Filed under: Way too much thought went into this

I’m often behind the curve, unfortunately, but I was shocked yesterday* when I realized how truly far away I was when it came to the context of this particular Britney Spears song. Truth be told, I didn’t understand the song’s meaning so I didn’t entirely care for it, until I was informed last night what “if you seek Amy” actually means.

“If you seek Amy” = F-U-C-K me. Say it once or twice and you’ll catch on, too.
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.
Love me, hate me
But can’t you see what I see?
All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to
If you seek Amy

Needless to say, the pop tune’s connotations were obvious once that brief tidbit was discovered. And as I further thought about this earlier today** I realized how knowing just a bit more about a song, a book, an author, etc. can vastly change not only one’s perspective on the piece, but its framework, subtext and even general meaning.

When I was in high school, an English teacher of mine frequently asked us students to disregard the author and his/her life as we read a book. He wanted each of us to look at the words as they were on the page without any prior knowledge of how the author’s life might have played in a role in the text’s creation. An excellent example of this from my senior year AP English course is James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. You can either take the text at face value, or you can delve into Joyce’s life and an entirely new novel is seemingly born. Honestly, I think knowing about Joyce’s relationship with his homeland is crucial to understanding that particular book whatsoever.

And that seems to be the case with Britney Spears’ tune. “If you seek Amy” was one of the songs I’d easily change the radio station to avoid or I’d skip over on my iPod. Now, however, knowing the subtle message she’s actually attempting to convey, I strangely have a greater appreciation for the song and I can better understand it as a whole.

So what are some other songs or books that require some “outside” knowledge to comprehend? I can’t seem to think of any at this moment, but if you can, feel free to share.

* “Yesterday” is actually Sunday. I started this post on Monday and simply haven’t had the time to finish it ’til days later.
* Why it was still on my mind, I have no idea…

NOTE: If you’re extremely bored – and I’m talking boredom bordering suicide – you can explore this topic much more in depth. English professors often refer to it as “authority,” such as “who truly has authority over the text?” I studied this briefly as a junior at Penn State*** and it’s honestly a quite interesting discussion (unless you don’t really care, and then it’s just a bunch of useless college crap being tossed your direction). The crux of “authority” asks if the reader has the right to interpret the text in front of them however he or she chooses, or if the author’s initial meaning is the only true interpretation of the words.

Okay, okay, I’m a huge nerd and I find this a valid and thought-provoking argument, and in reality, it’s that “authority” that changes the meaning of Britney’s words. Plus, for once in my lifetime, I actually applied a somewhat trivial concept that I learned in college to something a bit more mainstream and “real life,” if you will. It may never happen again, so I’m taking this moment to make a note of it.****

*** Truth be told, it’s the ONLY thing from my horrible rhetoric class I remember.
**** It may have literally taken me five days to finish this post, but WOOHOO, I did! And just as I was about to give up on it…

16 Comments so far
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First off, I am incredibly tempted to make a comment about that dye seeping underneath your scalp as you just found out what that song meant.

Second, it makes me ridiculously happy that you also had a crappy AP English class for senior year (misery and company).

I first heard of authority my senior year of high school. I never looked at Alice in Wonderland the same way ever again. It also turned me off some of the classic fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty. Sometimes ignorance actually is bliss.

I never delved into authority with some of those fairy tales, which is maybe a good thing. I’d hate to ruin them! But yes, clearly the blonde seeped into my brain this time!

Comment by Kendall

I dont like the song… or Britney, really.

I love Britney… It’s rather unhealthy actually.

Comment by Matt

i’m going to second matt on this one. not a fan of britney or her music.

Ack! Really? A girl saying this? I don’t know why I like her so much. That eighth grade girl inside of me who loved Britney never disappeared.

Comment by Lys

Aren’t the same “authority” debates made in the art world in general? Should art be understood only the way the artist intended or is each individual’s interpretation the more meaningful one?

I’ve only had one art history course in my lifetime, so I couldn’t tell you for certain. But I imagine the same exact arguments could easily be made.

Comment by James

When I was in college, we learned that disregarding the author was the old way of doing things. I like to take the author’s life into my reading, but I don’t think they have authority over the text. Meaning, once it’s written, it must be able to stand alone and it’s up to interpretation. I feel the same way about my own writing. I won’t always be there to tell people what I really meant, so my work has to make sense on its own and just because I say a certain character’s motivation was this, doesn’t mean much if someone else reads it another way.

That’s nearly exactly how I feel. The author won’t always be around to hold someone’s hand as they sift through the text. The reader should be able to make their own interpretations and see the text as it is before them and without that extra push. However, I don’t know if the author’s life or anything about him or her is necessary. Sometimes I think it’s good to be free of those pieces of information because, as with Joyce, knowing more will clearly direct the context into a certain direction.

I guess I’m somewhat on the fence about authority, but, in my opinion, it’s a great English subject and debate.

Comment by Ashley

oh em gee!

I had NOOOO idea!! Guess I’m behind the curve as well…

clever clever..

Isn’t it completely clever? I was amazed when I found out!

Comment by dalipstickbandit

Okay, I didn’t know that either lol You’re not alone!

Glad to know it. I for certain thought I was the last to know.

Comment by Kyla Roma

hmm i had no idea what that meant either. i haven’t read james joyce but i’ve wanted to read that book for awhile..

You should read it. It’s not too bad. Not one of my favorites, but Joyce is a bit heavy at times.

Comment by floreta

I knew about the wordplay in the Britney song before I even heard it. Then I listened to it and it didn’t make sense when taken literally or for the connotation!
I hear it and I lament that the songwriter couldn’t have done it in a more clever way!

The songwriter was brilliant with this particular song. I never would have thought of that combination of words to create something entirely different. Kudos to that person, for sure.

Comment by Kez

don’t feel to bad, i didn’t know that until i read it just now….& i’m brunette.

Ha. Well, technically I’m a brunette … I just have several blonde highlights. They are clearly seeping in though!

Comment by Amber

Somehow, you put Britney Spears and a Joyce work in the same context. I’m not sure if that’s ever happened before, but bravo.

P.S. I was shocked when I learned that about the song, too. Especially because I am sure all the boys and all the girls want to if you seek ameganfox.

It’s likely to never happen again either! Ha.

Megan Fox? Really? I don’t think she’s all that spectacular. I mean, she’s okay… And doesn’t she have a toe-thumb?

Comment by Andy

Interesting…I love how you incorporated pop culture and real culture all in one!

The issue of authority over a text is actually something I talked about with my kindergarten Sunday school class yesterday! Basically, I just asked them if they drew a picture, who had the right to say what the picture was, and they said, “I do.” Obviously, that’s simplified, but that’s what I think.

I love that authority can be broken down so simply for kids and yet made so complicated in an English course.

Comment by Ronnica

I have a secret love for Britney. You make me feel better about it.

Glad I can help! I have a not-so-secret love for Britney.

Comment by Katie

I have never even heard the song before. I think it’s rather lame though.

Lame? Why’s that?

Comment by Melissa

I’m a firm believer that the best writers/artists are the most f*cked up in real life. I think there is a reason for that.

I’m sure there’s a reason. Perhaps I need to mess up my life a bit more…

Comment by hautepocket

I wouldn’t give Britney too much credit. She doesn’t write her own songs 🙂

Whoever did write it though, was pretty much on target.

Don’t get me wrong, I love her music, but I just wouldn’t get all literary on her songs.

True, she certainly does not write them. But I never thought more than just the surface appearance would come out of anything she’s sung, so this was a bit of a surprise.

Comment by Cee

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