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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hold It Against Me, Britney Spears: A Brief History of Terrible Pickup Lines in Song

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2011 at 8:59 AM

Today marks the release of Britney Spears' surprisingly great new album Femme Fatale, whose lyrics -- you may have noticed in single "Hold It Against Me" -- feature a wealth of corny come-ons and played-out playerisms. Do these work for Britney Spears? Do they work on Britney Spears? And more importantly, how much worse are these than cheesy pick-up lines from, say, the '80s -- or those in country music? We decided to find out in this quick tour of some of the worst leers ever committed to song:

Nick Lowe - "Switchboard Susan" (1979)

Insert wink face: "When I'm with you girl/ I get an extension/ And I don't mean Alexander Graham Bell's invention"

Why, God, why: In Lowe's defense, it was actually Mickey Jupp who wrote "Switchboard Susan." But in creating his carnally bonkers masterpiece, it was Lowe who had the bad taste to stick that phoner-boner between his own paeans to a "pair of tits that just won't quit." Luckily, the song is a perfect fit for Lowe's dirty sense of humor. But still.

Grace Jones - "Pull Up to the Bumper" (1981)

Insert wink face: "Pull up to my bumper baby/ In your long black limousine/ Pull up to my bumper baby/ And drive it in between.

Why, God, why: Because Grace Jones needed imposing lyrics to match the striking stretchy-buzzcut figure she cut. And in Reagan's ultra-white inauguration year, what could be more rebellious than a big, thinly-veiled club hit pining for big black dick? Bonus points for androgyny and presaging punk-dance fusion. And other songs about big black dick.

Billy Ocean - "Get Outta My Dreams (Get into My Car)" (1988)

Insert wink face: Oh, guess.

Why, God, why: Arguably the most famous song based around a pick-up line, from the same decade that brought us the most famous song based on a phone number, I bet this sentiment actually worked on some ladies in for a few smoky weeks of Summer 1988. I mean, it shot to No. 1 on the Hot Black Singles chart, and I can't believe there was something called the Hot Black Singles chart still around in 1988. So the late eighties were less advanced than I thought. It was probably a pretty easy year to get laid.

Brad Paisley - "Ticks" (2007)

Insert wink face: "I'd like to see the other half of your butterfly tattoo."

Why, God, why: Supremely talented Nashville wiseass Brad Paisley's a master at this sort of thing actually, as much as the Magnetic Fields or anyone. He plays up the ordinary and then subverts it with the latest in tongue-in-cheek technology. He did it on 2005's splendid "Alcohol" by singing as the titular fermentation in first-person ("I can make you put that lampshade on your head"). "Ticks" is his most ribald, outrageous concept to date. Says let's get out of this bar, drive out into the country, walk you through a field of wildflowers and then..."I'd sure like to check you for ticks." Works like a charm!

Britney Spears - (take your pick of 2011)

Insert wink face: "Your body looks so sick/ I think I caught the flu" ("Drop Dead Beautiful"); "You could be the trouble/ And I could be the bass" ("Big Fat Bass"); "If I said I want your body now/ Would you hold it against me?" ("Hold It Against Me").

Why, God, why: Britney's stock in trade was never subtlety, but "If U Seek Amy" made "Oops! I Did It Again" look like Radiohead. Femme Fatale is like twelve of those in a row. Luckily, the album's so musically healthy that this humorously horny new direction could signal an R. Kelly-style respectability makeover for a somewhat dismissed and underrated career ("Bombastic Love"! ). Her prospects in the bar scene are dismal though. I mean, you just don't walk up to someone comparing them to a disease.

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Dan Weiss


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