If U Seek Amy
|"If U Seek Amy"|
|Single by Britney Spears|
|from the album Circus|
|Released||March 10, 2009|
|Britney Spears singles chronology|
"If U Seek Amy" (edited for radio as "If U See Amy") is a song recorded by American singer Britney Spears for her sixth studio album, Circus (2008). It was released on March 10, 2009 by Jive Records as the third single of the album, and was chosen by a poll on Spears's official website. "If U Seek Amy" was written and produced by Swedish producer Max Martin, who also wrote previous hits for her first three albums and marked as Spears's comeback song to Martin since 2001. In the song, Spears is looking for a woman named Amy in a club, and although it appears to be about sex, it is actually about how society perceives her life. Musically, "If U Seek Amy" is a dance-pop song with electropop influences and the use of instruments such as synthesizers and timpani.
"If U Seek Amy" was generally well received by contemporary critics, who praised Spears's confident vocals and frequently cited it as the highlight of the album. After its release, "If U Seek Amy" caused controversy in English-speaking countries for the euphemism and lyrical content, along with the fact that if pronounced in certain dialect, "If U Seek Amy" could be thought of as a double entendre that is interpreted as "F-U-C-K Me" which caused the Parents Television Council (PTC) threatening to file indecency complaints against any radio station that played the song during daytime. An edited version of the song titled "If U See Amy" was released in some regions, including in stations owned by Clear Channel Radio and Austereo Radio Network. "If U Seek Amy" was a moderate success, reaching the top twenty in Australia, the United States, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom and many other countries worldwide. It was also her third single from Circus to reach the top twenty in the United States.
The music video for "If U Seek Amy" begins with a parody of an America's Newsroom report by Megyn Kelly and portrays Spears at a sex party that takes place at her house. Towards the end, she changes into conservative housewife clothes and opens the front door with her family while paparazzi take pictures of them. It references some of her previous music videos such as "...Baby One More Time" and "Piece of Me". Critics noted the similarities with her past work and also compared it to the film Eyes Wide Shut. "If U Seek Amy" was performed at The Circus Starring Britney Spears (2009) and the Femme Fatale Tour (2011).
- 1 Background
- 2 Music and lyrics
- 3 Critical reception
- 4 Public reception
- 5 Commercial performance
- 6 Music video
- 7 Live performances
- 8 Track listings
- 9 Credits and personnel
- 10 Charts
- 11 Certifications
- 12 Release history
- 13 References
- 14 External links
The song was co-written and produced by Max Martin, who wrote hits for Spears' first albums, including "...Baby One More Time" (1998) and "Oops!... I Did It Again" (2000). This marked the first time they worked together since her third studio album, Britney (2001). Recording sessions took place at Conway Recording Studios and Sunset Studios in Hollywood, California. Background vocals by Kinnda and Martin were recorded at Maratone Studios in Stockholm, Sweden. The recordings were mixed by Serban Ghenea at MixStar Studios in Virginia. On December 5, 2008, a poll was added to Spears' official website to choose the third single, involving ten other songs from Circus. On January 7, 2009, it was announced that "If U Seek Amy" had won, receiving 26% of the total votes.
Music and lyrics
A sample of Britney Spears's "If U Seek Amy" where she sings the chorus, which contains the euphemism.
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"If U Seek Amy" is an uptempo dance-pop song containing electropop influences. The song runs through a dance-oriented beat and features many instruments, including keyboards, snare, bass drums, electric guitars and timpani. According to the sheet music published at musicnotes.com by Hal Leonard Corporation, the song has a beat of 130 beats per minute and is written in the key of A minor. Spears's vocal range spans from G3-C5. In the song, Spears seems to be looking for a woman named Amy in a club. It has been suggested that Amy is either Amy Winehouse or an alter ego of Spears herself. The verses end with the hookline "Hahahehehahaho", which, according to Poppy Cossins of The Sun, is fitting to "the album's carnivalesque overtone". The chorus begins with the lines "Love me, hate me / Say what you want about me", a reference to the public's perception and fascination with Spears' life. This presents Spears both as "an object of desire and a punching bag". According to Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph, this line also hints at the public image of British singer Amy Winehouse.
The title, "If U Seek Amy", is a mondegreen, meaning to sound like "F-U-C-K me" when heard in the chorus, "All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to, if you seek Amy."  This euphemism was compared to the title of Van Halen's 1991 album, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, as well as a portion of James Joyce's Ulysses.
The song received generally positive reviews. Chris Williams of Billboard said the song is "Max Martin and Spears at their best: a stomping dance floor beat with building synths prodding the song along and the singer sounding like she's having a blast being the bad girl". Rolling Stone writer Caryn Ganz called the song one of the standout tracks of the album. Alexis Pretridis of The Guardian commented that her stronger and confident delivery in the chorus was noticeably lacking in the rest of the album. Joey Guerra of The Houston Chronicle also said that the "more aggressive, pointed persona" Spears adopts in the song is one of the high points of the album. The Emory Wheel's writer Julia Cox called it "the album's strongest and most unorthodox song". Ricardo Baca of The Denver Post named the song the most fascinating track of the album and commented on the euphemism, saying "It's trashy and clever, and it's also quite fun. And fun is exactly what Spears should be aiming for". However, there were also some negative reviews. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic said the song is "a Katy Perry-styled exercise in crass commercial carnality that is at once the best and worst song here". Chris Willman of Entertainment Weekly called it "puerile" and added that "it'll be a middle-school sensation". NME named it one of the filthiest songs of all time.
Controversy was first reported by Australian music site Undercover.com.au on December 5, 2008, after the release of the album. Leonie Barsenbach, a housewife from Sydney, said, "I was astonished and totally taken aback when I heard my 5 and 7 year old kids walking around the house singing 'F-U-C-K' ... When I asked them what it was, they told me it was Britney Spears. I was horrified. I got them the Circus album but there was no warning on it ... It is extremely offensive. I feel deceived." Rolling Stone writer Daniel Kreps defended Spears, arguing that parents should have been aware of the singer's musical themes. After the song was announced as the third single from the album, American radio stations were unsure about playing the track due to its double entendre in the chorus. Program directors of Z100 and KIIS-FM compared the issues to be faced by their radio stations to the release of the 2005 The Black Eyed Peas single, "Don't Phunk with My Heart", saying that "listeners thought it was the other word, and so we had to change it to 'mess'". Program director Patti Marshall of Q102 said "It's ok to put in on an album, have fun with it, but we're publicly owned, you know? [...] It's not about us. It's about the mom in the minivan with her 8-year-old." WFLZ's Tommy Chuck said his station produced their own edit of the song that replaced "seek" with "see", with the station's disc jockeys referring to it as "If U See Amy".
Shortly after, the Parents Television Council (PTC) threatened to file indecency complaints with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) against any station that played the song between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. PTC President Tim Winter said "there is no misinterpreting the lyrics to this song, and it's certainly not about a girl named Amy. It's one thing for a song with these lyrics to be included on a CD so that fans who wish to hear it can do so, but it's an entirely different matter when this song is played over the publicly owned airwaves, especially at a time when children are likely to be in the listening audience." RBR.com reported that "interestingly, Circus was reviewed by Common Sense Media, another organization whose mission is to help parents manage their children's media consumption. It rated it appropriate for age 13 and up, but made no specific mention of 'If U Seek Amy'. Even more interestingly, reputed incoming FCC Chair Julius Genachowski is a founding board member of Common Sense." The threats of the PTC were later extended to cable music channels that played the music video; however, the FCC does not have control over cable.
On January 23, 2009, Tom Poleman, senior vice president of programming for Clear Channel Radio, announced they planned to play an edited version. Sharon Dastur of Z100 added that Spears had recorded a new version of the song and the new edit would be provided by Jive Records. David Hinckley of the Daily News commented that "Clear Channel, which laid off 9% of its workforce this week, is hardly in the mood to finance an FCC fight right now". Finally, a radio edit titled "If U See Amy" was released to American radio stations, which changes the "seek" to "see". The amended version was released in the UK in May. While the song has not officially been renamed or released in Australia, some radio stations, such as those belonging to the Austereo Radio Network, play the censored version, while others continue to play the uncensored. Both the music video and the international radio single remain "If U Seek Amy".
According to Nielsen SoundScan, "If U Seek Amy" sold over 107,000 digital copies in the United States within two weeks of the album's release. On April 11, 2009, the song peaked at number seventeen on the Billboard Hot Digital Songs. On May 9, 2009, the song peaked at number nineteen on the Billboard Hot 100, making Circus the first Spears album to have three top twenty hits since her 1999 debut, ...Baby One More Time. As of March 2015, "If U Seek Amy" has sold 1.3 million digital downloads in the United States according to Nielsen SoundScan. It is her tenth best-selling digital single in the country. In Canada the song debuted at eighty-eight on December 20, 2008. It returned on February 14, 2009 at eighty-six before reaching the thirteenth position, where it finally peaked on April 4, 2009.
"If U Seek Amy" debuted at number forty-nine on the ARIA Singles Chart on February 16, 2009, and moved to a peak position of eleven on March 30, 2009, also becoming the chart's "greatest gainer". It has since been certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) with sales of over 35,000 copies. "If U Seek Amy" entered the UK Singles Chart at number forty-five on April 6, 2009 due to its rising digital sales. After its physical release, it peaked at number twenty on May 10, 2009. According to The Official Charts Company, the song has sold 105,000 copies there. "If U Seek Amy" also achieved success worldwide, reaching the top ten in Belgium (Wallonia), France and Turkey, and the top twenty in Belgium (Flanders), Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden.
The music video for "If U Seek Amy" was filmed on February 7, 2009, at Pacific Palisades, California and was directed by Jake Nava, who previously worked with Spears for her "My Prerogative" music video. Spears was styled by David Thomas for the video. During the scenes at the party, she wears American Apparel wet-looking leggings and a black corset from London lingerie designer Bordelle with diamond-shaped holes. She also wears a pair of red high-heeled Louboutins with rouced petals, that were not available for sale until a month after the video was released. When she is dressed as a housewife, Spears has a blonde wig, wears a pale pink sweater, a white skirt from Derek Lam and a Lacoste polo shirt. The music video premiered on March 12, 2009, on both Virgin Mobile's official website and Spears's official websites.
The video starts with a news anchor (played by Kristina Mitchell) saying the title of the song above a news banner that reads "Britney Spears song lyrics spell out obscenity in disguise". This is actually a parody of an America's Newsroom report by Megyn Kelly. It then skips to a house, in which a sex party is coming to an end. Spears starts singing while sitting on the edge of a bed while the people that surround her are getting dressed. She gets up and looks out the window. As the first verse ends, she picks up a pair of panties from the floor, recalling her personal struggles and the "Piece of Me" video. She dances with four male dancers in the first chorus. During the second chorus, she dances with four other female dancers dressed in cheerleading outfits, while many men are watching them dance. The screen fades to white and Spears begins to change into a conservative '50s-inspired housewife outfit. As the chorus begins again, she comes out of her bedroom. She walks down the stairs, with dancers surrounding her and a woman gives her a potholder, which she uses to pick up a pie. After this, she walks out the front door of the house and is joined by her seemingly conservative-looking husband and children, one of them dressed with the schoolgirl outfit Spears wore in the "...Baby One More Time" video. As they go down the walkway, they are surrounded by paparazzi, who have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. While the kids and husband wave, Spears smiles for the camera and blows a kiss. The video then ends with the news anchor saying, "Doesn't make any sense, does it?".
James Montgomery of MTV stated that the video manages to combine elements from her previous music videos, such as the style of "Everytime" and the attitude of "Stronger". He also referred to it as "a pretty amazing amalgamation of all things Brit, and a nice primer of her entire career up to this point". Rolling Stone writer Daniel Kreps compared the party on the video to the 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut and added that "this may be the first Spears video ever crafted strictly with the morally-lax Internet in mind, a brazen clip that doesn't have to tone down its explicit nature lyrically and visually in order to get airplay". Chris Johnson of the Daily Mail compared Spears' housewife style to one of her looks in a 2001 Pepsi commercial. Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly said, "it's kind of difficult to believe the song's real meaning will get past even the thickest listener, the video itself is pretty tame...almost disappointingly so". The reviewer also compared the hairstyle of Spears during the housewife scenes to Marilyn Monroe.
Spears performed the song during 2009's The Circus Starring Britney Spears. After a performance of "Boys" from Britney, Spears performed a military drill with her male dancers, which ended with her putting on a faux fur vest to perform "If U Seek Amy". At the end, Spears pulled a giant pink hammer and proceeded to knock her dancers off the stage, in a similar way to Whac-A-Mole. Jerry Shriver of USA Today said in the opening night of the tour, "[the] single 'If U Seek Amy' draws a huge roar and sing-along from the crowd as Spears shakes her long blond mane". Craig Rosen of The Hollywood Reporter commented, "The artist that raised the ire of parents from the beginning in her scandalous schoolgirl outfit also continues to use shock-and-awe tactics. Her latest, 'If U Seek Amy' [...] was included in the set, much to the delight of her young fans".
"If U Seek Amy" was also performed by Spears at 2011's Femme Fatale Tour. Spears reappeared onstage after "Lace and Leather" to perform a jazz-inspired version of the song, wearing a white skirt and standing over a fan, recalling Marilyn Monroe's iconic scene in The Seven Year Itch (1955). The backdrops behind her showed 1940s crime film-inspired black-and-white footage while photographers in colorful outfits took pictures of her. Rick Florino of Artistdirect said, "Marrying old school detective fare and stadium-size anthems is something no other pop star has done, and once again Britney's the first." Nicki Escudero of the Phoenix New Times stated that it was "nice" to hear remixed versions of older hits, "such as the jazzy 'If You Seek Amy,' [sic] the sultry and Middle Eastern-inspired 'Boys' and the sped-up 'Toxic'."
Credits and personnel
- Vocals: Britney Spears
- Writers: Max Martin, Shellback, Savan Kotecha and Alexander Kronlund
- Producer: Max Martin
- Mixing: Serban Ghenea
- Protools editing: John Hanes
- Programming: Shellback and Max Martin
- Background vocals: Britney Spears, Kinnda and Max Martin
^shipments figures based on certification alone
|United States||March 10, 2009||Mainstream radio|||
|Ireland||March 13, 2009||Digital download||Sony|||
|New Zealand||March 16, 2009|||
|Germany||April 12, 2009||CD single|||
|May 29, 2009||Maxi single|||
|United States||June 2, 2009||Digital Remix EP||
|United Kingdom||June 15, 2009||Sony|||
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