Today’s Singles: H.A.M. and H.I.A.M., Considered

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Published January 11, 2011

 

Today’s date, 1/11/11, is a slightly ominous one, and it’s proven to be portentous indeed for pop music, at least: two singles were officially released today, both of which are harbingers of the year’s most anticipated albums to come. From Kanye West and Jay-Z: the first single from their much-buzzed-about collaborative album Watch the Throne, the not-so-tongue-in-cheek “H.A.M.,” which, FYI, stands for “Hard As a Muthafucker.” (Kanye Tweeted today that the single had crashed Facebook.)

Britney Spears, on the other hand, offers her first single since 2009’s “3” (which we’ve all been trying very hard to forget), and even though an early demo leaked on January 6, we—being purists—decided to wait for the Britney-approved final version. Her newest, “Hold It Against Me,” could in fact be shortened to “H.I.A.M.” And if that fitting coincidence—taken along with the high-profile nature of both songs’ releases—isn’t reason enough to analyze these two tracks side-by-side, we’re not sure what is.

 

Britney Spears, “Hold It Against Me”

Universal Music Group is diligently pulling down all of the YouTube videos for “H.A.M.” Listen to it here.

Lyrical Content

Britney Spears takes the safe route on this one. She sees someone in a club, whispers in their ear, they feel like paradise, she wants their body, they start dancing. This is what the storyboards for the music video read, right? She also recycles the old “Would you hold it against me?” pick up line, which makes the infamous Bellamy Brothers song play on loop in our heads. Even though it’s not clear any Britney Spears fans (or Brit herself) would get that reference, it is something we do hold against her.

Kanye West and Jay-Z also stick to what they know: namely, money, girls, how much cooler their lives are than yours. At this point, Kanye West’s lyrical arrogance is something you can choose to love or hate—but who could hate when Jay-Z name-checks Comme des Garçons in a verse about bulletproof vests, and the phrase “head shots” takes on a double meaning? That is culture.

Musical Influences

Rumors circulated about Britney Spears working with Rusko on her new album, and although he did not produce this track, it’s not surprising “Hold It Against Me” features a little dubstep breakdown in the middle. We know people exist who like dubstep; and to those people, and to Rusko, we ask: do you really like this?

Kanye’s Lex Luger offering seems a little more doomsday than British rave. The beginning starts off like outtakes from the Tron soundtrack, but turns a corner with opera singers, strings and a piano breakdown. And why not? Birds are falling out of the sky! Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal broke up! It’s winter!

Cover Art

Britney Spears presents us with the standard, hair-in-the-face glamour image with gradient lettering, typical of a pop single from the early 2000’s.

The cover for “H.A.M.” was designed by Riccardo Tisci, the creative director of the French couture label, Givenchy. His signature patterned, studded, and military-inspired approach to garment designing works well on a two-dimensional surface. It’s refreshing to see artists still taking cover art into consideration—even though no one buys physical albums anymore.