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Fun with song lyrics: “Amie” vs. “Amy”

Posted on: April 13, 2015

It’s the showdown between the ubiquitous ’70s country crossover hit versus an indie acoustic ’90s song that you’ve never in your life heard! Which Am(ie)(y) will end up being amazing?

The contenders: “Amie” by Pure Prairie League, and “Amy” by Baby Flamehead (which I would have linked to, but the song doesn’t appear to be anywhere on the internet).

Which song has the better title?

Points off for spelling, Pure Prairie League.
Winner: Amy

Which band has the better name?

Although everyone can sing the song, or at least the chorus, of “Amie”, few of you could probably have named the band without having to look it up. Such is the inevitable the fate of a one-hit wonder, but it’s not like Pure Prairie League just rolls off the tongue.

Additionally, while I’m sure it was intended as a perfectly innocent if slightly nonsensical name back in the day – equivalent to today’s “Florida-Georgia Line,” or “Blake Shelton” – 40 years later there’s something about the name that, while I can’t quite elaborate why, strikes me as vaguely racist, in much the same way that always made me avoid the “Boston Cleansing” laundromat even though it was closest to my house.

Baby Flamehead, on the other hand, is a band I only discovered because of their name, as my friends and I would occasionally buy albums (which is what we called cassettes) by bands we’d never heard of, based only on their names. Sometimes this worked – Voice of the Beehive remains a peppy delight, even to this day; other times it didn’t go so well – you will always be terrible, Lolita Pop.

In addition to an interesting name (which is potentially a reference to something? I always assumed Flamehead was another way of saying Arsonist; I may have always watched too many crime shows), Baby Flamehead’s album had a nun on the cover. You may not know this, but Jewish kids, raised in a Jewish neighborhood, with no idea what the world is like outside their Jewish enclave, find nuns hysterical. Throw in a song with my name, and there was no way I wasn’t going to buy this album.

Winner: Amy

Which song had the greater cultural impact?

“Amie” reached number 27 on the Billboard charts, and can even today be sung by everyone who had any awareness of their surroundings in the ’70s. Which I know because, at one point or another, all of them have sung it to me; people don’t realize how hard it is to get in on the ground floor with the name-based references. You didn’t need to click on that link up there to remember how at least the chorus goes, but I bet you were surprised to find out that the song has a couple of verses, too.

On the other hand “Amy,” as I mentioned above, doesn’t seem to be available anywhere on the internet; the band doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, let alone the song. I’m pretty sure the only people who’ve ever heard it are me, Scott and Stacey, who were with me at the Sam Goody when I bought the album; the members of Baby Flamehead; and possibly their significant others, although I suppose if there were any bad break-ups in there, the others would have made an effort to forget the songs of their exes first thing.

Winner: Amie

Which song presents a more lyrically positive image of Amie/Amy?

Let’s start with “Amie.” As you know, the chorus goes like this:

Amie, what you wanna do?
I think I could stay with you
for a while, maybe longer if I do.

First, though I know that this song was not written about me, having had it sung to me so many times (which we will get to), it’s a little difficult not to interpret it a little personally. Additionally, having heard it so many times, it’s a little difficult not to notice that this is not exactly a flattering sentiment; in essence, you’re weighing the possibility of spending an indeterminate amount of time with me, and even though “for a while, maybe longer,” is certainly more realistic than songs that might promise eternity or span the universe, it’s hard for a girl to get swept up in the notion that she might do for now. Also, she might not; who can say?

As I said, there are also verses to this song, but let’s skip them since no one remembers them anyway, to get to the end the song, which repeats this:

I keep falling in and out of love with you.

Um, thanks? That’s like the Neanderthal to a compliment’s Homo Sapien: people tend to mix them up even though they having nothing at all in common, and one of them literally died out because they sucked so bad.

“Amy,” starts out on a seemingly positive note – Amy is very smart, very pretty, all of the boys like Amy. As we listened in the car on the way home from Sam Goody, Scott commented from the driver’s seat “Oh, this sounds nice!”

To which I, in the back seat, thought “…. No. It doesn’t.” But I didn’t say it, because sometimes you don’t want to be the only one who knows something, and in this particular instance, I didn’t want to be right. But then the chorus kicked in, and I was, because this happened:

Amy can make a sunny day gray.
Amy can make everyone in the whole room leave.
Nobody likes you.
Nobody likes you.
Nobody likes you.

Oh, Baby Flamehead; you’ll never get invited to the Lilith Fair with that attitude.*

Verdict: Ooof, you guys; this is a doozy. On the one hand, Pure Prairie League clearly does not think that Amie is the worst person in the world; on the other, Baby Flamehead is maybe painfully direct, but at least they’re not playing any kind of mind games with Amy. Of course, Baby Flamehead, as their name suggests, is somewhat adolescent in their belief that because they don’t like Amy no one possibly could, and also their habit of leaving any room she enters. Whereas Pure Prairie League is at least willing to engage in a dialogue with Amie, and recognizes that she has the power to determine what she wants to do.

Winner: Amie

Which song would I rather hear again?

It probably helps that Amy was not a popular song; it could be a fun in-joke with friends, without becoming a song that people would immediately break into upon meeting me, despite the inappropriate content. Which is what happened with Amie. And, while it probably would have been upsetting in high school to have to deal with people singing how nobody liked me, it was definitely creepy, as a six year-old, to have strangers singing me a love song, however lacking in romance it might have been.

And though there was undoubtedly nothing at all untoward intended, it was so uncomfortable to stand there with a wan smile on my face, trying to appreciate the 100th rendition of a song I didn’t like, not anymore, while all other action in the room ground to a halt so everyone else could watch it happen. Sometimes I’d be sitting, sometimes everyone else would join in the song, but constant was the feeling of “Oh, not this again,” every time it started, followed by a strained agreeability for that absolutely unique and not at all awkward experience, so thank you.

Winner: Amy

Final verdict

This is a classic David and Goliath battle. On the one hand, there’s a power hit from the ’70s that, even if it was never followed up by another, has enough staying power that I actually heard it this morning while I was in a coffeehouse writing this. (Really – that happened). On the other hand, there’s a song that you’ve never heard, and apparently can’t even if you wanted to do, and is thus impossible to measure on its own merits.

But, of course, Goliath always loses the battle. Not, in this case, because he underestimated the little guy, but because he underestimated his own strength. The crushing popularity of that song was enough to not only ensure that I would never like it, but occasionally make me wonder if I had only been born a few years later, after the height of Amie’s popularity, the prospect of people talking to me wouldn’t fill me with dread and exhaustion.

Winner: Amy

*Right – I totally forgot that you haven’t heard this song, and are therefore unaware that it’s sung by a very earnest female. But it was, and that’s why the Lilith Fair joke is funny.

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3 Responses to "Fun with song lyrics: “Amie” vs. “Amy”"

Always sort of liked that Baby Flamehead record. Was having a hard time recalling the name of the band so I googled “Amy can make a sunny day gray” and your post came up. I think by today’s standards what Amy goes through in that song would be considered bullying. How times change.

It could very well. Even for the ’80s/’90s, it was a pretty mean song. Although obviously, I’m a little biased.

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