Profanity in modern music.
How many times have you been with a group of resentful old musicians when one of them pipes up and says, “ Six strings? You were lucky! Why when I was a lad we only had one string for our handmade guitar made out of rusty razorblades and every time we went from the E string to the G we’d have to restring it! “
Hopefully you have been spared.
Back when I was a lad, there was no profanity in popular music. It’s true! There might have been a shit or damn here and there and of course Rock and Roll has always been about sex but back in the day – it was hidden in veiled lyrics.
My how things have changed! (takes out his snuff box and inhales a pinch)
Profanity is rampant nowadays and is so common place that it’s just not interesting or effective anymore.
(clock ticks backward very fast)
The year was 1976 and The Tubes had just released their first album, “ Young and Rich “. Everyone was abuzz at this new advant garde rock group who poked fun at just about everything and everyone but the major hubbub was about the song, “ White Punks on Dope “ . A great song, well written with frequent time changes and as far as I know the first time the word “ Fuck “ appeared on a major label record release. Of course, I ran out and bought it and played it in secret so my Mom wouldn’t find out.
There was time when profanity was used sparingly and usually not in mixed company. So when someone let go a string of profane words – it had an impact.
Not so today however and one just has to look at popular television shows to get ones daily dose of swearing. There is no other form of creative expression that uses profanity more than popular music. I find it hilarious that radio stations and music video television stations still have to censor the use of profanity by beeps, ducking or actually getting the artist to cut two versions of the same song.
A quick Internet search reveals at least 20 songs with the word fuck in the title! Here are three examples of very popular songs from three different musical genres.
Example one: Fatboy Slim – techno big beat
Example two: Lilly Allen – pop
Example three: Cee Lo Green – R and B
So after about a minute, I’m bored! The profanity has lost all impact and what was cute to begin with quickly becomes lame. Let’s face it – these songs are shite! Poorly written and lazy and cashing in on the fact that they’ll sell because “ fuck “ is in the title. Yawns! But where’s the rap and the hip hop? Those genres were too obvious and if I had a nickel for every “ mofo “ and “ bitch “ that I’ve heard over the years I would be a very rich man indeed.
What’s the motivation? It can’t be shock factor because the use of profanity is so commonplace. Perhaps these famous artists think they’ll get some street cred by dropping the f bomb now and again. I could see someone like Cee Lo Green thinking this – I mean c’mon – a pink suit!!!
Let me go back to The Tubes song. Did they really need to use the lyrics “ so fucking rich “? No of course not. They decided to see if they could get away with it and shock the mainstream. And why did I buy the album? Well at the time I was a teenage boy and like all teenage boys I thought potty humor was hilarious! So maybe this is the key. Perhaps society is so immature that it has the mindset of a teenage boy and all this “ mofo “, “ bitch “ and “ fuck “ is hilarious! Makes sense!
I’m not against the use of profanity. As a scriptwriter, profanity can be a useful tool but only if it’s used sparingly and wisely and to create an impact. For example, a God fearing man of the church is faced with tragedy and swears for the first time in his life. See what I mean. However in the arts, overuse of profanity speaks volumes about the artist but not the way they intended.
“ profanity is the common crutch of the conversational cripple “