Can you remember the first song in which you knowingly recognised a swear word? For me, it was probably Shaddup Your Face by Joe Dolce in 1980. In those days, shut-up was still considered an offensive word- now you hear toddlers yelling it at their parents! These days explicit language is everywhere in music- its abundance seems to be inversely proportionate to the amount of quality music that is produced. Perhaps it’s a case of, Can’t Sing? Fuck it!….. This little meme definitely applies to modern American rap- what’s with that shit?!
At the same time, a well placed and poetically delivered profanity can add raw emotion, comedic charm or unbridled power to a song. For the listener, it presents a socially acceptable means of rebellion. Try this….Stand in a large crowd and start yelling obscenities at the top of your voice. See how long it takes before the boys in blue come to take you away. Now, stand in that same crowd whilst watching a Nine Inch Nail’s gig and I’ll bet you’ll have no problems exclaiming to the world that you want to fuck them like an animal.
No matter how they are used in modern music- be it to make you laugh, make you angry, or just to shock you- the best placed expletive lyrics are those which are linked to passion, and its when they are used and delivered in this context that they make a song truly memorable. Here’s my Top 10 Fave f-bomb Songs:
10. Asshole- Dennis Leary:
If you love a good dose of political incorrectness, then this is just what the doctor ordered. Asshole came in at #1 on the first annual Triple J Hottest 100, way back in 1994. The subject matter obviously resonated with the Australian public. After all- doesn’t everyone know an asshole like the one in the song?
9. Killing in the Name of- Rage Against the Machine:
I just love the power of this song. Perfect for turning the volume up to 11 when you feel like everyone is out to get you.
8. Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole- Martha Wainwright:
To me, Martha’s voice epitomises the human spirit eroded after years of being trampled on and hardened through neglect, to the point that when she swears, it rolls off her tongue just as if she was saying, “I’m just popping down to the shop to get some milk.”
7. Global Concepts- Robert Delong:
This is a cracker dance track from a relative newcomer (and youngster) to the electronica scene. It’s a song that’s grown on me, much like bacteria on soft cheese.
6. Around Here- Thelma Plum
Still under 20 years old and from my old hometown of Brisbane- what’s not to love about Thelma Plum? Especially when she knocks out gorgeous little melodies like this one. It sounds so sweet, bubbly and happy, in fact, that when she does drop the f-bomb, you find yourself doing a double take…. Did she just say what I thought she said?
5. Uncle Fucka- Terrance & Phillip (South Park)
If I had Turrets, I think I’d just like to walk around and sing this song constantly. Those bouncy-headed pranksters sure know how to offend, but they can also hold a good tune on the bottom trumpet… personally, I blame it all on Canada!
4. Stagger Lee- Nick Cave
Nick Cave could blow me away singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, I have no doubt. He is a supreme storyteller, and this song is true testament to that fact. Delivered with such power, and, of course a swagger that most of us could only dream of having.
3. Don’t Marry Her (Fuck Me)- The Beautiful South
I do believe in folk terms, it is referred to as cussing! It’s another one of those songs where the f-bomb is dropped into the lyrics so subtly that it can quite easily be missed upon the first listen (apart from the fact that Fauck is included in the title of the song, I suppose!) I always envision someone yelling an objection at a wedding, dancing up the aisle and whisking away their star-crossed lover to this tune!
2. Fucking in Heaven- Fatboy Slim
I think this song takes the cake for the most simultaneous fucks in a row. I’ll admit, I used to torment my mum by playing this song really, really loud just before my grandma came over to visit…. bad daughter!
1. Add it Up- The Violent Femmes
This song teleports me directly back to my teenage years every single time I hear it. It symbolises underage drinking, unrequited love and parties at houses when parents were away. It’s one of those songs that never seems to grow old- probably because it is awesome.
So there you have it- my Top 10. There is one more song that I think deserves an honorable mention, and that is The Angels with Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again. Whilst the song itself doesn’t contain any explicit language, its “extra lyrics” are so well known that they might as well have been part of the original tune. I can’t say I know of any other song where this is the case.
What are your thoughts on swearing in songs? What is your favourite explicit song? Let me know by leaving a comment below.