(All that really ends up happening is more people know about it. When you make a big fuss over a band or a song, making the artist change stuff to be more politically correct, all you do is create a story for the media to run. Thus, more people actually hear about the artist and the song. For as long as art has been made it has pissed someone off, as it’s the truist of truisms – you can’t please everyone. Here’s a stunning pile of info we found on the internet about just a few of the artists censored in popular music. Ugh. The world is truly filled with fucking idiots. – FATS)
Censorship of music is the practice of restricting free access to musical works. This censorship may stem from a wide variety of motivations, including moral, political, military or religious reasons. Censorship can range from the complete government-enforced legal prohibition of a musical work, to private, voluntary removal of content when a musical work appears in a certain context. An example of this latter form of censorship is the radio edit.
In order to allow songs to be played wherever possible, it is common to censor particular words, particularly profanities. Some music labels or artists produce censored versions themselves, sometimes with alternative lyrics, to comply with the rules set by various radio and television programs. Some stations decide to censor them themselves using one of several methods:
Blanking; when the volume is silenced for all or part of the word.
Bleeping; playing a noise, usually a “beep”, over all or part of the word.
Resampling; using a like-sounding portion of vocals and music to override the offending word.
Resinging; Replacing the offensive word/phrase with a more appropriate word/phrase.
Backmasking; taking the offensive word and reversing the audio, sometimes the whole audio is reversed (often because it is a home-made job), but more usually only the vocal track is reversed.
Repeating; repeating the word said just before the explicit word was used.
Skipping; deleting the curse word from the song without a time delay.
Disc scratching; in hip hop, scratching on the word, making it sound like another word, or make the word said faster or slower.
RoboVoicing; making the word totally non-understandable by overpowering a robotic voice effect (usually used as a last resort for home-made jobs).
Distorting; Usually in hip hop, less offensive words such as “shit” or others are distorted. It is usually done by shifting down the pitch.
An early example of censorship of music on the radio is from the 1940s. George Formby’s “When I’m Cleaning Windows” was banned from BBC radio due to the “smutty lyrics”, though Formby’s wife Beryl managed to change BBC’s opinion. The ostensibly offending lyrics were:
The blushing bride she looks divine
The bridegroom he is doing fine
I’d rather have his job than mine
When I’m cleaning windows
Another example of censorship is when, in 1956, ABC radio refused to play Billie Holiday’s “Love for Sale” because the lyrics are about prostitution, but “Love For Sale” would be on the radio again. ABC also made Cole Porter change the lyric of “I Get A Kick Out Of You”, which was a hit for Frank Sinatra. Porter’s original stated “I get no kick from cocaine”. The cleaned-up version was “I get perfume from Spain”.
Another example is when the Rolling Stones appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan asked them to sing their hit song “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, but he asked them to change the lyrics to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” so it would be considered more appropriate.
Due to its position as a public broadcaster, BBC Radio has a policy of not playing songs that contain product placement; Ray Davies of the British rock band The Kinks was forced to travel back to the United Kingdom during an American tour in order to change references to Coca-Cola to “cherry cola” from their hit song “Lola” in order to allow it to be given airplay in the country.
BBC Radio was also involved in a controversy surrounding their play of the Sex Pistols single “God Save the Queen” released by Virgin Records on 27 May 1977 to coincide with the Queen’s silver jubilee celebrations. Sales of the single were not prohibited, but BBC’s Radio 1 banned it from airplay. It had reached number two in the BBC’s own charts, but the public service broadcaster — at that time the BBCs most popular radio channel — pulled it because of its lyrics. In fact, the single reached number one on the chart. The band was harassed by police when it (loudly) performed the song from a boat on the Thames.
“God save the queen! / The fascist regime.”
When the song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” was released to radio stations, the line “I told you once you son of a bitch, I’m the best there’s ever been” was sometimes replaced by “I told you once you son of a gun, I’m the best there’s ever been”.
In 1981, the International Year of Disabled People, saw the BBC pull airplay of Ian Dury’s “Spasticus Autisticus” until after dark. Dury, who had suffered from polio, intended the song to be a positive message for people with disabilities. The chorus’ refrain “I’m spasticus, autisticus” was inspired by the response of the rebelling gladiators of Rome, who — at least in the version of the story portrayed in the Stanley Kubrick film Spartacus — answered to the name of their leader, “I am Spartacus”, to protect him.
Radio 1 in 1984 pulled the “Relax” single by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Radio 1 had concluded that the lyric, “when you’re gonna come” referred to sexual climax. However, FGTH has refuted that their song’s lyrics were sexual. In a famous incident, Radio 1 disc jockey Mike Read took the record off the turntable and broke it in two. After this, but without consulting Read, Radio 1 decided to pull the record — which sent the record straight to number one for a five-week stay.
The Beastie Boys received substantial publicity when they arrived in the UK in 1987. Headline stories of their activities in bars and hotel rooms, along with a tour featuring dancers in cages and a large inflatable penis, led to massive sales of “Fight for your Right to Party”. A video showing the three band members invade and trash a party was subsequently not shown by Top of the Pops due to its portrayal of “loutish behaviour”.
Canadian songwriter Sarah McLachlan saw two of her songs butchered for airplay suitability’s sake. A line in Good Enough (1993), which originally ran as “after all the bullshit I’ve heard”, becomes, after blanking, “after all the bulls I’ve heard”. The blanking of the f-word in “Building a Mystery”‘s music video (1997) might have been the cause for director Matt Mahurin to withhold his name from the video credits, a rare instance of such unbilling in this director’s career.
When the Taylor Swift song “Picture to Burn” first hit airwaves, some radio stations changed the line, “That’s fine, I’ll tell mine that you’re gay” to, “That’s fine, you won’t mind if I say”.
In Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How It Feels”, the line usually censored from airplay is “Let’s roll another joint”. In MTV’s airings and on many radio stations, the word “joint” was reversed, obscuring it.
In 2009, Britney Spears’ single “If U Seek Amy” sparked controversy in the United States due to the implications of the title. When sung fast, as Spears does in the song, the words “if you seek Amy” appear to spell out F-U-C-K me. The song was censored in the United States and retitled as “If U See Amy”, removing the “k” from “Seek”. However, the song went uncensored in most other nations. In the United Kingdom, the song was retitled “Amy” in which the chorus and bridge lyrics are mostly removed or replaced. This is the version that has been played on BBC Radio 1 and most other radio stations in England.
In many songs, the word “ass” is usually censored when it is used as an insult or sexually, usually by distorting the word, or silencing part or the whole word. The word “asshole” is usually completely censored, but sometimes, only “ass” is censored, while “hole” is not.
The word “crap” is usually censored in songs, like in the clean version of “Hip Hop is Dead” by Nas featuring will.i.am. When the word “sex” is used in a sexual way, it might be censored; exceptions include rapper 50 Cent’s “In da Club” and Ed Sheeran’s Don’t (in which the entire first line of the chorus is removed). The word “pissed” would not be censored if used in a way meaning “angry”, like in Papa Roach’s “Scars”, Lloyd Banks’ “Hands Up” and Lil’ Kim’s “Lighters Up”, but censored if used in a way meaning “urinating”, which is also on “Lighters Up”.
The censorship of some of the less common swear words or obvious innuendos may differ between stations. The word ho in Gwen Stefani’s “What You Waiting For?” was censored by some stations (for example MTV) while not by others (such as BBC Radio 1). Likewise, in Rihanna’s “Unfaithful”, some stations censor the word “gun”, but not others. Stefani’s song “Hollaback Girl”, where the word shit is repeated a total of 38 times, was heavily censored on English-speaking countries, and surprisingly, also on Brazilian radios. Most radio stations removed the “it” and allowed the “sh” sound. This is similar in Rihanna’s song “Disturbia” where she uses the words “Or figure this shit out!”. Some radio and TV stations censored the line “keep her coming every night” in Maroon 5’s “This Love” because of the insinuation of the word. Another edit has the first half of the second verse removed and the line “sinking my fingertips” removed due to sexual situations. Maroon 5’s song “Makes Me Wonder” contains the line ‘If I ever give a fuck about you.’ The word “fuck” is dropped every time it is used in the song. Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend” has the line, ‘I’m the motherfucking princess.’ In the edited version of that song the word “fucking” is removed and the word “mother” is kept; alternatively, another edit replaces “motherfucking” with “one and only”. The word “suck” was blanked on Pink’s “U + Ur Hand” on some radio stations and on Now! 25 because of its sexual connotations.
Nine Inch Nails had an edited version of the music video for “Closer” made for television, due to MTV’s concern that it would be controversial for the network. The song itself was also edited for airplay, by blanking the whole vocal track. This version is also an instrumental version of the song posted by Trent Reznor at remix.nin.com.
In the song “Because I Got High” by Afroman the word ‘paraplegic’ is censored.
Red Hot Chili Peppers’s song “Tell Me Baby” contains the line “Life can be a little shitty”, but radio stations replace it to “Life can be a little kitty”. In the Rock Band version replaces “Life can be a little…” Another example is the Grease song “Greased Lightning”, where the line “It ain’t no shit” is often never cut in daytime radio airplay.
In the song “I Hate Everything About You” by Three Days Grace, on television (for instance, MTV) or some radio stations, the word “hit” is cut off the song.
The Anarcho-punk band, Crass, hit controversy when a record pressing plant refused to press the song, “Reality Asylum”, accusing them of blasphemy. Instead, they had a blank space with silence, which the band humorously dubbed “The sound of Free Speech” in protest. According to their drummer Penny Rimbaud, they were influenced by John Cage’s 4:33. Their protest song against the Falklands war, Sheep Farming in The Falkland Islands, faced calls from a Conservative MP to be prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act 1959, but this was not successful.
Some words are censored not through their sexual or offensive nature but for other reasons. The 2001 release “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus had the word gun censored by some stations – it was felt that the line “Her boyfriend’s a dick/he brings a gun to school” was inappropriate. Some stations also censored 2003’s “Gay Bar” by Electric Six, removing the word war from the sentence “Let’s start a war; start a nuclear war”.
On September 10, 2001, coinciding with the September 11, 2001 attacks, the video and single for the Rammstein song “Ich will” was released, portraying the band as terrorists who want to get a message across and receiving a kind of terrorist award for their “actions”. After the attacks, the video clip was broadcast only late at night in the United States, although many media officials and politicians requested the video to be removed from television completely.
Rapper Kanye West’s song “Gold Digger” repeatedly says nigga in the line “But she ain’t messin’ with no broke nigga” and has been censored to say “But she ain’t messin’ wit no broke broke”. The Jaywalks song “I Like Fat Chicks” was banned from radio for politically incorrect lyrics, despite the fact the message of the song is essentially positive about overweight women.
As the word “goddamn” is often considered inappropriate while the term “damn” on its own is not, many censored versions of music that contains the term “goddamn” are edited to remove “god”, but leave “damn” (for example, Fall Out Boy song, This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race), while others censor the “damn” portion instead (leaving in “god” – an example is “No Better Love” by Young Gunz), and yet others remove “goddamn” entirely. An example is the Eagles’ “Life In The Fast Lane”, which contains the line “We’ve been up and down this highway/Haven’t seen a goddamn thing”.
The song “Purple Pills” by D-12, which is about drugs, has a radio-edit version of the song, changing the title to “Purple Hills”. The song title “I Wanna Fuck You” originally by rapper Plies, but by Akon featuring Snoop Dogg, has a censored version called “I Wanna Love You”. Nas’ song “Got Ur Self a Gun” has a clean version called “Got Ur Self A…”, which lead it to echo before the word “gun” was used.
MTV censors the words “shoot” and “drug” by replacing them with “put” and “clothes” in “The City Is At War” by Cobra Starship.
In the song “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” by The Offspring, the word “fucker” is used 4 times, in the censored version, this word was replaced either by a bleep or a short silence. On some stations, the applicable line is instead changed to “now dance, now dance”.
In Rage Against the Machine’s 1992 song “Killing in the Name,” towards the end of the song, frontman, Zack De La Rocha, repeats the words “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” sixteen times, murmuring the line the first four times, building into a crescendo the next four times and then screaming the line the final eight times before the screaming of “Motherfucker!”. Some radio stations block out the whole part, some just censor the word “fuck”, and others play a shortened version (clocking at 4:06) which removes this section (going straight from the end of the guitar solo to the outro) along with the intro. However, BBC Radio 1 was flooded by 138 phone call complaints by offended listeners after DJ Bruno Brookes accidentally played the uncensored version of “Killing in the Name” on BBC Radio 1’s Top Forty Countdown show at 5:00 PM on February 21, 1993. It should also be noted that he was busy recording a promo for the next week’s countdown while the song played. In the popular game Guitar Hero II, however, the cover version used by the creators replaces “fuck you” with “now you’re under control”, and the screaming of “Motherfucker!” with “Under Control!”
Jadakiss’ song “Why” was edited on some radio stations when he said “Why did Bush knock down the towers?”. The word “Bush” was censored in the lyrics because it was implying the Bush Administration had a hand in the September 11 attacks.
Notorious B.I.G.’s song “Juicy” was re-edited after the September 11 attacks, removing the line “Time to get paid/Blow up like the World Trade.” What was at the time Biggie’s clever use of metaphor comparing the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing and the slang term “to blow up” (that is, to become popular rapidly) sounded less playful and more grimly prophetic in light of the events that took place on 9/11.
Bowling for Soup’s “1985” had three radio edits. One with the lyric ‘One Prozac a day’ changed to ‘One workout a day’ and ‘She’s gonna shake her ass’ is sometimes replaced with ‘She’s gonna shake it right’. Another edit has ‘One Prozac a day’ being skipped to ‘Husband’s a CPA’. And the line ‘She’s gonna shake her ass. On the hood of Whitesnake’s car’ being replaced by ‘Not a big Limp Bizkit fan. Thought she’d get a hand.’ the latter line is heard in the second verse.
A lyric in James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” says “She could tell from my face that I was fucking high”. Radio stations edited the song and replaced “fucking” to “flying”.
Lily Allen’s song “Fuck You” was re-edited by radio stations because of heavy use of the phrase “fuck you” in the chorus. Some versions mute the words, others replaced it with sound effects.
“Dead and Gone” by T.I and Justin Timberlake had two radio edits. One with T.I’s opening line cut off, and the explicit words being censorsed. Another edit has the opening removed, and the explicit words being replaced with cleaned up words. (i.e. “Niggas die everyday” being replaced with “People die everyday”)
In some radio stations Katy Perry’s song “Peacock”, in some radio stations “cock” was censored, in other stations “cock” was not censored, as it was mentioned as an end of word “peacock” repeated.
Lady Gaga’s song “LoveGame” having the line “I wanna take a ride on your disco stick” meaning “I wanna take a ride on your penis”. And having other lines “Got my ass squeezed by sexy Cupid” or “Educated in sex yes, and now I want it bad”.
Censorship of misheard words
Some words have also been mistaken for inappropriate ones. In The Black Eyed Peas’s song, “My Humps”, the word “brothers” is mistaken for “fuckers”. Also in their song “Don’t Phunk With My Heart”, “phunk” has been mistaken as “fuck” and changed to “Don’t Mess With My Heart” for some radio stations. Also, the song “Fergalicious” by Fergie of Black Eyed Peas was censored because the “cious” part of the word “delicious” in the intro was thought to be “shit”.
In the Jurassic 5 song “A Day At The Races”, the phrase “lick of” is mistaken for “niggas” and was censored in the clean version of the album.
In some radio edited versions of the song “Knock You Down” by Keri Hilson featuring Kanye West & Ne-Yo, the word “ship” was mistaken for “shit” and was censored from the line, “I used to be commander in chief on my pimp ship flying high” and the word “ask” was censored from the line, “How can a goddess ask someone that’s only average for advice”, as it was mistaken for “ass”.
In Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ song “Empire State of Mind”, in the line “Lights is blinding, girls need blinders so they can step out of bounds quick”, the words “they can” have been mistaken for the word “nigga”.
In the 50 Cent song “Window Shopper”, “ship” from the word “dealership” is mistaken for “shit”, and therefore censored in edited versions.
Some radio stations censored the word “deck” in the refrain of T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” because the way it was pronounced sounded too much like “dick” (a vulgar term for a penis).
In the Eminem song “Hailie’s Song”, the line “I’m so glad her mom didn’t want her” was misheard as “I’m so glad her mom didn’t abort her”. The word ‘want’ was censored on all copies of The Eminem Show, including the explicit versions.
In the Heaven & Hell song “Bible Black” the line “I’ve seen the vision but the light has left me blind” sounds very close to “I’ve seen religion but the light has left me blind”. The song subsequently received little radio airplay.
In Nicki Minaj’s song “Starships” the line “my name is Onika you can call me Nicki” sounded very close to “my name is a nigga you can call me Nicki” and was censored on some radio stations while others played the standard clean version from iTunes.
In Jay Sean’s song “Hit The Lights” the line in the chorus: “It’s hot in the club now” has been sometimes been mistaken for “It’s hotter than fuck now”.
In Bruno Mars’s song “Grenade”, “I would catch a grenade for ya” has been mistaken for “I would catch a grenade fuck ya!”
In Adele’s song “Rolling in the Deep”, the line “reaching the fever pitch” have been mistaken as “reaching the fever bitch”, and were censored in some radio stations.
In the song “Sure Shot” by The Beastie Boys the word “Shifting” from when one raps “So listen everybody because I’m shifting gears” is mistaken for “shit” and is reversed in the clean version of their album “Ill Communication”.
On some radio stations, Lady Gaga’s song “Applause” the word “Koons” was censored as it was mistaken for the word “Cunts”.
Although not common in most democratic societies, more authoritarian governments censor music deemed critical of the government, the military, stores, TV stations, or other authorities. In many societies without a well established free press, popular music is one of the few avenues to express and share ideas, even when those ideas are encoded in otherwise innocuous song lyrics.
The mizik rasin band in Haiti, RAM, first played a song called “Fèy” in 1992. The song lyrics, from a traditional vodou song, describe a leaf falling to the ground, but were widely understood as a song of support for the exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The song was banned throughout the country by the military regime of Raoul Cédras until he fled the country in September 1994 and Aristide was restored to the presidency. Censorship of music was also common in Communist countries such as the USSR.
The line in Eminem’s song “Mosh” off of Encore “Strap Bush with an AK-47, let him go fight his own war, let him impress daddy that way” the words “Bush” and “AK-47” were censored in the television broadcast version of the music video as well as the censored version sold in such stores as Walmart by blanking out the words still playing the background music, but was not edited on the uncensored version of the album or the internet broadcast version.
In D12’s song Rap Game, Eminem’s verse starts out with “I’ma get snuffed, ’cause I ain’t said enough to pipe down, I’ll pipe down when the White House is wiped out, when I see that little Cheney dyke get sniped out”. The words “White House” and “Cheney” are blanked out, even in the explicit version of the song, because Eminem is threatening to destroy the White House, and is threatening to kill a member of the United States Congress, both of which are illegal.
The original cover of nude Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins provoked an outrage, prompting distributors to sell the album in a plain brown wrapper. Almost all of the artwork of death-metal band Cannibal Corpse has, at one time or another, been censored, due to their excessive use of graphic imagery and occasional nudity. Many albums had to be released with less graphic artwork. For example, the album “Gallery of Suicide”, which originally featured artwork depicting a hall with hanged people dangling from the rafters, people propped up against the walls with slit wrists and gunshots to the head, and a scarred woman wearing only panties disemboweling herself. In the less graphic artwork, it simply depicts an ominous structure with a thin causeway to land, apparently the outside of the gallery depicted in the more graphic artwork. German heavy metal band Scorpions’ 1970s album Virgin Killer ’s artwork had to be changed because the original cover art showed a nude prepubescent girl, with a glass crack obscuring her genitalia. Simply, the alternative cover art depicts the members of the band in various poses. Kanye West’s album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’s album cover’s original artwork depicted of a man that looked like Kanye having sex with a phoenix (both nude). This album’s artwork has two alternative versions. The first showed a ballerina holding a glass of wine, this is the cover art used in most retail stores. And the second edit, shows the original artwork only the picture is pixelated, this is the cover that appears on iTunes.
The total censorship of a song is often reported in the mass media and often has the effect of drawing more attention to the song than it would have received had it not been banned.
In 1993, when Nirvana’s In Utero (album) album was released, it was forced to be censored by their label as well as by distributors Walmart and Kmart. Nirvana’s frontman, Kurt Cobain, responded by saying, “I just feel bad for all the kids who are forced to buy their music from big chain stores and have to have the edited music.” The name of the song “Rape Me” was changed to “Waif Me” for these stores. The name change only appears on the back cover. The original title is still stated in the liner notes and the album insert.