Were they right to censor our music?

by Eden Weisman, Staff Writer

Sometimes radio safe, clean versions of songs alter our favorite music, and we don’t even know it. Go back to hearing “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green in the car, you sang along, ‘Forget you, and forget her too’, at some point you realize those aren’t the actual lyrics. That clean version was great, it didn’t need curse words to make it meaningful, or emotional. In the explicit version Cee Lo Green was hung up on his ex, bitter, but in the clean version he was over it, he forgot that she existed. Both of those messages are powerful, just different. None of us would have that memory of “Forget You” if he didn’t make the clean version. If something has enough artistic merit in the first place to be a beautiful or impactful song, the author will not take easy outs especially when it means losing profits from radio stations.  

What sparked this tirade specifically was “Question ..?”, by Taylor Swift. In this song, Swift rehashes an old relationship, asking her ex if their new relationship is as special as theirs was. In one lyric she says, “She was on your mind with some d*ckhead guy”, and in the clean version, “meathead”. Hearing this lyric and the obvious discrepancy in the time she spent on each version sent me? down a rabbit hole. Did the easy obvious lyrical choice of ‘d*ckhead` deter Swift from using ‘meathead’, and did that choice rob fans of other clever memorable lyrics? 

In the top three pop songs of 1970 there are no curse words, but in this year’s there are six. (1. “As It Was”, 2. “Woman”, 3. “About Damn Time”) In both cases the music connected to a lot of people, a decrease in censorship isn’t a bad thing. It might feel like cheap writing, but maybe it’s an overcorrection from previous censorship, if that’s the case a happy medium is coming, with lots of meaning and artistry.