Monday Musings #11 — Censorship

I find a lot of songs on the radio irritating. Some because I just don’t like the genre or something, but a lot of the time it’s because of censorship. Have you noticed that quite often, the “clean” version of a song changes “fuck” to “love” for all the delicate, shell-like ears out there?

Which would be fine, but those things aren’t just fucking interchangeable. One might be in love with someone they’re fucking, but there are lot of songs out there that are really talking about the other, no emotional strings attached kind and potentially giving impressionable listeners (this is the “clean” version after all, so any one could be listening) the wrong idea about what healthy love is like.

Here are just a few examples.

censorship 1.png

I’ve read a description of ‘Tonight I’m Fucking You’ by Enrique Iglesias as an “unfortunate date-rape anthem” (in an article lauding a Justin Bieber song though, so idk). I’ve never actually heard that version, though, because the radio only plays the clean version, ‘Tonight I’m Loving You.’

“It’s probably what a lot of guys and girls think about at times, but they don’t have the guts to say. It’s pretty straightforward.” ~ Enrique Iglesias (x)

That quote in itself expresses a more or less fair enough idea. Why shouldn’t people be able so say they want to have sex with someone if that’s how they feel? Why feel so shy about it? (And yeah, I say this as a really shy person who wouldn’t say something like that, but I have anxiety problems that I’m aware of and working on.) Just saying it should not be a problem — it only becomes a problem when there’s a feeling of entitlement attached and someone won’t take no for an answer. All of this is stuff we should be discussing more though! With every age group, so kids can learn about the right and wrong ways to express your desires to other people when the time comes.

I don’t know how how I feel about the assertion that this song has a date-rape vibe, and it’s really not a point I was thinking about before I started writing this post… I’d say it’s inconclusive, because it’s hard to tell if the speaker in the song is being unwelcomely pushy with that “I know you want me” stuff. But honestly? If that’s a possible interpretation, that makes inserting the word “love” anywhere into it even worse.

Right off the bat, that change of one word affects the meaning of the song. The original lyrics are still so clear that I’m not sure why the bothered with the censored version — it’s essentially transparent. It’s not impossible to imagine love at first sight, but the transience of attachment implied in “you know my motivation given my reputation” and only mentioning “tonight” combined with the emphasis on physical actions throughout the song indicates a purely physical attraction. “Fucking” is a pretty accurate description of that, because the way I see it you can fuck someone whether or not you’re in love with them.

Maybe if English had as many words for different kinds of love as Eskimo languages have for snow (even though that may be a myth, but my point still stands), it wouldn’t irritate me. But it doesn’t, so equating loving with fucking by substituting one for the other is problematic. Changing that word to “loving” doesn’t remove that vibe of an emotional connection not being a strict requirement, and that would be a fucked up view to bring into an actual romantic relationship.

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Isn’t it funny how Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You” (in which censorship has even changed the title of the song) changes one syllable into two? This probably only works to my ears because it took me a while to notice there even was an uncensored version.

Once I did realize, “I see you driving ’round town with the girl I love and I’m like, forget you” started to seem like a pretty wishy-washy reaction. If someone see’s their ex (or cheating partner) driving around town with someone else and that’s they’re reaction, it sounds like they’re already pretty done.

What does it say that such a catchy pop song was changed from someone experiencing and expressing strong emotion in response to romantic betrayal to someone basically shrugging and going “meh,” then whining about it to his mom? I’m not saying it’s a super song either way, necessarily, but for a while it was really pervasive on the radio. To put it in social media marketing terms, it’s not so much the number of likes or clicks that matter — it’s the reach, the number of impressions, that can play the biggest role in determining ROI. In this case, the return on investment is a metaphor for spreading an idea about how things (relationships) work.

And there are songs on the radio that still have “bad words” in them. I respect the artists who maintain the integrity of their lyrics enough to just say fuck it and let it be bleeped out on the air. This song was catchy enough and overplayed on the radio enough that bleeping it into an unintelligible mess would have made a statement.

censorship 3.png

So… I’m not a fan of Justin Bieber. But because “Love Yourself” was co-written by Ed Sheeran, I didn’t at first realize that this was a Bieber song and thus had an opportunity to judge it on its own merits instead of knee-jerk annoyance.

There is no doubt in my mind that this wasn’t censored, but written as a stealthy fuck you song. It was disguised as an attempt at a gentle “you can’t love anyone if you can’t love yourself and that’s why we’re both better off not together now” but I don’t buy it.

First, the line “My mama don’t like you, and she likes everyone” implies that there’s something wrong with this person that the speaker’s mother noticed, and it was wrong enough that even easy-going Mama couldn’t tolerate it. Way to diagnose personality faults through your mom’s words instead of your own, dude.

Second, there’s already one play on words in there that suggests it’s not simply a know thyself love thyself message. It’s worded in a way that sounds more like an immature suggestion to go masturbate.

‘Cause if you like the way you look that much
Oh, baby, you should go and love yourself.

Third, replace every instance of love with the word fuck and it totally works. Especially this one:

And if you think that I’m still holdin’ on to somethin’
You should go and love yourself.

The message is to back off, go fuck yourself, leave the speaker alone. Stop raining on his parade, using his name to get into clubs, thinking you broke his heart, thinking he’s crying over you, hitting up his phone, and so on and so forth. There’s even this bit where the he basically states that the song is more that message than an expression of concern:

And I didn’t wanna write a song
‘Cause I didn’t want anyone thinking I still care. I don’t,
But you still hit my phone up
And, baby, I be movin’ on
And I think you should be somethin’ I don’t wanna hold back.
Maybe you should know that.

But by not just saying that — or to put it another way, by censoring the fuck out of it — it takes on this underhanded, passive aggressive feeling. Is that a great message to put out there about how breakups should be handled? Maybe it’s okay if you know that undercurrent is there, but impressionable listeners might just take it as the right way to handle things, or a way to actually be nice when you’re in fact being a condescending jerk who only says those things by saying them indirectly. It’s not him saying she’s no good, it’s his mom. And Bieber’s songs, whether you’re a fan of him or not, get a lot of impressions.


That’s all I have to say, for the moment. What do you think? How do you feel about censorship — not just in music, but in movies and tv shows too? Does it protect anyone, or does it just propagate distorted portrayals of real life?

There are more examples in this article.


2 thoughts on “Monday Musings #11 — Censorship

  1. I heard people on the radio talking about this issue just this morning. They were saying the reason for the censoring is the sponsors who pay, but I can understand why if a family is riding in the car listening to the radio and they start singing swears their kids are going to ask what those words mean. They were also saying that’s why Netflix and HBO don’t have to censor because they’re subscription based so if you don’t want to hear it you just don’t subscribe. I don’t mind things existing in two versions because I’m a school teacher and if I want to play a song there cannot be any swears so “clean versions” are my friend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, but why are people so wary of having to explain things to kids? If they hear a bad word, why not tell them (instead of just “it’s bad, don’t say it) that calling someone X will make them feel bad because the word has Y history behind it. Or if what’s being sensors is about sex, why not explain the difference between love and fucking? I think it would be better to give kids a good explanation that they might not fully appreciate yet than make it seem like a naught/inappropriate thing to talk about ever.


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