Parental Ad­vi­sory: this col­umn con­tains ex­plicit con­tent

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

ONCE upon a time there was an Ir­ish-Amer­i­can rapper called Ea­mon. A few years ago he re­leased a song called Fuck It (I Don’t Want You Back). It was one of the biggest-sell­ing sin­gles of the year and it tor­pe­doed its way to No 1in charts world­wide.

In those pre-YouTube days, it took months for the song to get passed around by word of mouth. Its “naughty” lyrics were much snig­gered over by teens ev­ery­where, and the record com­pany be­hind it just couldn’t wait to tell us how the song had made it into the Guin­ness Book of World Records for hav­ing “the most ex­ple­tives (33) in a No 1 song”.

You can’t re­ally build a mu­si­cal ca­reer on frat-boy hu­mour, though, and Ea­mon dis­ap­peared even more quickly than he ar­rived. When you be­gin your recorded out­put with lib­eral use of the F-word, there’s nowhere re­ally to go (and no, us­ing the C-word to ratchet up the shock is never go­ing to work).

Would Ea­mon’s song have been such a mas­sive hit if he sang Damn and Blast (I Don’t Want You Back)? Would it still be chanted at foot­ball grounds when­ever an ex-player trots out for the op­pos­ing side? Would Ea­mon have got out of Staten Is­land with­out the use of a word that, when it was first broad­cast on TV, caused its speaker (the the­atre critic Ken­neth Ty­nan) to be la­belled “the most no­to­ri­ous man in the coun­try”.

Ea­mon could have picked up a trick or three from Ken­neth Ty­nan – the the­atre critic had a very bad stam­mer so, as Pri­vate Eye noted, when he used the of­fend­ing term in 1965, he made it “the first 13-syl­la­ble four-let­ter word ever broad­cast”.

We’re back knee-deep in ex­ple­tives this week. The Amer­i­can rapper Cee-Lo – the Goodie Mob/Gnarls Barkley singer – and his “F-bomb drop­ping kiss-off soul nugget” sin­gle Fuck You has be­come an ul­tra-vi­ral sen­sa­tion.

Never mind the qual­ity, feel the mar­ket pen­e­tra­tion: since go­ing up on YouTube on Au­gust 20th (with full lyrics scrolling over the song), the video has been viewed more than two mil­lion times and has be­come the most viewed, most dis­cussed and most com­mented footage on YouTube.

With the song not hit­ting the shops or down­load sites un­til Oc­to­ber 1st, it has been said that this is the most pre-re­lease ac­tiv­ity around a new sin­gle in the his­tory of recorded mu­sic. And there’s an al­bum to fol­low in De­cem­ber. The record com­pany em­ploy­ees charged with “work­ing” the song can just go to the pub and stay there un­til De­cem­ber – their job has been done for them by mas­sive tech­no­log­i­cal forces be­yond their con­trol or wildest dreams.

As with the Ea­mon song, there re­mains – even in to­day’s more re­laxed and in­for­mal world when it comes to the use of ex­ple­tives – a cu­ri­ous fas­ci­na­tion about the recorded use of the f-word.

It is the word most of us still reach for when we are in the same sit­u­a­tion as Ea­mon and Cee-Lo (be­ing dumped for not be­ing good enough), but there is some­thing in­ex­pli­ca­bly thrilling about hear­ing it on usu­ally sani­tised me­dia chan­nels.

And it re­ally doesn’t mat­ter that when the song goes to ra­dio it will be called For­get You, we’ll just sub­sti­tute that in our head for the orig­i­nal word.

If Noël Coward once noted that it was ex­tra­or­di­nary how po­tent cheap mu­sic is, he could never have imag­ined the giddy ker­fuf­fle that still at­taches it­self to the use of the word “fuck”.

We have been here many times be­fore with pop­u­lar mu­sic: Eminem, Lily Allen ... and so on. Even Brit­ney got in on the act with If You Seek Amy (think about it), and this gives me the chance to get into print the strangest sen­tence I’ve ever writ­ten: Brit­ney was pay­ing homage here to James Joyce’s Ulysses. You’ll have to join the dots up your­self with that one. None of the above, how­ever, used the term as the lyrical core of the song. Cee-Lo’s lat­est of­fer­ing has be­come the new Down­fall. Such is the po­ten­tial for us­ing the lyrics that you can now see Cee-Lo’s song spliced (to great ef­fect) with the opera mu­sic scene in The Shaw­shank Re­demp­tion and the end of Dirty Danc­ing.

You can ex­pect many oth­ers to ap­pear over the week­end.

Cee-lo: Don’t jilt this man, or he’ll drop the F-bomb

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