Legendarily influential comedian George Carlin’s signature bit surrounded the seven words you were not allowed to say on television (ironically, that list has eroded a bit since the routine first premiered). Those same taboo words also apply to pop music, which still frowns on dreaded curse words. But just because you aren’t allowed to hear them on the radio doesn’t mean that musicians don’t keep dropping f-bombs (which is why your local station is filled to the brim with “clean” edits of your favorite tunes). Gnarls Barkley and Goodie Mob member Cee-Lo bypassed the radio edit game entirely when he dropped his latest single “F— You” over the weekend. It became an immediate viral hit, notching well over a million streams on YouTube and instantly building buzz for Cee-Lo’s forthcoming album The Lady Killer.
With the instant success of “F— You” (a soul-driven throwback that features the amazing chorus “I see you driving ’round town with the girl I love/ And I’m like f— you/ Ooh, ooh, ooh”), Cee-Lo joins the ranks of the biggest and best songs to also employ the dreaded f-word in the title.
Eminem, “Just Don’t Give a F—”
Slim Shady’s first big break came when his first EP began to nab some underground buzz, mostly on the back of the song “Just Don’t Give a F—,” which is not only a profane statement of purpose but also acts as a diss track against Pete Nice, MC Serch, Everlast and Vanilla Ice. Ironically, though Eminem constantly says “f—” during the song, the one word that is edited on both the dirty and clean versions is “raped.”
Eamon, “F— It (I Don’t Want You Back)”
R&B crooner Eamon scored a gigantic worldwide hit with this track in 2004. Not only did he top the charts in eight different countries (including Australia, Germany, Ireland and the U.K.) but he also found himself in the Guiness Book of World Records for “Most expletives in a #1 song.”
Akon, “I Wanna F— You”
Never one for subtlety, Akon decided to put it all out there for his 2006 chart-topping tag-team with Snoop Dogg. Of course, it ended up becoming “I Wanna Love You” when it hit the radio, but the real version is infinitely dirtier than the clean version would suggest.
N.W.A, “F— Tha Police”
Could the sentiment behind N.W.A’s signature song be expressed any other way?
Peaches, “F— the Pain Away”
Electroclash tried extremely hard to break through from underground clubs to mainstream radio, but the closest it really came was this profanity-laden track from Peaches. It has had a number of high-profile appearances (including in a key sequence in “Jackass Number Two”), but the best was when it showed up as Liz Lemon’s ringtone on an episode of “30 Rock.”
Lily Allen, “F— You”
Allen’s second album It’s Not Me, It’s You is full of acid-tongued kiss-offs and angry mash notes, but “F— You” is the most direct (and also the most satisfying). As politically-charged as anything in Allen’s catalog, “F— You” managed to chart in Canada despite not even being an official single.
Dead Kennedys, “Too Drunk to F—”
The British must be a lot less uptight about cursing in their pop songs, as this thudding blast of noise from punk legends Dead Kennedys managed to find its way onto the British chart.
Iconz, “Get F—ed Up”
How can you argue with this lyric sheet? “Get f—ed up/ Stay f—ed up/ Roll to the club in my Navigator truck.”
Eels, “It’s a Motherf—er”
Most of the songs on this list are all about anger, but Eels’ contemplative “It’s a Motherf—er” is incredibly melancholy. Using little more than a piano and some strings, frontman E creates a weepy mood that makes you forget that there is cursing in the title. (This song is sometimes identified as “It’s a Monstertrucker,” which makes no sense but was the compromise when E’s label didn’t want to put “Motherf—er” on the packaging.)
Britney Spears, “If You Seek Amy”
Is it still cursing if you cryptically spell it out in the title and the chorus?