Stephen Malkmus has a new album with his band the Jicks called Mirror Traffic. It’s produced by Beck, features some of the most Pavement-esque tunes of his solo career, and is largely excellent. By far the most superior track on it is “The Senator,” a punchy blast of hard-jangle goodness.
Unfortunately, “The Senator” is not fit for radio consumption: the chorus is “I know what the Senator wants/ What the Senator wants is a blow job.” While that’s barely OK for this website, it would most definitely not work on the airwaves.
But Malkmus came up with a reasonable solution: He staged a contest and asked fans to make suggestions about what, exactly, the titular Senator should desire in the chorus of his song. The winning entry? “I know what the Senator wants/ What the Senator wants is a corn dog.” Malkmus will record the radio-friendly version in time for him to take over whatever airwaves might actually consider playing a Stephen Malkmus song (in between, we assume, 42 Ke$ha songs and seven hours of Spanish talk radio).
Malkmus seemed nonchalant about it, but other artists have been a bit more prickly about changing the words to their songs for the sake of being a little more palatable to a wider audience:When Eels dropped Daisies of the Galaxy in 2000, the label didn’t like the idea of the song “It’s a Motherf—er” (a gorgeous, heartbreaking ballad), so E decided to go the goofy route and re-name the tune “It’s a Monster Trucker.”
Moby did a similar thing in 1996 when his cover of Mission of Burma’s “That’s When I Reach For My Revolver” became a single. Both MTV and the BBC disapproved of the the suggested violence in Moby’s chorus (“That’s when I reach for my revolver/ That’s when it all gets blow away”). The bald one changed the lyric to “That’s when I realize it’s over/ That’s when it all just goes away,” though at the time he joked about changing it to “That’s when I reach for my Chihuahua/ That’s when he barks and runs away.”
There are countless examples of this: Just in the past year, two huge pop hits have had to shift their choruses to be radio-safe, and both of those changes completely alter the meanings of the songs. Cee Lo Green’s “F— You” became “Forget You” and lost a lot of its teeth and humor, while Enrique Iglesias’ “Tonight” went from “Tonight I’m f—ing you” to “Tonight I’m loving you,” which totally removes the power (and naughtiness) that exists in the original.
MTV is also notorious for doing this. I distinctly remember being shocked that they removed references to “endo” from the chorus of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice,” though the idea of promoting smoking was totally fine.
And there was a great deal of confusion surrounding what word the network took out of Avril Lavigne’s “Don’t Tell Me.” Was it a totally dirty Canadian euphemism for the female anatomy? Nope, it was just the word “pants.” The phrase “in my pants” was considered too racy.
Anyway, now it’s your turn. What’s your vote for the best, funniest, or most absurd lyrical clean-up? Sound off in the comments below!
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