Words like Seacrest, sinking, poker, pants and Burger King have been intentionally edited out of popular songs. Let’s discuss.
There’s a famous L.A. radio station called KDAY that plays nothing but old school hip-hop. At least for now. It was recently bought by a Chinese media company and will switch to an all-Chinese format at some time soon. (And I’m guessing not old school Chinese hip-hop.) Until then, I’m making sure to get my fill of KDAY whenever I’m in the car.
Over the weekend, I was listening to KDAY and they played an FCC-friendly version of Snoop Dogg (and co.)’s Ain’t No Fun. Which is, arguably, the most gleefully filthy rap song of all time. How do you edit Ain’t No Fun? Mostly via 20-second gaps of silence, over and over. Occasionally you’ll hear a word like “cabinet” or “broke” or “BBD.” But, mostly, silence. They even edited out stuff that’s not dirty; phrases like “Guess who’s back” and “One for the money.”
That got me pondering on other unusual radio edits I’d heard throughout my roughly 22 years of listening to music on the radio. Here are 11 strange — and, a lot of times, totally gratuitous — lines from songs that have been censored for the radio or MTV.
1 | Starships by Nicki Minaj
Original lyric: My name is Onika, you can call me Nicki
Edited lyric: My name is [silence], you can call me Nicki
Nicki Minaj’s real name is Onika Maraj, so, in this verse, she’s just referencing her real name. Only it appears someone along the way heard Oh-nee-kah and thought she was dropping an n-bomb. So her name got cut from the radio edit, and that radio edit got sent to the thousands of stations that play the song. It’s a totally unnecessary edit, but I understand; I’m pretty sure I’ve raised my eyebrow inquisitively every time I’ve heard someone say the word “kite” for the past few decades.
2 | Humpty Dance by Digital Underground
Original lyric: I like the girls with the boom, I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom.
Edited lyric: I like the girls with the boom, I once got busy in a [beep] bathroom.
To review: It’s okay for impressionable youths to hear about having sex in public bathrooms, but God forbid they hear an unpaid plug.
3 | Boom Boom Pow by Black Eyed Peas
Original lyric: Here we go, here we go, satellite radio. Ya’ll gettin’ hit with the boom, boom.
Edited lyric: Here we go, here we go, [silence] radio. Ya’ll gettin’ hit with the boom, boom.
This is a great case of terrestrial radio standing up for itself. You wanna shout out satellite radio? Not on our airwaves, fellas. It’s also the reason, sadly, that no morning shows will bring in Yahoo Serious as a guest.
4 | Give Me Everything by Pitbull
Original lyric: I’m an American Idol, get money like Seacrest.
Edited lyric: I’m an American Idol, get money like, money like.
I’m not sure this edit happens on every radio station nationwide, but it’s definitely there on the L.A. hip-hop stations. And the speculation is that Ryan Seacrest has a morning radio show, so they don’t want to give him anything even remotely constituting a promo. Of course, by editing it, they actually draw more attention to it — at least assuming there are other people out there listening to pop songs on hip-hop stations who are nerdy enough to overanalyze the latent motivation behind local radio editing.
5 | Thrift Shop by Mackelmore
Original lyric: Probably shoulda washed this, smells like R. Kelly’s sheets. Pisssssss.
Edited lyric: Probably shoulda washed this, smells like [silence].
I understand editing out “pissssssss,” but do you have to edit out “R. Kelly” too? Has he reached the point of all-out taboo? Every time this new wife of mine says she’s cooking dinner should I stop asking what’s coming hot and fresh out the kitchen?
6 | Lightning Crashes by Live
Original lyric: Lightning crashes a new mother cries, her placenta falls to the floor.
Edited lyric: Lightning crashes a new mother cries, her [silence] falls to the floor.
I remember this edit clearly from high school. I couldn’t believe they edited out a term as medical as “placenta.” They showed us The Miracle of Life in elementary school; clearly the unabashed flaunting of placenta has been deemed safe for children. Although, to this day, every time I hear someone mention the city down in Orange County called Placentia I giggle a little bit. So maybe they were on to something.
7 | Knock You Down by Keri Hilson
Original lyric: I used to be commander and chief of my pimp ship flyin’ high.
Edited lyric: I used to be commander and chief of my pimp [scratch] flyin’ high.
This is another misheard lyrics, where “ship” sounded enough like a swear word that it was censored. I think the censors got a little trigger happy after they realized artists had been slipping “skeet” and “brains” past them for a few years.
8 | Die Young by Kesha
Original lyric: It’s pretty obvious that you’ve got a crush, that magic in your pants is making me blush.
Edited lyric: It’s pretty obvious that you’ve got a crush, that magic in your in your is making me blush.
Believe it or not, I have an applicable Simpsons quote. It’s when, in a flashback, a young Krusty is making his TV debut and says, “Look at me, I am Kaputnik, the Russian satellite. Oh! The Bolshoi’s doing the Nutcracker in my pants!” Then we flash back to modern times with him saying, “Back then, you couldn’t say ‘pants’ on TV. I was banned for 10 years.” And look at us now. We’ve come full circle again to the late 1950s to where you can’t say “pants.”
9 | This Love by Maroon 5
Original lyric: Sinking my fingertips into every inch of you.
Edited lyric: [Silence] my fingertips into every inch of you.
I’m not naive. I don’t think Adam Levine is talking about giving this woman a shiatsu massage. But editing out the word “sinking” in the only time it’s ever been used in a sexual-ish context?
10 | Poker Face by Lady Gaga
Original lyric: P-p-p-poker face, p-p-poker face
Edited lyric: P-p-p-poker face, face, face, face
I found out about this edit as I was doing some research for this list and, apparently, it’s because there’s some debate over whether Lady Gaga is really saying “P-p-p-poker face, f-f-f*ck her face.” Some stations heard it that way and censored it. Some didn’t. I don’t know. I’ve never listened that closely. I get too distracted by the fact that she clearly doesn’t know how to play poker, since the lyrics make references to spades, hearts, craps, (Russian) roulette and house edge.
11| Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-a-Lot
Original lyric: Dial 1-900-Mix-A-Lot, and kick them nasty thoughts.
Edited lyric: Dial [beep], and kick them nasty thoughts.
Should’ve gone with 1-900-555-Mix-a-Lot, I suppose. Some media outlets get weird about broadcasting non-555 numbers, even fake ones like 1-900-Mix-a-Lot. Although not to play the race card here, but no one was editing it out when Tommy Tutone was dropping phone numbers.