5 Radio Edits That Completely Changed a Song’s Meaning
Music is one of the most human ways we express our emotions, but some emotions simply aren’t fun for the whole family. Songs that discuss too many big feelings (you know, the genital and/or fist kind) have been censored since approximately when radio stopped being Netflix without pictures, but sometimes, either through the volume or choice of edits, a song’s meaning can completely change in the process. Such as…
‘Still Not a Player’ by Big Pun ft. Joe
It’s rare that a sequel outperforms the original, but Big Pun’s 1998 song of the summer became his biggest hit, and it’s easy to see why. With its refrain of “I’m not a player, I just crush a lot,” it was a wholesome oasis in a desert of thong songs. Sure, the rest of the song was the ode to money and hoes that was standard of the genre, but Pun’s defensive claims of infatuation addiction made it the cutest track in ‘90s hip-hop.
But that’s just what was heard on MTV. If you bought the album, you’d soon find out that the actual line is “I’m not a player, I just fuck a lot.” That probably should have been obvious from the line, “Who’s down to crush tonight?” but it’s still both disappointingly cynical and a completely illogical argument. Unless all that fucking is with one woman, which seems to be deeply not the case, it’s very much evidence of playerhood, definitely more so than serial swooning. This is clearly begging the question, and we expect our rappers to understand the rules of formal debate. Tsk, tsk.
‘S&M’ by Rihanna
Much like the sensations it provokes, “S&M” is a simple song. About two-thirds of it is either the chorus or “na, na, na, na, come on,” so altering half of the chorus would be to alter pretty much the entire song. Rihanna’s record label, Island Def Jam, seems to have realized that when they sent the BBC a version of the song that was so mutilated, it no longer had the same title.
Renamed “Come On,” it no longer contained the words “sex,” “chains,” “whips” or… “S&M.” The excision of the three lines with those words turns the song into pure vanilla, which — like most things — pissed Rihanna right off. “Are you fucking kidding me???” she delightfully tweeted, claiming to be “on it!” It’s unclear exactly what she was on, as the BBC apparently continued playing the censored track during its daytime programming, but it was just another day for Rihanna, so probably edibles and a yacht.
‘Jumpin’, Jumpin’’ by Destiny’s Child
Remember Radio Disney? If not, it’s going to sound like some 1984 shit. The network of tween-targeted radio stations offered few advantages over, say, your local top 40 station except for a guarantee of family-friendly content. That meant not just the removal of profanity but any mention of anything you’d be uncomfortable saying directly to a child. For real, they made Weird Al change the line about Anakin Skywalker “hitting on the queen” to “talking to the queen” in his Star Wars song.
Nowhere is this weirder than the Destiny’s Child song “Jumpin’, Jumpin’,” which was completely rerecorded with almost all new lyrics. Despite the fact that the song contains no mention of adult activities beyond staying out past a reasonable bedtime, Disney apparently found the idea of going out to dance with people who aren’t one’s partner too morally questionable.
As a result, instead of instructing the ladies to “leave your man at home” because “the club is full of ballers and their pockets full grown,” Beyonce et al encourage them not to “stay at home” because “the DJ’s gotten started and he’s going real strong.” There’s no club, just a vague party, nor any mention of romantic relationships. Disney also apparently has something against Fendi and Armani.
‘If U Seek Amy’ by Britney Spears
Most of these edits unfairly destroyed a song, but “If U Seek Amy” kind of got what it deserved. It’s a song whose entire purpose is to coyly slip past the censors, and it does a good job all the way through to the chorus, telling of a woman named Amy the singer is trying to find in a club. But this being a Max Martin jam, that perennial misunderstander of English, he completely fumbles it at the last second, because “All the boys and all the girls are begging to if you seek Amy” is a nonsense sentence. It forces you to think about what it means, and by “you,” we mean the Parents Television Council, whose president scoffed, “There is no misinterpreting the lyrics to this song, and it’s certainly not about a girl named Amy.” You couldn’t even fool the Parents Television Council guy, Max.
To stay out of hot water with the FCC, because you apparently can’t even legally spell out the fuck-word, as well as parents’ groups, Britney eventually recorded a clean version retitled “If You See Amy,” which makes even less sense. Or maybe more? Maybe all the boys and all the girls are bad at spelling but really into this Amy lady? Whatever it means, it’s something different. And to think, this could have all been avoided by writing a competent song.
‘My Name Is’ by Eminem
Unlike Destiny’s Child, who only tripped up Radio Disney listeners, there’s an entire generation of adults who constantly heard “My Name Is” on the radio and MTV but whose parents were parental enough not to buy them The Slim Shady LP. That means they had some idea that Eminem was a nasty little shit, but oh, boy, they had no idea. Trigger warning: just, like, all of them.
With just a few line swaps, the goofy little radio ditty becomes absolutely harrowing. Petty theft (“Walked in the strip club, had my jacket zipped up, served the bartender, then walked out with the tip cup”) becomes sexual assault (Walked in the strip club, had my jacket zipped up, flashed the bartender, then stuck my dick in the tip cup”). A silly porn joke (“When you see my dad, ask him if he bought a porno mag to see my ad”) gets super violent (“When you see my dad, tell him that I slit his throat in this dream I had”). A kid with some kind of ADHD (“Since age 12, I felt like a caged elf, who stayed to himself in one space, chasing his tail”) becomes possibly a suicidal ghost (“Since age 12, I felt like I’m someone else, ‘cause I hung my original self from the top bunk with a belt”). It’s not the last time suicide comes up: “Put a bulletproof vest on and shoot myself in the head” confusingly became “Put a bulletproof vest on and tap myself in the head.”
That’s not even the worst of it. Two lines were changed for the album version because one of the musicians sampled on the track objected to their perceived homophobia, but the original version is still out there.
This has gone on long enough, so we’ll just say the two lines involve sexually assaulting lesbians and that teacher doing something that was not “flunking” him. Fortunately, Eminem has since become friends with Elton John and opened a spaghetti restaurant (yes, really), and he’s probably just as shocked by his youthful antics as anyone. Ask not for whom Slim Shady tick-a tick-as, he tick-a tick-as for thee.