10 of the Most Gloriously Offensive Songs in History

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The ever-reliable Jamie Stewart has outdone himself on the new Xiu Xiu album, Always (out this week), by including a song called “I Luv Abortion.” Bless. According to Stewart, the song is a song about a friend who “had an abortion out of love,” and is also “a big fuck you to the right wing in America.” We’re sure it’ll make for endless talk-radio fodder should Rush Limbaugh et al get hold of it, and that got us thinking about some of the other songs that have outraged middle America — and various other groups — over the years. We’ve put together a collection of some of the best and/or most noteworthy, both genuinely offensive and unfairly maligned. (Note: as with our gruesome songs feature a while back, this is essentially a light-hearted list, so there’s no Cannibal Corpse, etc. Sorry. Otherwise it’d be all grindcore, though.)

Riskay — “Smell Yo Dick”

The first time we heard this, we were convinced that it had to be a parody. But no, Riskay’s tender ballad about her ingenious method of detecting infidelity turned out to be 100 percent for real, which… well, there are no words, really.

Rolling Stones — “Brown Sugar”

Whether or not this really was originally entitled “Brown Pussy” is something that only Mick Jagger knows, but either way, the subject matter’s pretty clear. This song has been controversial over the years, and quite possibly with good reason: while a song about the kick that white guys apparently get from having sex with black slave girls isn’t necessarily endorsing such kicks, it does have to be said that there’s something decidedly discomforting about the lascivious vigor with which Mick Jagger sings “How come you taste so good?/ Just like a black girl should.”

Sex Pistols — “Bodies”

“She was a girl from Birmingham/ She just had an abooooooooooooorrrrrrtttttiiiiiooooonnnn!” That basically explains it, but if you’re interested in reading more about why the song is offensive and liberating at the same time, there’s no better essay than Ellen Willis’ “Beginning to See the Light” (PDF).

TISM — “Defecate on My Face”

Australian national treasures TISM often feature in lists like this with their song “(He’ll Never Be An) Old Man River,” which serves as conclusive proof that most music writers a) don’t read the lyrics and b) have no sense of humor. Of course, TISM were perfectly capable of being gloriously offensive, both with their song titles (cf. “I Might Be a Cunt, But I’m Not a Fucking Cunt,” “If You’re Creative, Get Stuffed,” and the amusingly self-referential “TISM Are Shit,” for instance) and with their lyrics. There’s plenty of material to choose from, but we’re going to go with this track about Hitler’s alleged fondness for coprophagia because, well, ewwwww.

Anti-Nowhere League — “So What!”

This caused, um, quite a stir when it was released in 1981 — the UK police seized all copies under the Obscene Publications act. You can see why — the lyric is pretty much a checklist of things guaranteed to scandalize polite society (bestiality, drugs, underage sex, STDs, the word “cunt”). But as with TISM, it’s also proof that the moral “majority” never really listen beyond the naughty words, because “So What!” isn’t a paean to the joy of getting it on with goats and schoolgirls; it’s a brutal denunciation of people who make idle boasts about such things in order to blow their own proverbial trumpets. Sadly, the subtlety was lost on just about everyone — and still is.

Katy Perry — “Ur So Gay”

Ugh. It’s like that vile girl who was awful to everyone in the classroom somehow managed to distill everything unpleasant about being at school into one record, and the result sold a gazillion records and made her insanely rich in the process. It’s not only that the song’s offensive — the fact that this song exists basically means that the whole fucking world is offensive.

Ween — “The HIV Song”

Behold, a jaunty nursery rhyme melody intercut with the words “AIDS” and “HIV.” These are, in fact, the song’s only lyrics, which means that the listener is invited to define their own context and interpretation. To some, inevitably, the tune constituted making light of HIV, giving rise to much hand-wringing about the song’s perceived offensiveness. For a more nuanced interpretation, have a read of this excerpt from the Chocolate and Cheese 33 1/3 book.

2 Live Crew — “Me So Horny”

Take a couple of samples from Full Metal Jacket that, devoid of context, serve to perpetuate a gratuitous racial stereotype. Combine them with a couple of libidinous rappers ranting about they’re “like a dog in heat, a freak without warning.” Set it all over a thumping old school beat and filthy bassline. The result is the song that nearly gave Tipper Gore a heart attack (and, possibly, all sorts of other funny feelings.) It’s strange watching this in 2012, actually — despite the fact that there’s some genuine misogyny and racism at play here (“I know [your daddy]’d be disgusted/ When he sees your pussy busted”), “Me So Horny” still seems pretty tame in comparison to the likes of UGK’s “Pregnant Pussy” or Mystikal’s “Pussy Crook.”

Frank Zappa — “We’re Turning Again”

Zappa delighted in winding up the establishment, and the posthumous compilation Have I Offended Someone? did a fine job of collecting his most offensive acts. There’s something on the record to offend pretty much everyone — frat boys (“Bobby Brown Goes Down”), the gay community (“He’s So Gay”), the French (“In France”), valley girls (“Valley Girl”), Catholic girls (um, “Catholic Girls”) and plenty more. We’ve always particularly liked this satire on hippie culture, though, particularly as it was recorded at a time when most baby boomers had shed their kaftans, taken jobs in banking, and started to ruin the world for everyone.

South Park — “The Most Offensive Christmas Song Ever”

“It’s fine, we offend everyone,” etc etc etc.