I turned on my car radio the other day and heard the familiar beat of the opening of Cee Lo Green’s 2010 hit ‘Forget You’. But there was one ‘small’ problem. As the song reached its chorus, I realized this wasn’t the radio edited version, but the original version where Green uses the ‘F’-word in the title and sings it over and over again. I have heard people drop the ‘f-bomb’ before, but I didn’t want it on my radio, so I immediately shut it off.
Billboard once described Green’s song ‘as sunny as a ’60s Motown hit and as expletive-laden as an early Eminem song’. Nick Levine of Digital Spy gave the song four out of five stars writing: “As its title suggests, it is essentially a middle finger extending from the fist of a pop single—and a gloriously catchy Motown stomper of a pop single at that.”
I wondered if my anger should really be directed at the Israeli radio station that broadcast that version of the song rather than the ‘Forget You’ alternative, but on second thought maybe the problem is broader than that. In our current society, especially in Israel where a ‘fashla’ (mistake) is often described by Israelis with an accented version of the English F-word, maybe it’s already too far gone. During this year’s Superbowl half-time show, recording artist M.I.A. surprised TV viewers worldwide by giving them ‘the finger’ as she performed alongside Madonna.
I tried to think back to an era where songs on the radio (and the artists performing them) were simply ‘fun’ without getting vulgar. The passing last week of 1960’s teen idol Davy Jones at the age of 68 provided a good example. Jones was best known as member of the band ‘The Monkees’, which had a hit TV show from 1966-68. The show’s creators were inspired by The Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night to devise a television series about a rock ‘n’ roll group. The actors/musicians were selected specifically to appeal to the youth market as American television’s response to the Beatles. The Monkees had a number of international hits which are still heard on pop and oldies stations today. These include “(Theme From) The Monkees”, “Last Train toClarksville”, “I’m a Believer”, “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”, and “Daydream Believer”. Their albums and singles have sold over 65 million copies worldwide.
Davy Jones, the lone Brit among the four Monkees, actually happened to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show on the same episode of the show in which The Beatles made their first appearance in 1964. Jones, who was a few years from achieving his breakout stardom with The Monkees, said of that night, “I watched the Beatles from the side of the stage, I saw the girls going crazy, and I said to myself, this is it, I want a piece of that.”
By all accounts Jones led a very clean life. Unlike other pop stars, no scandals followed him around and he maintained his teen idol status when he made a guest appearance on The Brady Bunch in 1971. Jones made the point that he didn’t act like the way people expected a rock star to, “People always expect you to be jumping out of a Rolls Royce and being in the papers for drunk and disorderly or sleeping around.”
Last week some even eulogized the former ‘teen idol’ Jones as being ‘the Justin Bieber of his day’.
The story of Purim opens with Achasverosh hosting a tremendous feast. He brought out the vessels which were seized from the holy Temple and ordered that they be used at his gigantic feast. In contemporary terms, it seems like the king was mocking the Jews in his kingdom, in essence telling them ‘F-U!’, as it were. He was in a sense ‘giving them the finger’ by inviting them to his royal feast and then pulling out their sacred vessels as if they were no big deal.
The problem was that nowehere in The Book of Esther do we see that the Jews were outraged by this, or if they reacted at all. It seems like they didn’t really care.
Fortunately, Mordechai and Esther cared, and stood up to the king and Haman. They would not stand for being ‘put down’.
Regarding ‘The Monkees’, perhaps the show’s theme song most aptly describes The Monkees themselves:
Here we come
Walking down the street
We get the funniest looks from
Everyone we meet.
Hey, hey we’re the Monkees,
and people say we monkey around.
But we’re too busy singing,
to put anybody down.
We’re just trying to be friendly,
Come watch us sing and play.
We’re the young generation,
And we got something to say.
To me the most important line is: ‘we’re too busy singing, to put anybody down’. We just celebrated Purim, a holiday of joy and merriment, of song and food and drink, but there is a fine line between ‘having fun’ and ‘putting someone down’.
It’s fine, even encouraged, to ‘monkey around’ a little bit (especially on Purim), but we shouldn’t go overboard.
And, maybe the next time I turn on the radio there won’t be a song with vulgar lyrics. You might be skeptical, but not me – ‘I’m a believer’.