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New Music Through Old Ears: WAP and the most offensive songs in history

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It’s time for a content warning as entertainment editor John Turnbull considers the controversy around 'WAP' and its context among the most offensive songs in history. Not suitable for minors or the easily offended.

WAP: Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion (2020)

There is no point in being prudish in this review – 'WAP' stands for Wet Ass Pussy. A collaboration between controversy-magnet Cardi B and 25-year-old Texan rapper Megan Thee Stallion, 'WAP' is either a bold tribute to female empowerment or the latest sign of the impending apocalypse, depending on who you listen to.

Aware that – even in 2020 – some television networks would baulk at the explicit content, the official video changes the hook to “wet and gushy”. It didn’t take long for someone to dub the filthy version over the top…

No matter your feelings on the artistic merits of the song, the conservative reaction to 'WAP' has been nothing short of hilarious. Right-wing talk-show hosts have read out the lyrics on air – only to be turned into hilarious remixes – revealing the near lyrical genius of repeating a potentially offensive phrase over a catchy beat.

Bible-thumping preachers have declared the song XXX, while Teen Vogue counters that the reaction to the song shows how much men are threatened by female sexuality.

Sample lyric: 'Pay my tuition just to kiss me on this wet ass pussy.'

Verdict: 7/10 – I’m going to go with Teen Vogue rather than Ben Shapiro on this one. 

Me So Horny: 2 Live Crew (1989)

Sexist, racist and copyright-violating, 'Me So Hornywas the poster child for offensive rap songs in the late 1980s. Performed by otherwise unremarkable rap act 2 Live Crew, the song led to the group being charged with obscenity, with the album As Nasty As They Wanna Be being declared obscene by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990.

It is interesting to note that the clip may be wildly gratuitous for 1989 — it seems relatively tame compared to much of Motley Crue’s output or that clip that’s just asses gyrating in lab coats, over a looped beat.

Sample lyric: 'I'm a freak in heat, a dog without warning.'

Verdict: 3/10 – Not particularly clever or catchy, but reminiscent of a particular time in history.

My Ding-A-Ling: Chuck Berry (1972)

It’s somewhat remarkable that a song with the lyrics 'I want you to play with my ding-a-ling' made it to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. — the only Chuck Berry song to do so. Not the awesome 'Johnny B. Goode', mind you, but a song about a penis. Or a bell, if you really want to kid yourself.

Originally recorded by Dave Bartholomew in 1952, the song wasn’t entirely double-entendre in its early iterations, but notorious pervert Chuck Berry certainly changed all that. British moral campaigner Mary Whitehouse tried – and failed – to have the song banned, as some un-named kid on The Simpsons introduced it to a new generation when he was thrown off stage after two lines.

Sample lyric: 'Those of you who will not sing, you must be playing with your ding-a-ling.'

Verdict: 2/10 – This song went to number one? Really? 

So What? — Anti-Nowhere League (1981)

Originally recorded in the depths of Margaret Thatcher’s first term as Prime Minister, Anti-Nowhere League's'So What?' is a hardcore punk song covered by every metal band who wanted to remind people they were still cool (I’m looking at you, Metallica). It’s also probably the most in-your-face song on this list, with lyrics referencing bestiality, paedophilia, prostitution and the crushing depression of early 1980s Britain.

At its best, punk is meant to be offensive to the masses and this song ticks all of the boxes. Unfortunately, its caustic sonic nature meant that it didn’t get anywhere near the level of airplay that the other songs on this list did, which is a damn shame.

Sample lyric: 'Well I’ve had skag, I’ve had speed, I’ve jacked up until I bleed, so what?'

Verdict: 8/10 – Perfect snotty '80s punk.

Blurred Lines: Robin Thicke (2013)

What. The. Fuck. Were. They. Thinking?

Notable as the song that both made and ended Robin Thicke’s career, 'Blurred Lines' may or may not be about having sex with someone when they’re too impaired to say no.

If this doesn’t make it offensive enough, the clip also features Thicke (son of Alan Thicke from Growing Pains, who just wasn’t a good father considering this douche and Kirk Cameron) and his bros dancing with a bunch of topless supermodels.

While the lyrics aren’t particularly racy, the casual misogyny of the clip makes this one of the most offensive songs of all time. If the purpose of music is to bring titillation to the masses, then 'Blurred Lines' may be high art, but in terms of social messaging, it makes 'WAP' look like the bloody Magna Carta.

Sample lyric: 'The way you grab me, must wanna get nasty.'

Verdict: 1/10 – Enjoy obscurity, Mr Thicke.

The Verdict

What is it that makes a song offensive? Based on the handful of tracks above, it’s a combination of coarse language, confronting themes and a frequent disrespect (bordering on contempt) for anyone who’s not a cis-gendered man. In that last respect, 'WAP' bucks the trend, giving agency to two powerful women who are scaring the crap out of the patriarchy.

To be honest, I’ve always been more offended by bad music and lack of respect than challenging themes or naughty words, which makes 'Blurred Lines' the most offensive song on this list, in my humble opinion. Your results may differ.

Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: EuropeDamnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).

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