I was thinking about the use of the f-word – fuck. Now, I know not everyone likes to hear, read or say that word and that’s fine. However, as a writer, I think the fuck, along with pretty much any other word, if used in the right context, can be a powerful addition to a story. Certainly, if you’re using it just to seem provocative or because you’re not able to derive a better word, then, sure, you shouldn’t use it. But an absolutist – never use bad words – rule doesn’t work for me.
I think the same applies to music and maybe even more so since it’s verbalized. There are a plethora of songs that repeatedly use the f-word and other profanity, such as in rap, but I chose not to use those songs. Instead, I tried to find songs that for the most part, use it once and use it potently to get across a point. I’m quite sure I’m going to kick myself later for forgetting a song I love that fits this criteria, but it’s not exactly easy to think of songs as this. Therefore, I present to you my top five songs with the f-word in them.
5. “You Oughta Know” – Alanis Morissette
I think this is the quintessential mainstream post-break-up “fuck you” song or at least it was in the ‘90s. In any event, I think the song is a perfect mash-up of angst, pop and rock. I mean, she’s pissed. Essentially, a person she was with left her for someone else and she wants to know how she compares to the new girl. Moreover, she wants him to know the “mess he made when he went away.” The line in question featuring the f-word is, “And are you thinking of me when you fuck her?” That’s the hope, right? We want to think that, but we fear the probable reality; they aren’t. But damn if Alanis doesn’t just drip with disdain when she poses that question.
4. “Guess Who’s Knocking” – Ryan Bingham
Okay, this one might be stretching it to some, as Bingham uses “motherfucker” instead of “fuck,” but I think the variation is acceptable for the purposes of this list…There’s not much to this one, admittedly, but that’s why it works. He’s angry, he’s frustrated and he wants you to know it. So, guess who’s knocking on the door? It’s me motherfucker and I’m going to let you know about it. That’s it and he keeps letting you know and soon, now you want to say it. It becomes catchy.
3. “You’re Beautiful” – James Blunt
This one is more for the way Blunt says it than the lyrical potency therein. I dig it a lot because Blunt pauses after saying, “She could see from my face…” and then he delivers it. The song is about a man who sees his ex with another man and he “catches her eye.” And in that moment, a flood of memories returns and he’s frozen in place. She sees that he’s “fucking high” and maybe that was part of the reason for their break-up? In any event, it’s one of my favorite songs; short, but packs a gut-punch.
2. “Working Class Hero” – John Lennon
I was surprised when I first heard this song because I guess, in some sense; I just didn’t expect a John Lennon song to feature a prominent use of the f-word and in such a visceral and gritty way. Essentially, this song laments the plight of the modern man, unable to win in a society that cuts him off at the knees, whether wringing him out in the education system or with the banality of work. Working class society, as John sees it, fucking sucks. There’s nothing redeeming about it.
There are actually two great lines with the f-word in them. First, he says, “They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool. Till you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules.” So, essentially, they want you to toe the line and conform to the status quo and it just turns your brain to mush. From there, he really hits you with a dose of reality, “And you think you’re so clever and classless and free. But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see.” Even amongst this no-win working class status, the working class man still likes to think of himself as a “hero” as it were, but John lets them in on what they should know, “You’re still a fucking peasant.” Delusion rides on…
1. “Creep” by Radiohead
Is there a better song that features a more powerful use of the f-word than this Radiohead classic? I can’t think of one. Legitimately, if I listen to this song and really get into it without distractions, I cry every time. It’s such a beautifully sad song and Yorke’s somber vocals only reinforce the lyrics. I cannot praise how well Yorke’s voice compliments this song. When he gets towards the end and builds up to the, “Run…run…ruuuuuun,” I get chills down my spine and tears in my eyes; it’s just beautiful.
And after that, he delivers the line, “You’re so fuckin’ special,” in such a defeatist, obliterated and I-give-up way, that it’s utter brilliance. Certainly, this song is dark, very dark, but I think many people can relate to the unrequited love manifest here. It seems the song starts out as such, but then by the end, it seems he’s going to commit suicide because he doesn’t think he’s special (“I’m a creep”) and he hopes she still thinks she’s all that once he’s gone, if she even notices. Therefore, he says, “You’re so fuckin’ special.”
One of my all-time favorite songs.