‘Fuck You’, the forthcoming solo single from Gnarls Barkley’s Cee-Lo Green, will be huge. And that’s not just because it’s a classic soul belter that will sound immense on the radio (er, assuming they bring out a clean edit).
It’s more to do with the video, which could have been engineered in a lab as a case study in how to ‘go viral’.
It’s got that thing, that web-friendly blend of smarts and simplicity, that makes you want to immediately Retweet/’Like’/email to your entire address book.
It doesn’t hurt that the lyrics are crammed with techie references (“I guess he’s an XBox, and I’m more Atari”) and zeitgeisty pop-culture phrases like “I pity the fool”. Plus the whole thing is funny, vicious and catty – all qualities the internet adores.
It’s no surprise to learn that the song/video has already spawned its own online meme, whereby classic films are synced up with the tune.
Here’s ‘Fuck You’ vs Dirty Dancing.
And here’s Cee-Lo’s Shawshank Redemption
Of course, cynics will point out that these viral sensations are rarely as ‘grass-roots’ as they appear. In reality they’ve usually been seeded deliberately as a marketing ploy – as with the ‘woman quits job via whiteboard’ thing, which turned out to be a lame hoax.
But in this case, the end product is so sublime, I’m perfectly willing to be duped.
The song itself is part of a long tradition in pop, that of the foul-mouthed break-up song. You probably wouldn’t want to hear it ever again, but Eamon’s ‘Fuck It (I Don’t Want You Back)’ – featuring a record 33 F-bombs – was a colossal hit in 2004.
Similarly, you suspect a fair few of the millions who bought Alanis Morrissette’s ‘You Oughta Know’ did so purely on the strength of the rude bit where she sings, “Are you thinking of me when you fuck her?”
Eminem is the master of this genre, addressing his ex-wife Kimberley Anne Scott with such gallant couplets as “You’re a fuckin’ coke-head slut, I hope you fuckin’ die” (‘Puke’), and – spot the subtle subtext – “I hate you! I hate you! I swear to God I hate you!” (‘Kim’).
You can see the appeal of these songs, while cringing at their heavy-handedness. They provide solace and catharsis for the recently dumped.
Because as we all know, when you’ve just been ditched, the only logical response is to turn the air blue with a volley of curse words. Either that, or hurl yourself head-first into an industrial threshing machine. Whichever works for you.