The times they have a-changed. In an age of increasing cultural and social awareness, we all look back agog at some of the problematic songs of the distant – and not so distant – past. Here, then, are 10 songs that are resolutely, definitely no longer OK.
Eminem, ‘Kim’ (2000)
What it’s about: Slimy Shady shares a deranged fantasy in which he murders wife Kim Scott, before turning the knife on himself. A truly horrible thing.
Why it’s not OK: It’s wildly sexist, grotesquely violent and the repeated use of the word “bitch” is honestly the least of its problems.
Worst lyrics: “There’s a four year old boy lyin’ dead with a slit throat / In your living room, ha-ha.”
The Rolling Stones, ‘Some Girls’ (1976)
What it’s about: Mick’n’Keef and the gang recount the varying pleasures to be found with women from different parts of the world. The lyrics caused controversy even in the 1970s, with Atlantic Records boss Ahmet Ertegun releasing a statement that read: “Mick assured me that it was a parody of the type of people who hold these attitudes.”
Why it’s not OK: I mean, come on, it made broad generalisations about women based on their ethnicity. Imagine writing lyrics so offensive that they weren’t even okay in the ’70s.
Worst lyrics: “Black girls just wanna get fucked all night / I just don’t have that much jam / Chinese girls are so gentle / They’re really such a tease / You never know quite what they’re cookin’ / Inside those silky sleeves”.
Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, ‘Young Girl’ (1968)
What it’s about: A man who longs for a “young girl”. He implores her get away before he can act on his feelings, which he says are “way out of line”.
Why it’s not OK: I mean, it was never OK, but, post-Yewtree, the song now sounds apocalyptically bad.
Worst lyrics: “You led me to believe you’re old enough / To give me love / And now it hurts to know the truth”.
Gary Glitter, ‘What Your Mama Don’t See (Your Mama Don’t Know)’ (1980)
What it’s about: This glam rock track is thematically similar to ‘Young Girl’, to be honest, and equally grim.
Why it’s not OK: Gary Glitter is a convicted paedophile.
Worst lyrics: “It’s all right to turn out the light / Cause your mama didn’t lock the door”.
He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss), The Crystals (1963)
What it’s about: The lyrics describe domestic abuse, which the narrator appears to consent to.
Why it’s not OK: It was already a difficult listen, combining sugary melodies with extremely dark subject matter, but now that producer and songwriter Phil Spector is imprisoned for a brutally violent crime (the murder of Lana Clarkson) hearing the track makes you even more queasy.
Worst lyrics: “If he didn’t care for me / I could have never made him mad / But he hit me /And I was glad”.
R. Dean Taylor , ‘Shadow’ (1978)
What it’s about: A grown man who lusts after a 14-year-old girl.
Why it’s not OK: It’s about a grown man who lusts for a 14-year-old girl.
Worst lyrics: “Body of a woman, mind of a child / Shadow, you sure do drive me wild / You’re only 14 years old”.
Katy Perry, ‘Ur So Gay’ (2008)
What it’s about: Katy chides a lover for being too in touch with his feminine side, though the kicker is that he says he “so gay” that doesn’t “even like boys”.
Why it’s not OK: Well it’s not very 2020, is it? Tick off the following boxes: gender normative, borderline homophobic, bodyshaming. It’s not even very 2008. No wonder Left Shark couldn’t concentrate around Katy Perry at the Super Bowl Half Time Show a couple of years ago.
Worst lyrics: “I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf”.
‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell Williams (2013)
What it’s about: The narrator attempts to woo a woman by assuring her that even though she doesn’t think she wants to have sex with, she, in fact, definitely does.
Why it’s not OK: The song was banned from many university campuses and one blogger called it a “rape song”. The song’s video also saw its clothed male performers writhe around with near-naked women.
Worst lyrics: “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”.
The Beatles, ‘Run For Your Life’ (1965)
What it’s about: A jealous lover warns his girlfriend that he will cause her harm if he finds out she’s been cheating on him.
Why it’s not OK: Although the most offensive line (see below) is taken from ‘Baby, let’s Play Outside’, an Elvis Presley song from 1954, the song’s tone is creepy and threatening throughout.
Worst lyrics: “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man”.
Carl Douglas, ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ (1974)
What it’s about: Jamaican musician Carl Douglas’ only real hit, which became a disco smash in the ’70s, charts the adventures of “funky Billy Chin and little Sammy Chung”, who become – you guessed it – kung fu fighters. And readers: those cats were fast as lightening.
Why it’s not OK: The song, with its vaguely Eastern refrain, veers uncomfortably close to cultural appropriation. And the lyrics below make pretty broad and stereotypical allusions to race that simply wouldn’t fly in our more enlightened times.
Worst lyrics: “There were funky Chinamen from funky Chinatown / They were chopping them up and they were chopping them down”.