25 Songs That Would Be Incredibly Inappropriate If They Were Released Today
By Jeff Cucinell
April 2, 2019
Music is and always has been a vital instrument when inciting positive social, political and cultural change, but sometimes, certain songs miss the mark when it comes to political correctness… or just correctness in general. And sometimes, as the years go by, songs that were written many moons ago just don’t stand the test of time. Let’s preface by saying that we don’t believe any of the artists below meant to offend anyone, and in some instances, the world was simply a different place when the song was written. With that said, here are 25 songs in no particular order that would most definitely be banned from radio stations if they were released in 2019.
1. "Rape Me" – Nirvana
The title itself is so cringeworthy that it needs no explanation, but this Nirvana classic would surely have an impossible time making it onto the radio in 2019. Despite frontman Kurt Cobain explaining that the song was conceived as an anti-rape song and an empowering tune, the repetition of “Rape Me” throughout the entire number makes it disturbing enough to be on our list.
Most problematic lyric: "Rape me my friend, rape me, rape me again."
2. "Kissin’ Cousins" – Elvis Presley
Gross. The King’s incestual doo-wop tune was the featured song in the 1964 movie also creatively called Kissin’ Cousins. “We’re all cousins, that’s what I believe,” is a terrible rationale for getting some action from your relatives. Plus, Elvis’ portrayal of a stereotypical hillbilly in the movie isn't great either. For the sake of one of the greatest artists of all time, we can just pretend this never happened.
Most problematic lyric: "Well I've got a gal, she's as cute as she can be / She's a distant cousin but she's not too distant with me."
3. "Money For Nothing" – Dire Straits
This song was number one on the charts for three weeks and won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. But you might have actually missed the homophobic slur in this song as Mark Knopfler mumbles through the lyrics. In 1985, Rolling Stone magazine actually addressed the controversy with Knopfler, who had mixed feelings on the whole thing, stating, "I'm still in two minds as to whether it's a good idea to write songs that aren't in the first person, to take on other characters. The singer in 'Money for Nothing' is a real ignoramus, hard hat mentality – somebody who sees everything in financial terms," and that he himself doesn’t express the same feelings. Cop out?
Most problematic lyric: "See the little f****t with the earring and the makeup? / Yeah buddy, that's his own hair / That little f****t got his own jet airplane / That little f****t, he's a millionaire."
4. "Used To Love Her" – Guns N’ Roses
Tongue and cheek, or incredibly misogynistic and inappropriate? Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash says the song is actually about Axl Rose’s dog, but considering Rose’s ex-girlfriend Erin Everly accused him of domestic abuse, the lyrics "I used to love her, but I had to kill her," don't translate well for anyone.
Most problematic lyric: "I used to love her, but I had to kill her / I had to put her, six feet under, and I can still hear her complain."
5. "Run For Your Life" - The Beatles
What is up with legendary rock bands wanting to kill their significant others? Thank God none of The Beatles actually did, but this song is so threatening that it had to make the list. Let's remember in October of 1963, The Beatles were singing "I Want To Hold Your Hand." Two years later in October of 1965, they were telling that same sweetheart she should run for her life. Yikes.
Most problematic lyric: "You better run for your life if you can, little girl / Hide your head in the sand, little girl / Catch you with another man / That's the end little girl."
6. "One In A Million" – Guns N’ Roses
First band to make our list more than once but won’t be the last. This song is one huge problem. Offensive to immigrants, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, and all-around awful. Consolation prize for GNR though, they made the decision to remove the song from their reissue of Appetite For Destruction because of the racist, homophobic and xenophobic language.
Most problematic lyric: "Police and n****rs, that's right / Get outta my way / Don't need to buy none of your / Gold chains today," as well as "immigrants and f***ts / They make no sense to me / They come to our country / And think they’ll do as they please."
7. "Island Girl" – Elton John
A song about a Jamaican prostitute, fine. But a song about a Jamaican prostitute where the characters are strictly described by their skin color and submission to sex, not great. Elton John is aware of the issues with this song, considering he hasn’t played it live in concert since 1990. As you know or will find out in the upcoming movie Rocketman, Elton John and his co-writer Bernie Taupin were doing a ton of drugs in 1975. It’s not an excuse to pen a song with an extreme amount of racially insensitive themes, but again, we can only imagine what the two of them were ingesting during the recording of this track.
Most problematic lyric: "Island girl, what you wanting with the white man's world / Island girl, black boy want you in his island world," as well as "She's black as coal, but she burn like a fire / And she wrap herself around you like a well-worn tire."
8. "Baby It's Cold Outside" – Frank Loesser and covered by Everyone
If this song caught you by surprise for making the list, welcome to the internet! This one is easily the most debated Christmas song of the last few years. Whether you think it should be banned from radio stations is one thing, but you can't deny, it's creepy. This playful call and response turns into an ode to date rape as the man in the tune keeps offering the female drinks to make sure she stays with him for the night. Can we all just sing along to "Dominick The Donkey" and be done with this song?
Most problematic lyric: "Say what's in this drink? (no cabs to be had out there) / I wish I knew how (your eyes are like starlight now) / To break this spell (I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell) / I ought to say, no, no, no sir (mind if I move in closer?)"
9. "Blurred Lines" – Robin Thicke
The most modern song on the list and the one that may make you scratch your head the most. Not only did Robin Thicke rip off the classic Marvin Gaye track “Got To Give It Up,” which Thicke eventually got sued for, this 2012 hit arguably promotes the date rape culture. If no means no, what is a "blurred line?"
Most problematic lyric: "You wanna hug me / What rhymes with hug me? / I hate these blurred lines / I know you want it."
10. "Indian Outlaw" – Tim McGraw
Any time a guy who is known for wearing a cowboy hat during his concerts sings a song about Native Americans, problems typically ensue. Tim McGraw does a really nice job of just rattling off the most stereotypical Native American tropes with country twang. McGraw has a ton of great songs; this is not one of them.
Most problematic lyric: "You can find me in my wigwam / I'll be beating on my tom-tom / Pull out the pipe and smoke you some / Hey and pass it around."
11. "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)" – The Crystals
Dare we say more? This song was actually written by the legendary songwriting duo of Gerry Goffin and Carole King and produced by Phil Spector. Yes, that Phil Spector who murdered Lana Clarkson in his home. The song was inspired by the true story of singer Little Eva, who was constantly beaten by her boyfriend. The tune may be the true story for Little Eva but giving a platform to lyrics like "He hit me and I knew I loved him," is wrong in so many ways.
Most problematic lyric: "Yes, he hit me / And it felt like a kiss / He hit me / And I knew I loved him."
12. "Short People" – Randy Newman
The opening line to this song is "Short people got no reason to live." Talk about awful. Randy Newman goes on to say how he doesn’t want "no short people round here," like some old man yelling from his front lawn. Keep in mind, Newman wrote "You Got A Friend In Me" for Toy Story. Clearly his friends must meet a height requirement or risk being named "Mr. Potato Head."
Most problematic lyric: "Short people got no reason to live / They wear platform shoes / On their nasty little feet / Well, I don't want no short people round here."
13. "Cruisin' And Boozin’" – Sammy Hagar
There isn't as much of a problem with the lyrics to this song, but the meaning behind it is pretty troublesome. Nothing more classic than loading up on booze and getting behind the wheel, right Sammy Hagar? Recorded before drunk driving laws were strengthened in the 1980s, this song would for sure be a no-go in 2019.
Most problematic lyric: "We drink nothin' but the best / Pop a buck in the gas tank / Were just cruisin' and boozin' / Trying to have a good time."
14. "Kung Fu Fighting" – Carl Douglas
This isn't a song about the ancient Chinese art of Kung Fu so much as it is a catchy tune that calls out a few stereotypical Asian names and labels them as "funky?" The top-selling song is not really doing the culture any justice. It's said that the track was recorded in 10 minutes, proving there was little to no thought in the lyric writing.
Most problematic lyric: "They were funky China men from funky Chinatown," as well as "There was funky Billy Chin and little Sammy Chung."
15. "Every Picture Tells A Story" – Rod Stewart
There are some great songs that made our list, and this is one of them. This six-minute track incorporates rock, blues, funk, and country styles and is one of Rod Stewart’s best performances, but, as you could foresee, it's sexist and crude. Describing the Asian woman he fell in love with as the "slit-eyed lady" shouldn't sit well with anyone.
Most problematic lyric: "I fell in love with a slit-eyed lady by the light of an eastern moon / Shanghai lil never used the pill, she claimed that it just ain't natural."
16. "Father Figure" – George Michael
Again, an example of a great song that makes you scratch your head. When you pair the title of this song with "put your tiny hand in mine," it's questionable and creepy. Don't forget other dry heave-inducing lyrics in this song like "naked," "crime" and "my baby." George Michael is an icon we lost way too soon, but this song raised a lot of questions about the age of the "sacred" sexual partner he was searching for in this ballad.
Most problematic lyric: "For just one moment / To be bold and naked / At your side / Sometimes I think that you'll never / Understand me," as well as, "I will be your father figure (Oh baby) / Put your tiny hand in mine / (I'd love to) / That's all I wanted / But sometimes love can be mistaken / For a crime."
17. "Stray Cat Blues" – The Rolling Stones
You've been waiting so here we go. A 4-song run from the biggest rock ‘n roll band of all time, The Rolling Stones. The Stones have made great music, but some of these songs, well, are just downright wrong. We start with the 1968 rocker, "Stray Cat Blues." The song is about an adult man lusting for sex with an underage groupie. Then the man asks the underage groupie to bring her friend, you know, the more the merrier. Need we go further?
Most problematic lyric: "I can see that you're fifteen years old / No I don't want your I.D. / And I've seen that you're so far from home / But it's no hanging matter / It's no capital crime."
18. "Brown Sugar" – The Rolling Stones
Slavery, abuse, rape, underage sex: The makings of a Rolling Stones hit song - well, at least this smash features a little bit of all that. However, Mick Jagger deserves some kudos for changing the lyrics to this song multiple times over the years during live performances since he knows it’s controversial in nature. This song ain’t flying in 2019, and realistically, shouldn’t have featured these lyrics in the first place.
Most problematic lyric: "Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields / Sold in the market down in New Orleans / Scarred old slaver knows he's doin' all right / Hear him whip the women just around midnight."
19. "Under My Thumb" – The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones add another misogynistic hit to their repertoire - a woman who was running wild and free is now subservient, under ‘his’ thumb. The comparison of women to pets “Squirmin dog’ and ‘Siamese cat,’ is just awful too. The Rolling Stones are the epitome of Rock N’ Roll; not giving a f*** about anyone or anything.
Most problematic lyric: "Under my thumb / It's a squirmin' dog who's just had her day / Under my thumb / A girl who has just changed her ways."
20. "Some Girls" – The Rolling Stones
Finishing off our streak of Stones songs is the title track off the 1978 album Some Girls. We ended with this one as the track actually garnered a boycott from Rev. Jesse Jackson. The reverend called the song a "racial insult" that "degrades blacks and women." He is not wrong. Look at the lyrics.
Most problematic lyric: "Black girls just wanna get f***ed 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."
21. "Don't Stand So Close To Me" – The Police
Sexuality in the classroom. Growing up, you might have thought that one of your teachers was cute. But when the teacher is lusting over one of his or her students, that's inappropriate and disgusting. Well, we have a song about one of those teachers who is yearning for a pupil, courtesy of The Police, which is ironic in itself. Oh and if you don't get the lyric "Just like the old man in that famous book by Nabakov," well Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is a book about an older man who pursues underage girls.
Most problematic lyric: "Temptation, frustration / So bad it makes him cry / Wet bus stop, she's waiting / His car is warm and dry."
22. "Ahab The Arab" – Ray Stevens
Maybe the worst part of this song is that Ray Stevens denies the tune is racist because he read a book titled Arabian Nights when he was a little boy. But once he hits the part of this song where he impersonates Middle Eastern ululations, yup, this song is definitely racist.
Most problematic lyric: "He wore a big ol' turban wrapped around his head / And a scimitar by his side / And, every evenin', about midnight / He'd jump on his camel named Clyde, and ride," as well as, "He'd say (imitate Arabic speech and finish with 'Sold! American') / Which is Arabic for, 'Stop, Clyde!' and Clyde'd say, (imitate camel sound)."
23. "Tonight's The Night (Gonna Be Alright)" – Rod Stewart
A number one hit for Rod Stewart and it's about taking a young girl's virginity, and most likely, without her consent. We've been through a lot of songs on this list, so it wouldn't be hard to believe. This track is straight up creepy and the video is even creepier. We don't even see her face in the visual. Also, the line about "spread your wings and let me come inside," has GOT to go.
Most problematic lyric: "Loosen off that pretty French gown / Let me pour you a good long drink / Ooh baby don't you hesitate cause tonight's the night," as well as, "Don't deny your man's desire / You'd be a fool to stop this tide / Spread your wings and let me come inside."
24. "I Love The Dead" – Alice Cooper
Alice Cooper. Necrophilia. Next.
Most problematic lyric: "I love the dead before they're cold / Their bluing flesh for me to hold / Cadaver eyes upon me see."
25. "Goin' Blind" – Kiss
Rounding out our list is this bizarre 1974 tune from none other than Kiss, about an old man getting it on with an underage girl. What makes this song even more repulsive is that its co-writer, Stephen Coronel, was arrested for uploading child pornography from his computer in 2014. Coronel was released from prison on March 3, 2019 and is currently on probation in South Carolina.
Most problematic lyric: "Little lady, can't you see / You're so young and so much different than I / I'm 93, you're 16 / Can't you see I'm goin' blind."
There are actually many other cringeworthy songs that could be on this list, but we'll just give them honorable mentions for now and you can check them out for yourself to find out why they should make the cut. They include:
"Getting Better" – The Beatles
"China Girl" – David Bowie
"Dude Looks Like a Lady" – Aerosmith
"Christine Sixteen" – Kiss
"Hey, Joe" – Jimi Hendrix
Hopefully all these songs have you listening differently and more carefully to some of your favorite tunes.
Photo: Getty Images