The pervasive influence of cancel culture has continued to sweep through every facet of entertainment, leaving a trail of controversies in its wake. With the constant quest for political correctness, it seems as if no one, and nothing, is immune. It is now time for the classic tunes that have shaped the musical landscape to face the music, as they come under scrutiny for their potentially offensive content.
One such song is “Summer Nights,” a beloved hit from the Grease soundtrack. Critics argue that this tune promotes a harmful message with its suggestive lyrics, specifically the line, “Tell me more, tell me more / did she put up a fight?” This call-and-response lyric has been labeled as “rapey,” insinuating that John Travolta‘s character is a sexual predator who preyed upon an innocent girl during their summer romance.
Another classic that has landed in hot water is “Delilah” by Tom Jones. Recorded in 1968, this song has been played millions of times since its release. However, its lyrics have been denounced for promoting domestic violence: “I crossed the street to her house, and she opened the door / She stood there laughing / I felt the knife in my hand, and she laughed no more.” Despite facing backlash and calls to cease using the song in recent years, the Welsh Rugby Union has defended its choice to continue featuring “Delilah,” arguing that the song’s appeal lies in its musicality rather than its lyrics.
The 1984 Christmas favorite, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band-Aid, could also be in jeopardy due to accusations of perpetuating the “white savior mentality.”
Critics point to lyrics such as, “There’s a world outside your window / And it’s a world of dread and fear / Where the only water flowing / Is the bitter sting of tears… And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time / The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life / Where nothing ever grows, no rain or rivers flow / Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?” as evidence of the song’s problematic nature.
Yet another classic song facing backlash is Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls,” released in 1978. Some claim that this rock anthem is guilty of “fat-shaming” and promoting child sex abuse, with lyrics such as:
“I was just a skinny lad / Never knew no good from bad / But I knew love before I left my nursery / Left alone with big fat Fanny / She was such a naughty nanny / Hey big woman, you made a bad boy out of me.” Despite these accusations, Queen’s guitarist and songwriter Brian May has previously discussed the song’s true meaning in a 2008 interview with Mojo magazine, saying, “It’s about a young man who comes to appreciate women of substantial girth… I wrote it with Fred in mind, as you do, especially if you’ve got a great singer who likes fat bottomed girls… or boys.”
As the relentless wave of cancel culture surges forward, these classic songs may soon find themselves silenced, their timeless melodies and messages drowned out by the clamor of controversy. Though the coming weeks and months remain uncertain for these iconic tunes, one thing is clear: the public’s appetite for debate and scrutiny shows no signs of abating.
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