How Do You Feel About Vulgar Lyrics?

How Do You Feel About Vulgar Lyrics?
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I was wondering what the general consensus is in regards to people’s taste or distaste for dirty, vulgar or risque lyrics.

There are some famous songs that people have been offended by because of the lyrical content. It occurred to me that society in 2021 is probably much more sensitive and reactionary to lyrics that might be considered “politically incorrect”.

Has anyone here written songs with these kind of lyrics or any sort of lyrics that you might be hesitant to share with others?

How Do You Feel About Vulgar Lyrics?

    • Anything goes. Nothing offends me
    • I’m open to risque language as long as it isn’t too extreme
    • Moderately offensive lyrics are fine
    • Mildly offensive lyrics are fine
    • Occasional, very mildly offensive lyrics are fine
    • I do not want to hear any curse words or street language in the songs I listen to
    • I don’t feel strongly one way or the other

0 voters

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I’m not easily offended by vulgar lyrics. However, in the music I listen to the most, there is usually little to no vulgarity.

I wouldn’t be too comfortable singing vulgar lyrics though.

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Great question and has multiple layers to it for me:

  • Context. Is it vulgar or offensive for vulgar or offensive sake? Or is there a message or statement that is being made in the context of the lyrics.

  • Frequency - I’d take harsher, more offensive words if it was far less frequent

  • My job - I was a high school teacher for 16 years and now work in primary school. I’m not overly bothered by swearing per se, but I grew very tired of hearing constant swearing in the yard in the high school days. Obviously we don’t hear it if at all at Primary School level. But given that I am a teacher, there is always a chance that parent or student will look for or stumble across my music that I create, so I swear only very rarely.

In regards to society today, I think it is just different. On one hand, you could say we are more sensitive to possibly offensive lyrics and perhaps that’s true, but if you look at the language of the top 20 at any given moment, a good 50% will contain swear words or have “radio edits”. Have a look 15 years ago and I don’t think you’d see that. Even less further back. There are exceptions, of course and there were clearly many examples of vulgar, crass or sexual innuendo in songs forever, but the overt curse words are far more prevalent now in the charts than ever.

Nice topic!

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I agree with Dan. It’s not my style to be vulgar, but I understand sometimes it’s necessary to get a point across. I don’t mind - for example - sexually explicit lyrics if the song is (at least in part) about sex. No problem, except when it is in any way abusive or derogatory. But I also realize it’s sometime’s a thin line we walk on as songwriters. Should I take a chorus line like “You sexy Motherfucker” literally, or should I take note of the probable meaning Prince implied when he wrote the song? I tend to go for the worldly interpretation. Another example: we (or should I say our sophisticated NASA scientist @Chordwainer Dave) wil gladly write a murder song. Of course we are not advocating you should murder your partner because he or she was flirting with some-one else. Most of us enjoy watching a crime movie now and then and do not crave to be homocide detectives. In the context of the framework of a murder song you could say about anything you like. But I do feel obliged to at leasty let your audience know that this is tongue in cheeck… I guess maybe that’s what it’s all about. Vulgarity without humour is where a line is crossed. But then, some humour is so vulgair (or racist, or sexist or whatever), I don’t think it is at all very funny. As I said: a thin line.

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I’m offended by bad songwriting more than bad words.

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I think I like the allusions of the 60s/70s - let’s spend the night together, juice runs down my leg, squeeze box etc - far more than the shock of raw vulgarity that came later. Vulgarity for vulgarity’s sake does not a great lyric make.

Personally I avoid curse words as well as drug, alcohol, and raunchy sex references. I find I can be very offensive with political and religious ones.

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Okay so I had to look up what ‘vulgar’ really (?) means:

1
lacking sophistication or good taste.

making explicit and offensive reference to sex or bodily functions; coarse and rude.
"
Definitions from Oxford Languages

And then I realised that mostly vulgar is fine by me… it’s meanness and intolerance that push me away from stuff.

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as long as its labeled, accordingly. I just dont like being surprised with it. I am often listening to stuff on speakers with kids and family around.

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If it’s gratuitous vulgarity, I’m agin it – same for gratuitous anything, really. If the context is there, vulgar lyrics can be perfectly appropriate. I’d draw an analogy to a standup comic. If s/he is getting laughs only because of repeated f-bombs, I don’t find that funny, anybody can say “fuck” over and over. So if the song is good (in my subjective opinion) and the context is there, I’m fine with it.

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That’s a tough question because to me there’s a big difference between using vulgar language such a curse words and saying something that would upset me. In my everyday speech its not unusual for me to use curse words, largely for emphasis, and hearing that in a song certainly wouldn’t bother me.

I do think though that it is entirely possible to express the most horrific concepts in a perfectly normal tone of voice, as though it is entirely ordinary, and using no vulgarity of any sort whatsoever. In fact, that can be part of the art – juxtaposing happy music with very dark lyrics or saying something really horrible in a tone that reflects it as ordinary.

I have the general attitude that art is art, and should be allowed to express pretty much anything including, since it is fantasy like a novel, even murder etc.

That said, it’s possible for me to be extremely put off by certain songs due to their lyrical content. But I just checked, and nobody appointed me the boss of all lyricists. lol

I do think though that the real skill lies in saying such things in a way that it is less direct. Over the years I have heard many songs expressing a desire to jump someone’s bones, and the less direct ways of saying it have often had the greatest artistry.

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One of my absolute favorite tactics.

Misfits - Last Caress

Man! Interesting question!! And it was super interesting to me to read the responses so far.

I’m completely onboard with this. I reluctantly picked ‘anything goes, nothing offends me’, but really, I don’t think I would be dismissive of lyrics that are ‘overly vulgar’, however at the same time, I can’t say I’d have much use for lyrics like that personally.

Me too! I did the same thing, and got technical with the semantics of ‘vulgar’. Isn’t it crazy how perfectly non vulgar but nasty ideology (like intolerance or meanness) can be even MORE offensive than vulgarity?

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I find myself having similar thoughts about it. I’m not easily offended, but I’ve heard some ridiculous rap lyrics that make me think that the writers are just lazy lyricists. Sometimes I find the sheer stupidity can be funny and I can understand the dumb humour, but most of the time I’m uninterested in the song simply because I don’t like the music. I think if I really like the song, I would be able to forgive bad lyrics and/or extremely vulgar lyrics.

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When it comes to creativity, I believe that there should be no limits. So, in that case I would have to say that anything goes.

If there’s a mood, a feeling that you want to express, then vulgarity and unpopular “words” shouldn’t be restrained, just as you wouldn’t restrain yourself from writing beautiful and pretty words. There should be no constraints in music. To constrain any side of your expression is to literally stifle your creativity. I’m sure we all do have restraints on our creativity for many different reasons but I think it’s good to be aware of how we limit ourselves. I wouldn’t want to be afraid to use vulgarity. That is inhibiting and limiting. Having said that, I would say that using vulgarity and “intense” language doesn’t have to be used either. BUT, it can be used to express yourself, whether in a humorous or serious fashion.

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I wouldn’t be very comfortable singing vulgar lyrics to an audience of people that would likely be offended, but if I knew the audience was ok with it, I wouldn’t be uncomfortable. In this case, I’m picturing singing humorously explicit lyrics. I feel it’s almost parallel to a comedian using this kind of language in their comedy routine. It is also similar to actors playing a vulgar character in a movie.

I don’t mind profanity usually but I never thought it fit very well in a song until I heard Alanis Morisette sing “are you thinking of me when you fuck her?” You Oughta Know 1995

It just fit perfectly, great lyrics in the rest of it too.

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Yes, you can imagine a scorned lover saying those exact words. That lyrics hits pretty hard to the listeners ear but it is very effective in that song and story.

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This is a strange one for me. A lot of my instincts on this one are probably due to my mormon upbringing, but I generally don’t gravitate towards music that swears a lot. I don’t really actually care, but I do have lots of kids in my house who are always home, so that’s a factor as well.

But at the end of the day, I don’t really care. If swearing in a song is what grabs my attention the most, that’s a problem with me, not the song.

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Ha! Me too. I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness. My parents let me listen to some contemporary Christian artists like Michael W Smith and Amy Grant, but they were sure to tell me that not everything they sang about God was true. They eventually realized that when you have a kid with a sort of high musical aptitude, you can’t nurture that kids talent with Bach, Beethoven a couple church hymnals.

This turns into a little bit of a different discussion when you bring young children and family dynamics into the equation. I’m currently of the opinion that even if a kids mind is advanced enough to handle music of a certain level, there’s still an age appropriateness component in the lyrics. I have absolutely no idea how you’d try and filter that as a parent though, other than maybe becoming a really strict helicopter parent if necessary. I don’t have kids yet.

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