Sometimes swearing feels really, really good. That’s why when kids first hear the words “crap” or “God damn,” they use them over and over in sentence structures that do not even make grammatical sense. When I was about 9 years old, I remember saying the phrase “cunt punt” in front of my father and his jaw dropped. “Where did you learn that?” he hurled at me. Of course, I learned it from television or the bad kids in the schoolyard, but I thought it was totally appropriate. This was the early 90s: a time (unlike now) when 9 year old girls did not use the word “cunt.”
Now that I’m a full-grown idiot, I swear more than I would like to. I have to curb my daily vernacular in most social situations. I like swearing in sentences, but when I hear it back, it just sounds gross.
It feels good to swear; “fuck” has real anger built into the syllables. But swearing looks terrible on paper, and it sounds even worse in most songs. Unless you're spitting out perfect rhymes like Lil Boosie or Jay-Z, chances are, your sing-song swear is going to end up sounding very Avril Lavigne-esque—and who wants that?? Of course, there are some rockstars who really make swearing work. Here are my favorites.
ELLIOTT SMITH - “Christian Brothers”
Smith wrote some of the most beautiful songs known to the Western world. I think most people hoped that Smith would pull a Cat Steven’s and disappear from the hellish music industry by going deeply religious and living in seclusion. Instead, he stabbed himself in the heart. In my mind, Smith is the only singer/songwriter who can sing the words “fuck”, “shit,” or “motherfucking” and instead of sounding like foul language, it sounds like angels whispering Godly prayers.
STEVE MCBEAN OF PINK MOUNTAINTOPS - “I (Fuck) Mountains”
When Steve McBean says “fuck” in this song, it just sounds like a synonym for “I am into everything around me” in some weird alien language we humans aren’t smart enough to know.
TONETTA - “81 Inch Prime Ass ”
Tonetta is a major creep who is super scary and makes you feel uncomfortable in all the right ways. The only reason that swearing works for him is because if he didn’t swear these songs would be love songs and combined with the visuals, he would end up in jail.
PETER RABERG OF BRAINBOMBS - “Kill Them All”
Sometimes, when I invite a dude over for the first time, I like to throw this album on, mix up a cocktail of GHB and say, “Can you do to me what Råberg says he’s going to do to the chick in this song?” If he runs when it gets to the part about penetrating “her asshole with a 12-inch nail,” I know don’t want him.
(We could also include the songs “Lipstick On My Dick,” “Die You Fuck,” “The Whore,” the list never ends...)
KAT BJELLAND OF BABES IN TOYLAND - “Handsome Gretel”
Bjelland may be a little weathered now in 2012, but back in the 90s, she was a screaming Queen of Cute who looked like a doll but swore like a trucker. She said the word “cunt” and it came across like a punch in the face and not at all cringe-worthy:
Gretel said "I know what’s in your head." I vacuumed out my head. I know you’re feeling bad. You fucking bitch, you cunt hole bitch…
My name is Gretel, yeah. I got a crotch that talks. It talks to all the cocks. It’s been 12 city blocks, you fucking bitch.”
And that’s, like, half a verse of the song.
Honorable mentions: Nick Cave, Beck, Kathleen Hanna, and Julia Cafritz.
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