Q Magazine

10 Popular Songs With Problematic Lyrics

The Rolling Stones
Source: MEGA

The Rolling Stones

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Over the years, music across various genres has reflected the social, cultural, and political attitudes of its time, some of which may not align with contemporary values or may even have been controversial when it was first released.

Below we consider popular songs that have sparked numerous conversations about their content thanks to some particularly problematic lyrics, whether they be offensive, outdated, or controversial to some audiences.

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1. "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke feat. Pharrell Williams and T.I.

Released in 2013, "Blurred Lines" quickly became a chart-topping hit. However, its lyrics, which seemed to blur the lines of consent, along with its music video, were widely criticized for promoting a culture of non-consent and objectification of women. Problematic behavior on-set has further added to the controversy.

2. "Under My Thumb" by The Rolling Stones

This 1966 hit by The Rolling Stones was controversial for its lyrics that depict the singer's control over a woman, portraying her in a submissive and demeaned role. The song reflects gender dynamics that many today find objectionable.

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3. "Brown Sugar" by The Rolling Stones

The Stones were at it again a few years later with "Brown Sugar" (1971), which has been criticized for its depictions of slavery, sexual violence, and racial stereotypes. The band has occasionally altered the lyrics during live performances in response to these criticisms.

4. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” by Frank Loesser

First performed in 1949, "Baby, It's Cold Outside" has become a holiday classic. However, in recent years, its lyrics have been scrutinized for what some audiences perceive as coercive undertones in the man’s attempts to persuade the woman to stay the night.

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5. “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits

This 1985 hit faced backlash for the use of a homophobic slur in its lyrics. Mark Knopfler, the lead singer, has defended the song by stating it was written from the perspective of a character rather than the opinions of the band members themselves and is not meant to be offensive.

6. "Ur So Gay" by Katy Perry

Katy Perry's 2008 song was criticized for its homophobic and stereotypical lyrics. Perry has since expressed regret over the song, acknowledging that it could be seen as contributing to stereotypes and discrimination.

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7. “Gold Digger” by Kanye West feat. Jamie Foxx

While a hit in 2005, “Gold Digger” has been critiqued for its portrayal of women and relationships. The song’s lyrics, which discuss women who pursue men for their wealth, have been seen as perpetuating negative stereotypes.

8. “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)” by The Crystals

Produced by the controversial Phil Spector in 1962, this song was intended to explore the complex emotions of an abusive relationship. However, it has been widely criticized for seemingly romanticizing domestic violence, particularly in the wake of Spector’s later behavior and murder conviction.

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9. "One in a Million" by Guns N' Roses

Released in 1988, this song drew immediate backlash for its racist and homophobic slurs. Axl Rose, the band's lead singer, has tried to offer explanations for the lyrics, but the song remains a point of controversy.

11. "Roxanne" by The Police

Released in 1978, "Roxanne" is a song about a man pleading with a woman not to sell her body. The song's catchy melody belies its serious subject matter and whilst it is often hailed for its musical composition, the portrayal of prostitution has been the subject of debate. Some praise the song for bringing attention to the plight of sex workers, suggesting a sense of empathy and concern. However, others argue that it oversimplifies complex issues surrounding sex work and can be interpreted as moralizing.

Songs like these have sparked important conversations about the influence of music on societal attitudes and the responsibility of artists in their portrayals of sensitive subjects. As society evolves, so too does our understanding of what is considered appropriate or acceptable.


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