LOVE/HATE: The ***** and ******* Edition

I wanted to play music I liked at my wedding, which meant no Electric Slide, no YMCA, and no call and response numbers. Consequently, The Beard and I opted to laptop DJ our own wedding. We had the equipment we needed, and we had somewhere to plug the whole setup in. After setting up a playlist, all that was left to do was listen to every single song to make sure every single one was family friendly.

You would not believe how many were crossed off the list because of cussin’ or unabashed adult themes. Songs I thought were squeaky clean turned out to be surprisingly raunchy when I listened to them with a critical ear! In the end, I think that ‘pee’ (in Spider Robinson’s Belaboring the Obvious) was the naughtiest word sung over our sound system.


Photo via The Consumerist

But one person’s inappropriate is another person’s A-OK. I was born into a very churchy, upstanding, “say-gosh-not-God” kind of family, meaning that even songs containing certain widely accepted euphemisms for sex or drugs were right off the table. On the other hand, Conor Friedersdorf of Culture11 recently examined how gangsta rap is making musical inroads at wedding receptions.

Here’s how it happened at my best friend’s wedding: the DJ spun traditional fare until an old favorite, The Limbo Rock, lured even the little kids and left-footed adults onto the dance floor. The line for the limbo stick stretched longer than the song would, so the deejay scanned his collection. What would come next?

Time ticking away, he settled on Lil John’s “Get Low”—you know, for its thematic resonance. It’s a tune whose lyrics I didn’t even realize I knew until the intro played, the twenty-somethings in the wedding party made mortified eye contact with one another, and the chorus began:

To the window, to the wall, (to dat wall)
To the sweat drop down my b**** (MY B****)
To all these b****** crawl (crawl)

Now I’m pretty sure I know what’s lurking under all those stars, and I’m pretty sure you do, too. In my opinion, it’s better to be a little overzealous when weeding out wedding tunes that will give Pastor Jeff an aneurysm, but I also strongly believe that making sure that no one is unduly offended at a wedding is just straightforward good etiquette.

Causing judgmental dingbats offense by serving brunch instead of dinner or wearing purple instead of white or marrying a dude when you’re also a dude is one thing…expecting people to dance to songs with lyrics like “See *****’s like a wound, it would never heal, the more ointment you put on then the better it feels” is another thing entirely.

I can’t say I hate it when I hear hardcore cussin’ in the songs played at a wedding reception, but I do inwardly cringe on behalf of the guests who are covering their kids ears or covering their own ears. Friedersdorf says gangsta rap is good danging music — I wouldn’t know, not being all that familiar with the genre — and that radio edits should make this a non-issue. That may be true, but I will say that I hate it when good beats are uninterrupted by annoying BEEEEPS and ridiculous overdubs. Why not just play a song that everyone from age 8 to age 80 can appreciate?

What say you? Does danceability trump lyrics, or would you rather brides and grooms keep it clean?

14 Responses to “LOVE/HATE: The ***** and ******* Edition”

  1. Melissa B. August 28, 2008 at 1:49 pm #

    I was at a wedding a couple of weeks ago where the DJ played about 5 great, clean, danceable songs in a row. All of the guests were having a blast — then he suddenly switched over to hardcore rap, and NOT the edited version. That cleared the dance floor in a hurry. The parents didn’t care for the music, and us twentysomethings didn’t really want to do a club-style grind in front of the bride’s grandmother.

    I’m not going to say songs with cursing are never appropriate or fun at weddings, but I do think the DJ and the bride and groom should pay attention to the kind of crowd they have at the party and choose the music accordingly.

  2. mkb August 28, 2008 at 2:00 pm #

    There are even some wedding DJ staples that are highly questionable. I don’t think people really listen to the lyrics that go by too fast to understand. Just the chorus.

  3. blablover5 August 28, 2008 at 2:13 pm #

    So many songs are about drugs and sex, and so many people don’t realize.

    I’m reminded of the Afternoon Delight scene from Arrested Development.

    If you really want to work on it then go for it, but I can see most people not noticing unless it’s clearly just constant cursing.

  4. KTB August 28, 2008 at 2:16 pm #

    I must admit that one of the most memorable moments from my cousin’s wedding several years ago was my parents dancing to Nelly’s “It’s Getting Hot in Herre,” which, well…obviously. I agree with blablover5–if it’s something that people are going to get really upset about, then a little discretion never hurt anyone, but it isn’t something I’m going to worry about at my wedding.

  5. Bitter August 28, 2008 at 2:33 pm #

    We will likely solve this problem by not having dancing and instead hiring a harpist and my cousin who is a semi-professional flutist to play. No potentially offensive lyrics for my sister-in-law who is beyond uptight and something that doesn’t stand out as needlessly edited to pretty much everyone else at the event.

  6. Dianasaur August 28, 2008 at 3:16 pm #

    I don’t like cussing, it gets stuck in my head when I hear it. So I especially don’t want to hear it at weddings. But songs about sex are even more awkward. The most awkward was at a wedding where the first dance song was all about making love, and most of the people in attendance knew the main reason the groom was marrying the bride was because she wanted to wait until marriage. Guess who picked the song? Yep, she was so embarrassed.

  7. Melissa B. August 28, 2008 at 4:08 pm #

    Dianasaur — yikes!!

    I think a good DJ can keep it clean without calling attention to the fact that he’s editing his playlist. A week after the wedding I talked about in my comment, we attended another wedding (yeah, I know, it’s that time of year!) where the DJ did a great job playing for a crowd that included the bride’s 5-year-old half-sister and the groom’s 87-year-old conservative Southern grandma. The guests danced up a storm, and no one was awkwardly looking at Grandma and the flower girl to see if they’d noticed the m-f- word.

  8. Evie August 28, 2008 at 4:29 pm #

    I think this is one situation where the reception afterparty can be a good idea, especially if your guests have a wide range of ages and tastes: if it’s important to you to have a nightclub-esque bash on your wedding day, save it for after those who might not enjoy it have turned in for the night.

    Otherwise, there’s no rule saying the only clean options are oldies or motown (both of which I personally loathe). There are so many danceable mainstream pop songs that aren’t profane (or are at least only very mildly profane), that it’s not like you won’t have anything to dance to if you cut out the gangster rap. Or what about doing fun themed music, like swing or salsa or afro-cuban?

  9. Twistie August 28, 2008 at 4:36 pm #

    I don’t want to play anything that’s going to offend guests, and I tend to notice lyrics far more than the average person. I can also see merit to KTB’s comment about knowing your audience.

    Actually, if we’d had a band that did a lot of vocal music (they were instrumentalists, and there was never any question of trying to set up a DJ or sound system out in the woods where we married), we would have been very careful about the lyrics going out.

    The unusual thing is that we would have been editing the list for our own delicate sensibilities rather than Great Aunt Mildred’s or Little Benjy’s. No problem with swear words or adult themes, more a case of what we find appropriate for the occasion.

  10. Kristina August 28, 2008 at 6:15 pm #

    So I guess the Divinyls “I Touch Myself” and pretty much any song by the Violent Femmes is out? :-D

    I love Marc Cohn’s ‘True Companion’. But when I played it for my fiance, we both cracked up imagining swaying in front of 130 people(one of which will be my father) to the words “Then I’ll take you home and with wild abandon…make love to you just like a true companion”. However, we will play it later in the night when most of the more uptight people will no longer be there so we can crack up together.

    And as much as I love ‘I Will Survive”, is it really the best song to play at a wedding? Yet – I hear it all the time.

  11. La BellaDonna August 29, 2008 at 8:53 am #

    My own feeling is that if there’s family there, keep it family-friendly. I figure surely there’s enough music in the world to make it through a handful of hours without cursing? Of course, I don’t particularly like cursing in music. And I despise gangsta rap. I don’t generally think “bitches/marriage celebration” go hand-in-hand, but then, I’m a fossil.

    Going back to soak in the tar pits, now.

  12. class-factotum August 29, 2008 at 9:41 am #

    Related note: I have been kind of surprised at the music played for the aerobics classes at the Y (as in Young Men’s Christian Assoc). One song has lyrics like, “I’m throwing up my skirt but I only want to flirt… I’m on my knees because I dropped my keys.”

    I know it’s way too much to expect to hear music I can’t stand just for the (lack of) melody if they don’t even have standards about the lyrics. (Middle-aged white ladies really don’t want to work out to hip hop, I don’t think.)

  13. Kate August 29, 2008 at 5:52 pm #

    I went to a wedding last year where the DJ started playing gangsta rap and the bride and her friends started booty dancing with all the guys. Call me a prude, but this made me quite uncomfortable…I mean it’s a WEDDING, for God’s sake, not a swinger’s party.

    I have to agree with LaBellaDonna – I don’t think it’s very auspicious to start your marriage off with misogynistic gangsta rap. What message does that send?

  14. me September 4, 2008 at 11:15 am #

    Keep it clean! I know the wedding is a celebration of you and your spouse, but other people are there to celebrate with you. Yes, some rap songs have great beats to which you can dance (though most of them don’t) and you can easily find some that don’t have excessive swearing. Sexual innuendos are more difficult to avoid, though.