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It’s a fairly well established fact that controversy sells records: partly because there’s something thrilling and illicit about hearing or seeing naughty stuff which the TV or radio won’t let you hear or see, and partly because the people who are the most passionate about buying records tend to be younger, and younger people like nothing more than shocking older people. It’s like a drug to them, only without all of the tedious side effects.
Now, the conventional way to do it is to put something in the lyrics to your song which is unacceptable, and then back it up with a video which illustrates that selfsame thing. Think of that song (WARNING: NSFW) by Cee-Lo, the one I can’t mention by name, that’s a perfect example.
It also proves that it’s possible to have your cake and eat it, controversy-wise, because of that re-recorded, cleaned up version, which you can play to your grandparents without causing a spitting-out of false teeth.
All of which is a long-winded introduction to Chase & Status, who are at this week’s No.5 in the charts with “Blind Faith”. The song itself is not offensive, or controversial in any way. In fact, it’s a lovely throwback to the late ’80s/early ’90s rave era with a mournful vocal from Liam Bailey, who recently signed to Amy Winehouse‘s record label, Lioness. But the video…well, the video (again, NSFW) is a depiction of what it was like to go raving at the time. A time when the act of getting together in a big field to dance to house music was considered a threat to fabric of British society.
Needless to say, the correct way to tell the story involves showing some things which cannot be broadcast on mainstream TV. The sort of hedonistic stuff you’d see in a film like Human Traffic, for example. And it does tell the story with startling accuracy. To such a degree, in fact, that this is the only version of the video we can show you, that’s how true-to-life it really is:
But before you would-be hitmakers rush to the black props cupboard with the padlocked door and the skull-and-crossbones on the front, consider this: Chase & Status made their video because it was the right thing to go with their song, and they made their song because they had a great idea to start with.
If you rush to YouTube with some ill-conceived swearathon, littered with graphic nudity and references to drink and drug use…well you’d be 50 Cent, and that could cause copyright problems.
For the rest of this week’s chart, Radio 1 has the full rundown.
What’s your favorite unbroadcastable song? Tell us your thoughts (but keep ‘em clean).
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic