Universal Music Group, a multinational music corporation, has removed the song Fat Bottomed Girls from a new edition of the band’s Greatest Hits: Vol 1 album. The right-wing press described the decision as a result of “woke cancel culture”. But it was less forthcoming about the album’s very specific audience: young children.
The spectre of woke cancel culture
EXCLUSIVE: We will woke you! Classic Queen song Fat Bottomed Girls is mysteriously dropped from the group’s new Greatest Hits collection.
The article briefly mentions that the album is for “Yoto, the new audio platform aimed at young people”. However, a quote by an alleged ‘music industry insider’ dominated the article. It claimed:
nobody can work out why such a good-natured, fun song can’t be acceptable in today’s society.
It is woke gone mad.
Other corporate media outlets then reproduced the article and its sentiments.
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The Sun claimed the song was dropped “due to woke cancel culture” in its headline, while the Express said its removal is the “latest ‘woke’ move”. Meanwhile, the Telegraph claimed the song was cut “to appease [a] younger audience”.
Even local news outlets were at it. BirminghamLive used the headline “Queen axe classic song from greatest hits over fears it may offend”, while sister publication LancsLive repeated the “woke gone mad” quote.
Of course, they led with manufactured outrage whilst burying the lede – or in the case of BirminghamLive, not even mentioning it at all.
Music for children
Removing the song was a choice based on the intended audience. Moreover, nobody is stopping adults from listening to the song.
As the Daily Mail briefly noted in its article, the version of the album in question was for the Yoto platform. Yoto produces music devices that it bills as “screen-free audio player[s] for children”. Furthermore, a press release announcing Yoto’s partnership with Queen stated:
Yoto is the brainchild of digital music pioneers Ben Drury and Filip Denker, who created a device that enables young children to access the best kids’ audio, without being exposed to adverts, unsuitable content or racking up too much screen time.
Fat Bottomed Girls‘ lyrics aren’t the most explicit, outrageous, or offensive content committed to record. Nonetheless, it’s heavily sexualised and filled with innuendo. Moreover, it bluntly objectifies women. So, is this really suitable for children as young as six?
Sensitive subject matters
Yesterday, my partner and I had a slightly thorny moment trying to explain Black Sabbath’s Hand of Doom to our young child. It had come on as part of a shuffled playlist in the car, and I had let it play due to a love for the track. Carelessly, I didn’t expect my child to listen to the words and process them. Except they did, and asked what it was about. They were particularly interested in what “push the needle in” meant.
It’s about a Vietnam war veteran who overdoses on heroin and dies. But in explaining trying to explain that, we chose to avoid talking about drugs and overdosing. Those images can get stuck in a young, inquisitive mind. We were upfront about not being able to fully explain the lyrics, and they accepted that. But the experience was instructive on how quickly even very young children can grasp the content of song lyrics.
We weren’t ‘cancelling’ Black Sabbath or trying to hide the realities of the world from our child. We were sensitive to the impact media can have, and recognised that maybe – just maybe – not all adult topics are suitable for all children.
Sexuality is not a problematic subject matter for children – the framing of it, however, can be. Yoto understood this and decided that providing sexualised material to young children probably wasn’t in its interests, especially with increasing evidence of the impact that early sexualisation has on fostering sexual violence.
You’d think the Telegraph would be on board, given its recent article titled “It’s time to stop the sexualisation of children”. Ditto for the Daily Mail after its outrage over the recent Balenciaga promotional shoot furore.
But no. Once again, they’re more interested in manufacturing outrage than ethical consistency. This time they’re appealing to the nostalgia of older generations to stoke the culture war they helped create in the first place – a culture war designed to sell more papers while shaping a societal discourse that’s even more amenable to right-wing politics.
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