Next to “baby,” “love,” “yeah, “ooh,” and “hey,” the word “fuck” might be the most ubiquitous word in the history of pop. People love to curse in their songs. It’s given us hundreds of memorable hooks, and hours of litigation. It’s forced countless middle-schoolers to play Dookie through headphones, or exclusively listen to the music video edits, (speaking from experience.) There is just something deeply enthralling about yelling the eff word loudly and aggressively, and music has allowed us to cash in on those power fantasies over and over again.
So let’s run down who in music says it best.
This sort of feels like cheating, mostly because all of humankind loves the way E-40 says every word in the English dictionary. His “fuck” is like a goofy bass-drum, if Elmer Fudd cursed, he’d probably sound a lot like E-40.
9. Neko Case
Neko Case has one of the few transcendent voices in music
today, simultaneously husky, elegant, and paradoxically weightless. She also
writes personal, winding, and mildly unsettling love songs. So when she sings
the word “fuck,” it might be the most angelic swear ever laid to tape. She
works hard at making every petty utterance sound undeniably beautiful.
8. Zack de la Rocha
The single reason Rage Against the Machine were one of the
most popular rock bands of the last twenty years: “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me, fuck you I won’t do what you tell me, FUCK YOU I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!” Did anything sound better in high school? De la Rocha screamed obscenities like he was choking on his own spit. It didn’t matter what the revolution was, as long as it sounded like that.
7. Kevin Barnes
For all of their sugarplum fables, I’ve always really appreciated how dark Of Montreal’s underbelly can be. Kevin Barnes is basically the physical approximation of a naughty wood-elf, and that means his f-bombs are particularly venomous, especially when he’s venting about a failing marriage.
6. Kanye West
For all the incredibly weird, brooding, introspective moments on Yeezus, the moment I found most enthralling was halfway through “Blood on the Leaves,” when Ye lets forth with a torrent of “fuck” as TNGHT blackens the beat to something slightly more demonic. Kanye West can say “fuck” in a way that actually feels unifying, I’m not sure if anyone else can claim that.
5. Billy Joe Armstrong
Green Day’s Billy Joe taught the children of the ’90s what the f-word was. I don’t think there was a band more inextricably tied to profanity in that era than Green Day. Maybe because my youth pastor told me I needed to throw out their CDs, but I certainly couldn’t have been the only one.
4. Lily Allen
If a bird could successfully convey sarcasm in its chirping, it would probably sound a lot like Lily Allen’s “fuck.”
3. MC Ride
I don’t think anyone knows how often MC Ride says the f-word. He screams the idea of it, but it’s clouded in dirt, blood, gnashed teeth, and broken glass. For a word that’s essentially been relegated to a casual chide, Death Grips has made “fuck” sound utterly terrifying.
2. Dr. Dre
Dr. Dre is not very good at rapping. Nobody denies this, in fact he’s pretty transparent about the verses that other people have written for him. But Dr. Dre is very, very
good at saying “fuck.” It’s perhaps his sole verbal talent. And honestly that’s not a bad legacy to have. If Detox ever comes out, I’ll listen to it mostly because listening to Dr. Dre curse makes everything right in the world.
1. Liz Phair
She can make “fuck” sound contemplative, romantic, playful, lascivious, angry, depressed, and ironic. The word has never sounded more honest, and more powerful, than when it comes from Liz Phair’s mouth. It honestly couldn’t have been anyone else.