The West Wind Music

Lil Dicky’s sanitised ‘Earth’

Lil Dicky

Lil Dicky  

Nearly ten years ago ‘Billionaire’ was censored, now Lil Dicky has done it with ‘Earth’. Why don’t musicians get it right the first time around?

A few weeks ago, when I exchanged a howdy with Edison Prithviraj on the sidelines of a Saturday concert, I asked him how he liked Earth by Lil Dicky.

Edison, who is the director of Unwind Center, a music school in Chennai, had a one-line response. “I would not let my sons watch it.”

His two sons — Joshua (13) and Kevin (11) — are musicians in the making, and they can't get enough of pop and hip-hop. And they had fresh information about Earth, and one of them updated their dad. “The other day, Joshua asked me if he could watch the clean and censored version. That is when I realised that such a version had been released,” laughs Edison.

Lil Dicky released a clean version of the song, and it is doing as well as the original release, which is punctuated with explicit content. A few beeps and blurs have not taken away from the meaning and message of the song

So, this only suggests an error of judgement on the part of Lil Dicky. Music is like any other product. When it is recalled for some rough edges to be smoothened and re-launched, it only suggests carelessness on the part of the creator, the first time around.

There is many an example of songs being sanitised and relaunched in a clean avatar. There was a sanitised version of ‘Billionaire’ by Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars. It beeped a word or two, and had one replaced a couple of times.

When Billionaire came up during this powwow about sanitised versions of popular songs, Edison pointed out the difference between the two songs. “The creators of ‘Billionaire’ were essentially releasing it for a grown-up audience, likely into a career and waiting for the ship to come it. Though I would consider certain words used in the song as unnecessary, I would say they were not too glaring. No so with Earth. Lil Dicky should have known that this song was going to have a universal appeal, cutting across age groups. So, he should have exercised greater care.”

I can’t agree more. By virtue of its grand theme, Earth was going to recommend itself to a young audience. The song is about climate change, an issue that can’t be swept under the carpet anymore. And, it is something the generation now at school has to get its head well around. When it released, it drew comparisons with ‘We Are The World’ from 1985, for its anthemic call and star cast. However, in terms of gravitas, ‘We Are The World’ is much ahead.

As Edison pointed out, Lil Dicky put the song at a slight disadvantage by putting in that explicit content, needlessly.

Music has a hold on people as few others things under the sun do, and musicians have to weigh their lyrics and assess how it would sound in the listener’s mind. Sometimes, this is a tough ask. Edison cites the response from some quarters to Meghon Trainor’s ‘All About That Bass’, a song that is essentially about having a positive image about one’s body.

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Printable version | May 23, 2020 9:23:07 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/lil-dickys-sanitised-earth/article27148815.ece

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