As we must so often say on air during the Pierced Poets’ Party: some of the following material contains “profanity”, and may be found indecent or objectionable to members of the reading audience. Reader discretion is strongly advised... or something like that.
fuck. Fuck! fuck... F U C K.
...English has never been the best at offering users much in the way of emotionally specific words. How many different ways do you love? How many different feelings exist within the broad categories of anger and happiness, or even within the supposedly specific experiences of wonder or frustration? We do not generally speak in highly expressive terms, and marvel at those who can. And so, at least anecdotally, it seems we monolingual English-speakers turn to music, to instrumentation and vocal intonation to carry us through our lexical gaps. The premise might sound obvious – I can hardly imagine someone reading a post on a music blog and not harboring a collection of songs capable of invoking the spirit of sadness or joy – and yet I cannot shake the feeling we take for granted just how much we rely on music for our emotional heavy lifting. I would like to posit that one utterance in particular is especially representative of the emotional power words can have in musical context. The one word I trust to convey any emotion is the censored, taboo “cuss word”: fuck.
Nine years ago, an angry and confused middle school me stumbled upon the soul-shattering heaviness of the mildly maligned deathcore scene. I had long been seeking out music which carried the ambient weight of deathcore. The darker, the angrier, the generally more extreme the music, the more I was drawn in to outlet my frustrations, to escape what I perceived as the otherwise omnipresent injustices of life in suburbia. I was not concerned – as many of my peers were – about being seen as juvenile. I had already grown to be over six feet tall, was in serious & committed relationships, and could grow a respectable moustache. I knew the podcasting metal elitists who had introduced me to heavy music did not approve of my using the Warped Tour roster to find new bands... but all I wanted was to feed some distant, primal warrior spirit with screams, growls, and bone-breaking breakdowns.
Two of the first bands to provide me with such spiritual sonic nourishment were Chelsea Grin and I Declare War. I played through their then limited discographies constantly, but each had a track I would strategically set aside for special occasions only: “My Damnation” and “The Dot”, respectively. Just one word made these tracks infinitely more effective: fuck. Not, “fuck you” or “fuck me” or even “fuck this”. Just, “fuck”. One haunting curse, one pan-emotive outcry to punctuate each song. Each listen, even each buildup to hearing the expletive vibrations released from these beastly vocal chords, completely broke me. There was an endless poetry within one single word, and a word from which my home and preparatory school lives vehemently attempted to shelter me. The forbidden fuck.
In a few years’ time Knocked Loose would drop what at the time seemed to me the rawest, most delightfully abrasive music ever produced in Pop Culture. Part of my obsession undoubtedly stemmed from my never having anticipated a band’s national debut release before, but this release also happened to contain a rare gem for which I had been so desperately mining the Internet. The sublime profanity I had come to value as the pinnacle of the heavy music experience seemed to sandwich the EP, starting with an absolutely deranged quadruple “FUCK” and ending with a lyrically non-sequitar “What the FUCK!?” ...With that, the time had come to make what had hitherto been a privately treasured journal entry into the world’s most valuable playlist (though I still patiently await the world’s recognition)... The True Use of the Word — so called for my relative disdain of the obscenity’s frivolous use in day-to-day life, a reality particularly difficult to overlook while one is considering the absolute genius of the word in these intentional, artistic, instrumentally contextualized moments.
Of course, the ultimate experience of such “fuck” genius could only be manifested by the sacred rites of live music. Time slows for us individually as we give up our most potent feelings to our headphones at the call of the indecent lyric; time ceases to exist entirely when an entire crowd directs their emotional energies towards the chaotic expression of one monosyllabic word. What better band to initiate me to the wonder of group fuck-ing than a Sworn In having just released The Death Card? The album contained four of the most powerful fucks to be recorded yet, and three of the four were performed to a small but energetic crowd. I knew precisely when to expect each loaded curse, and felt more comfortable and confident than I had been in any mosh pit in my limited tenure up to that point. Tyler Dennen not only delivered on the promised expletives, but would interject a variety of additional fucks between verses, as well as end some songs with a whispered trailing-off of fucks. I gave myself over to every instance wholly. When I expected one, I would run, jump, and push myself up above the largest men’s shoulders to scream back those unholy standalone words with all my might. If a bonus fuck was offered mid-song, the additional emotional release gave me a feeling of invinceability – no foot or fist flying through the pit could harm me. When the fucks flowed in finish of a song, I would go into what I can only recall as an untrained meditative state, trying desperately to decode dark emotions I hadn’t yet experienced in my own life. There has not been a disappointing live-fuck since.
In a few year’s time I had collected several dozen tracks featuring this wild, inexplicably expressive word. I continued to savor the satisfaction of their gooseflesh-inducing emotional release, listening to the playlist only when what felt like the most dire of outletting-needs surfaced. I systematically sought out every opportunity to strain my voice and actualize my pre-F-bomb choreography amidst other believers in the power of this one word put to music. Our community, our worship was to grab one another, lock eyes, and exhale the word according to the demands of the song. Consistent, communal evocations of empathy, brought about by the appropriate use of one vulgar word.
Today, “The True Use of the Word” contains about two-hundred and fifty unique tracks. The bulk of the playlist remains firmly planted in the face-meltingly heavy genres, but anyone who listens for long enough will almost certainly encounter a lighter or otherwise unexpected surprise at some point (cue “the algorithms hate him! joke). In the now-traditional manner of denying certain metal elitists & punk gatekeepers any satisfaction, I will never exclude a track for its genre-distinction – I won’t even pretend not to have heard a track I do not otherwise enjoy so long as the track satisfies the playlist’s entry requirement. Perhaps I will have the opportunity to interview songwriters about their various fucks in the future. Until then, I can only applaud and thank every artist who has managed to give the world the fuck-ing it deserves.
If you have a song which features an isolated “fuck”, please, please do share (@piercedpoetsparty) ! The Spotify playlist follows one simple rule: each track must contain at least one instance of the word “fuck” vocalized in lyrical or contextual isolation. Simple! Oh, and I do understand there are other fantastic “true uses” of obscenities out there (e.g. “GODDAMMIT” and “shit...”), as well as even more emotional evocative words and sounds commonly used as intratrack transitions, adlibs, or pre-breakdown calls (e.g. “Yeeeaaahh!”, “BLEGH”, and “c’mon on”). Some are more convincing than others. I remain convinced, however, that the “fuck” is eternal, unwavering in its masterful communication of whatever emotional state demands its fucking release.
Well... fuck. I’ve wanted to write this for quite a long time, but I’ve wanted you to follow “The True Use of the Word” on Spotify for longer.
Ball is in your court, dear reader.