Akon Self-Censored His Way to the Top: Five Years Ago Today


Sometimes, you've got to self-censor yourself in order to get to number one. St. Louis native Akon knows this pretty well. - WIKIMEDIA
  • Wikimedia
  • Sometimes, you've got to self-censor yourself in order to get to number one. St. Louis native Akon knows this pretty well.

News flash: popular music includes profanity.

Now that I've gotten your attention with that shocking revelation, here's another: some of the trickiest songs to release as singles incorporate naughty words in to the title. Music might be a form of expression, but it's also a business. And sometimes, that requires artists to change words to prevent Little Jimmy's parents from throwing a fit.

The most obvious recent example of this phenomenon is "Fuck You" by Cee-Lo, which was magically transformed into "Forget You." That simple change allowed the song to be shoehorned in everything, from Just Dance 3 to this somewhat disturbing Hebrew homage. There's unconfirmed rumors that both Cee-Lo and one of the song's writer Bruno Mars are constructing a giant money pit in Zanzibar with the song's royalties.

Sure, a dump truck full of money can be wonderful. But in this case, the song's emotional intensity declined a bit because of the change. It just so happens that a similar example of this creatively cumbersome dilemma occurred with St. Louis native Akon 2006 hit "I Wanna Love You," which on this day in 2006 was the number one song in the country.

Back in the rip-roaring 2000s, Akon's autotuned voice was everywhere - including this medium-paced ballad featuring Snoop Dogg. When I first heard this song in a fine dancing establishment in Columbia, Missouri, it garnered no reaction from me because it was so similar in structure and substance to every other pop song at the time. But of course, "I Wanna Love You" is a heavily censored version of "I Wanna Fuck You." And it's probably one of the more jarring examples of self-censorship for marketability's sake.

An example: In "I Want to Love You," Akon is crooning about how he wants to "love" some unnamed lady "winding and grinding up on the floor." It's a little trite [and perhaps unrealistic to expect somebody to fall in love based off dance moves], but nothing too out-of-the-ordinary. But in the more explicit version of the song, Akon is actually crooning about wanting to do it with somebody "winding and grinding up on that pole." My guess he's not talking about Indy Car racing.

While 2006 was a banner year for Akon, stranger days were ahead in 2007. In April 2007, Akon got in a heap of trouble for simulating sex with what turned out to be an underage girl in Trinidad and Tobago. And he sparked an Internet frenzy of sorts when he emulated the Ultimate Warrior and chucked some dude off a stage.

But those controversies didn't derail Akon's career. On the contrary -- he's made a boatload of money off of artists such as Lady Gaga and T-Pain. And recently, he reexamined the actual subject of his 2006 hit when he teamed up with Andy Samberg and company.

So sure, Akon may not be subtle. And he may have been willing to change his song for commercial gain. But I'm sure any criticism is being drowned out as he swims through his endless sea of golden coins.

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