At times, we are faced with heartbreaking situations that affect our lives, even if we don’t know anyone involved or don’t live anywhere near where the incident happened. On Friday morning, a 20-year-old in Newtown, Connecticut, killed 20 young students, six adults and his mother before turning the gun on himself in one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history. We can easily offer up our sympathy and condolences, but it’s unimaginable to know what those families who lost a loved one are going through. Though the grieving process has begun for them, it’s going to take a long time to heal, and, no doubt, the coverage of the story is going to be overwhelming for many days to come. Music can be seen as a way to find renewal in these kinds of occurrences, though some songs that were yesterday’s innocent tunes are today insulting to some audiences. Here’s a look at some of those examples, including one that’s lost quite a bit of ground after Friday’s massacre.
In 1989, former Kids Incorporated star Martika was on top of the charts with her big hit, “Toy Soldiers”, and as a result, she and her record label, CBS Records, released a followup single, an electronic remake of Carole King‘s “I Feel The Earth Move”. It was a harmless, throwaway version of the pop song. “Move” entered the airplay top 40 on September 15, 1989 (though it hit the Hot 100 a few weeks earlier.) It was at #28 on the survey dated October 13, 1989 before disappearing altogether the next week. On the Hot 100, it experienced some similar action, peaking at #25 on the October 21 chart (which reflected data from that previous week), then dropping to #40 on October 28 and off the chart within a few weeks time. This was because of the Oakland Earthquake, which occurred on October 17, a 6.9 magnitude quake that killed over 60 people and destroyed a number of homes and businesses. It even affected the World Series that year. News coverage was understandably immense during this time. Though this was a voluntary pull by most radio stations nationally, it was seen by most as insensitive at the time, and who wouldn’t feel that way hearing “I feel the earth move under my feet / I feel the sky tumbling down”? Promotion of her album was halted at this point and no more singles were released. Martika had one additional top ten hit in the U.S. in 1991 before fading entirely from the charts.
You probably guessed that the biggest tragedy that affected all sorts of single releases was the September 11, 2001 attacks, a devastating blow to our country in which 3,000 were killed in separate suicide attacks in New York City (the World Trade Center), Washington, D.C. (the Pentagon), and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It crushed the chart runs of several upbeat and/or lyrically inappropriate songs at the time. CHR singles like “Because I Got High” by Afroman and “Start The Commotion” by The Wiseguys never recovered from their post-9/11 losses and both artists became one-hit wonders in the States. “Someone To Call My Lover” by Janet Jackson lost 2,000 spins within two weeks on the format, another upbeat song that was perhaps seen as insensitive as many lost significant others. Another Jackson, Michael Jackson, had his highly-anticipated comeback single, “You Rock My World”, lost in the shuffle, but the title of that one is a essentially why radio dropped it like a rock in the wake of the attacks. Several singles were cancelled by labels in response, including but not limited to the U.S. issue of “Don’t Stop Movin'” by S Club 7 (dance song; delayed by a year, and obviously flopped), “It Was All A Dream” by Dream (wasn’t right to release in the middle of a nightmare), and “When The World Ends” by the Dave Matthews Band (that one’s pretty self-explanatory.) The biggest release affected by the attacks was “Bodies” by Drowning Pool, an angry metal song that took a huge dive on Alternative and Active Rock stations which featured controversial lyrics like “let the bodies hit the floor.” They maintained a career at Active Rock afterwards, but their time at Alternative radio was short-lived as a result of it; two underperforming singles later and they were done. Another rock band, Bush, changed the name of their single at the time, “Speed Kills”, to “The People That We Love” after the event. It underperformed and the era drew to a close after two radio singles. There’s been enough stated out there on the memo put out by Clear Channel around that time, which listed about 160 songs that were thought to be “questionable” following the attacks and which stations were suggested not to play, though many still were, including “Bad Day” by Fuel and “Smooth Criminal” by Alien At Farm, both current on radio at the time.
Now, we come to “Die Young” by Ke$ha, the leadoff single from her album, Warrior. It’s been a huge digital seller and recently went to the top spot on CHR radio. However, the song’s been voluntarily pulled by some radio stations in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, where many children died at a young age. The song itself is about living it up and partying, but one look at the title and you know it’s going to affect people. As a result, the song has lost over 1,000 spins in two days on just that one format alone, with an additional 175 spins gone at Hot AC. (As of 12/21, that is now 4,000 spins at CHR and 1,000 at Hot AC.) There’s likely no way to stop the free fall when this story is going to be in the public eye for a while. The dance nature of the song, combined with the lyrics of it (because it’s so affirmative that death is imminent) is a lose-lose situation. Though other songs are falling normally at the moment, this one seems to be the only one affected by the tragedy, which is a bit of surprise. I mean, doesn’t Taylor Swift‘s “I knew you were trouble when you walked in” and “Now I’m lying on the cold hard ground” deserve to be taken off as well if we’re analyzing the lyrics? Out of context, sure, but it hits close to home for a lot of people. I guess you can be the judge of that. RCA Records is going to need to do some damage control pretty soon (i.e. pull it altogether and send out a second single a few weeks sooner.)
Keep it posted to the charts to see what actually becomes of “Young”. Also, let me know if there are any big cases I missed in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel. In the meantime, keep the names of those Sandy Hook victims, young and old, in your thoughts and prayers. They will always be remembered.