Technology has changed the music world, too, much to the chagrin of some parents. New tunes bypass the radio gatekeepers. Songs that could never get airplay pop up on YouTube and win fans before there's ever a record to buy.

Take this week's nearly three-million-YouTube-view wonder. It's so profane, we can't even say the title.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. CEE-LO GREEN (Singer): (Singing) Running round town with the girl (Unintelligible) (BEEP).

BLOCK: It's sung by Cee-Lo Green, half of the duo Gnarls Barkley. It was released online one week ago. And we're going to try to dance around some of the unairable stuff now with our music critic Tom Moon. Hey Tom.

TOM MOON: Hi there.

BLOCK: And Tom, this is a real age-old theme of songs here. A guy, jilted guy talking to the guy who stole his woman, and the problem is he didn't have enough change in his pocket.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

BLOCK: And why not rhyme Ferrari and Atari if you can, right?

MOON: Exactly. And in the course of that little couplet, you have the modern dilemma, you know. If you're not rolling with bling, what are you, or who are you?

BLOCK: So here's the thing, though, Tom. I mean, you've got this bouncy, non-threatening music thing going on and then these lyrics which are, you know, in a different context would be really threatening and really hostile.

MOON: Right. And to me, that's the game. It's like the play of opposites. He's saying something that's so blunt and just so, like, at the gut level. But around him is all this Jackson 5 kind of sweetness and light. To me, that makes it. The contrast is the magnet, if you will.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: You're loving this.

MOON: That cracks me up every time I hear it because, you know, it's the only part of the song that's actually sort of a B section. It's the only point where the song goes away from that four lines of lyrics.

BLOCK: Well, the song is out on YouTube, right? And there's a video just of the words, sort of like the bouncing-ball kind of lyrics on the screen.

MOON: Yeah, in case you don't get...

BLOCK: Yeah, in case you haven't figured it out. But the album doesn't come out for a while. So is this, do you think, just a novelty, just a way to grab attention? It certainly has grabbed ours today.

MOON: Well, yeah, and anymore, we see artists doing whatever they have to do to sort of claim a little bandwidth and say, I'm over here, I've got a new record coming. And the cynical view of this is yes, it's just that.

BLOCK: And Cee-Lo is going to release a radio-friendly version, too.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

MOON: The thing about the clean version, it doesn't have that same sort of spark for me. It's weird.

BLOCK: What do you think is lost there besides the profanity?

MOON: It makes me wonder whether a singer has to summon a certain kind of energy to sing profanity and make it work. And, you know, here's Cee-Lo Green saying forget you, and it's really the same exact idea, but there is something different about it.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. GREEN: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

BLOCK: Tom, always good to talk to you. Thanks so much.

MOON: Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: That's music critic Tom Moon.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.