Censorship is one of music's longer running conflicts, a struggle where the desire for marketability often trumps creative freedom. That's been the case for every music video game in existence, titles that constantly walk the aforementioned tightrope.
One of the more challenging songs to appear in any mainstream conduit is Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name," a tune that launched the band to prominence back in the 1990s. The awkwardness extends to music video games, most recently when the song was released this week as downloadable content for Rock Band 3.
While the themes in "Killing in the Name" are already fairly provocative, censors have had sleepless nights over the last portion of the song.That's the part in which RATM singer Zack de la Rocha utters "fuck you" well over a dozen times. After the last instance, he screams "motherfucker" before grunting authoritatively.
Like many songs written in a political context, the meaning behind "Killing in the Name" has been widely debated since it was released.. But last portion is important for showing the band's defiance toward corrupt authority, making it all the more disappointing when radio stations cut out that part altogether.
In that respect, the way "Killing in the Name" was presented in both Rock Band 3 and Guitar Hero: Smash Hits made the best of a bad situation. Both Rock Band creator Harmonix and Guitar Hero publisher Activision kept the last portion, but blurred out all the profanity. Yeah, that type of censorship is icky. But believe it or not, it could have been much worse.
How so? Just take a listen to the above cover of "Killing in the Name" from Guitar Hero 2, a version in which the words "fuck you" and "motherfucker" are replaced with "under control." It's another example of why using word replacement to censor something is an absolutely terrible idea.