Thursday, May 7, 2015

WTF? The F-Word in EMF's Unbelievable

By +Ian C

Twenty five years ago, 5 young men from Gloucestershire, UK formed a band called EMF and released their first single, 'Unbelievable' (released in 1991 in the US). The song became an instant hit worldwide with it's high energy punk pop/alternative dance charm. Unbelievable has been used in advertising, movie soundtracks, at sports events and in video games pretty much from day one. The unbelievable thing is that in the quarter century since it was released, Unbelievable has been responsible for the most profanity broadcast across the airwaves worldwide.

EMF - Unbelievable
EMF - Unbelievable
It is one of the most instantly recognized songs thanks to the opening sample of Andrew Dice Clay's "Oh". It is actually credited as a "Wow!" on the CD insert, but it definitely sounds like an "Oh" to me. It's the following sample which should have gotten the song banned or edited for broadcast. The phrase "What the Fuck" is clearly heard just before James starts singing, and the full sample, taken from a 1960's Black Panther protest, is used later in the song. Even a casual listener can clearly hear, "What the fuck was that" on the track. Watch our specially made video to hear the proof. 

The F-word appears a total of 17 times in the song, meaning that if the song has been played once per day in it's entirety for the last 25 years then the word "FUCK" would have been heard over 150,000 times, which is about the same as one of Eddie Murphy's performances from the late 80's.

The fact that this song is so widely played and recognized in it's original unedited format is pretty amazing. Maybe people misheard the lyric and thought it said, "What the Funk", even though the CD insert openly credits the sample and it's source in James Atkin's 'Thank Q'.

What the Fuck
Original 1991 CD insert 
Whatever the reason, it is part of our culture now, and to retroactively ban the song or edit it for radio would just be way too much effort and would highlight the profanity. Maybe we should just let it slip under the radar of the 99.9% of the population who are oblivious to the truth.

Unbelievable has been covered by big names such as Shakira, Alvin and The Chipmunks, The Bosshoss (a German country group), Christian rappers, Thousand Foot Krutch, and there is a 45 second grindcore version by Anal C*nt which is well worth a listen.

The other world achievement credited to this first single from EMF's debut album 'Schubert Dip', is that the song was written and recorded with the assistance of DJ Milf. This is the first published use of the word Milf, predating any other supposed origin by at least 4 years. It seems that EMF were way ahead of their time in more ways than people realize.

EMF have now gone the same way as most of the early 90's alternative/indie bands, receiving a monthly royalty check from their one big hit twenty something years ago, when another advertising agency wants to use it to promote their breakfast cereal or use it in an animated movie.

Yes I bought the disc when it first came out. Yes I still listen to it sometimes in the car. Yes I can still sing along with James when he does that white boy rap, and YES I knew they were singing "What the Fuck" from the first time I heard the song 25 years ago..

Just to show that your opinion matters to us, let us know if you honestly knew that they were saying "What the fuck"? I promise I will believe you. What other great songs do you remember from 1990? Use the comments section to share your thoughts, or to abuse us, or to post spam links to cheap drugs and porn websites.


Syclone0044 said...

Ahaha epic!! You're the #1 result on Google for "EMF unbelievable what the fuck was that"! πŸ€£πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ‘πŸΌ Well done!

I too bought Schubert Dip when it was released in the early 90's or whatever. I didn't discover it was actually "what the fuck was that" until like 10 years later. Ever since then I've always been very amused by the fact this song is so widely used and never edited. I mean it's used in the most family friendly places and everything hahaha.

I agree with everything you wrote, I guess it's better kept secret, so us few insiders can continue to laugh for years to come.

Anonymous said...

I knew about the swearing. It used to get played on children's TV which I found hilarious as a teenager.

Unknown said...

I was today years old when I discovered this and I was so into it at the time

Tabi Nelson said...

I also bought this album when it first came out. I bought the tape. I always read the inserts, and if I remember correctly they had the lyrics on it. Either way, I do remember reading in the insert somewhere that it was saying "What the fuck". So I've known since I bought it. But I have always wondered how it flew under the radar all these. Not complaining about it, but just curious. My boyfriend says he always thought they were saying "what the funk" so maybe that's how it's survived.


Easy Penguin,

Did you ever uncover the Black Panther movement sample or find out exactly which recording it was lifted from ?

Any help appreciated, thanks in advance, Craig

Ian C said...

Hey Irish Craig, I spent a while all those years ago trying to source the original audio but to no avail. There is an awful lot of audio and video out there and I honestly didn't and still don't have the time, money or resources to run through it all.

Maybe one day the answer will fall into my inbox and I can share it here

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