The well-known British organization PRS for Music conducted a survey in 2010, the purpose of which was to find out the most scandalous song of all time. What song do you think topped the rankings, beating even God Save the Queen from punk band The Sex Pistols? The first place went to the track Smack My Bitch Up by The Prodigy.
Rough language, a call for ill-treatment of women, propaganda of all kinds of vices – that’s what the guardians of morality saw in the text and video clip. Recall how Smack My Bitch Up was written.
The story of creation and the meaning of the song Smack My Bitch Up
Lyrics to the song, consisting of just two phrases “Change my pitch up/ Smack my bitch up”, were taken from the song Give the Drummer Some by The Ultramagnetic MC’s. In the original, Kool Keith (who is said to have been Liam Howlett’s favorite rapper) reads “Switch up/ Change my pitch up/ Smack my bitch up”.
I won’t risk interpreting the meaning of these lines, but it seems that the author is turning to the sound engineer, who is usually behind glass, with a request to set the tone higher and slap his, let’s say, girl on the soft spot. But this is if the text is taken literally.
The trouble is that the slang expression “smack my bitch up” has different meanings, and even native speakers disagree about what it conveys in one context or another. The authors of articles on the popular resource Urban Dictionary claim that the phrase may imply a proposal to use drugs, have an intimate relationship with a girl, and so on.
Only one thing is clear, the authors of the song had nothing decent in this case. So the public outrage that fell upon them after the release of the single Smack My Bitch Up in November 1997 is understandable. The musicians from The Prodigy tried to explain that they didn’t mean anything bad. Like, no one wanted to offend women or popularize drugs, and the notorious phrase means only “doing something in a tense rhythm,” but such explanations, you see, sound unconvincing.
Video of Smack My Bitch Up by The Prodigy
The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up video, shot by Swede Jonas Akerlund, added fuel to the fire. It depicts the adventures of the protagonist of the video, in which there are alcohol, drugs, striptease, fights, drunk driving, and so on. At the end it becomes clear that this character is a girl.
Liam Howlett explained the idea behind the video as follows:
Americans latched on to it and wanted to see it as a song about violence. We thought it was worth laughing at and decided to shoot an extreme video. This is the only case when we wanted to become scandalous.
Q Magazine (2009)
Is it any wonder that not a single decent music channel at first dared to air this clip, and some radio stations played it without lyrics. However, all this hype only played into the hands of the group and made the song insanely popular.
Release and achievements
Smack My Bitch Up, released as the third single from The Fat of the Land, performed well on the charts in many countries, and the video even won two MTV Video Music Awards.
Since then, the song has been actively used in modern culture. It sounds in many feature films (Charlie’s Angels, Scary Movie 2, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), TV shows (Top Gear) and TV shows (Will & Grace).
- The vocal part of Smack My Bitch Up was performed by British singer Shaheen Badar.
- One of the strippers in the video was played by model Theresa May.
Smack My Bitch Up Lyrics by The Prodigy
change my pitch up,
Smack my bitch up