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Parental Advisory, Explicit Nominee: Grammys Dance Around Cee Lo’s Hit

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Since Cee Lo Green dropped his amazingly catchy -- and amazingly obscenely titled -- summer jam "F--- You," everyone from radio hosts to journalists have had a tricky time figuring out what to call the song in front of the kids and the FCC. Now the Grammys are getting in on the fun: "F--- You" picked up four nominations for the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards last night, marking the first time a song with one of the most R-rated of the Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television has had a prominent spot on music's biggest night. (Despite its name, the song is actually not sexually explicit.)

Selena Gomez took the first crack at the title while revealing the nominees for Song of the Year, announcing, "The song otherwise known as 'Forget You' by Cee Lo Green." When LL Cool J and Craig Ferguson ran through the list of artists up for Record of the Year, the rapper/actor chuckled as he said the same phrase, and Ferguson added an eye-rolling, "Yeah." LL Cool J then hopped into the audience to interview Green, poking fun at the song's alternate title. "Seems like no one will be forgetting you anytime soon," he said, with a little nudge-nudge, wink-wink. "Anything you want to say? Keep it clean, keep it clean." (Green had no problem offering a profanity-free thank you.)

While the Grammys were clearly tip-toeing around a touchy issue, it's worth noting that the profane version of the tune, and not its radio-friendly edit with the extra syllable, received all the nominations (the official list of nominees on the Grammy website reads "F*** You" and not "Forget You"). It's an extra big deal considering CBS, the network that airs the Grammy Nominations Concert and the actual Grammy Awards, is particularly wary of violating the FCC's rules -- after Janet Jackson inadvertently flashed her nipple during the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in 2004, the network faced legal action and large fines.

 

Perhaps because the actual music and melody of "F--- You" recall smooth soul jams from the '70s, Cee Lo's song has gotten a bit of a pop cultural pass -- and some extra love from Grammy voters who typically prefer classic sounds. When the song first emerged, news outlets enthusiastically wrote about its lyric video, which was essentially a story about nothing but the track's profane words. And Gwyneth Paltrow covered the tune -- albeit the "Forget You" version -- on a recent episode of "Glee."

The Grammys, like most major awards shows, are broadcast live with a slight delay so censors can catch any errant bursts of profanity -- like when Bono accidentally exclaimed, "[Expletive] brilliant" during the 2003 Golden Globes, which the folks in the control booth actually missed (whoops!). Last year, the Grammys' censor went on overdrive during Eminem and Lil Wayne's medley of "Forever" and "Drop the World," bleeping the songs almost to a point where they weren't recognizable. "We have great respect for artists' creative freedom, but there are certain things you can't say, or sing, on television," CBS' Chris Ender said at the time.

[List: Seven biggest Grammy snubs]

With that in mind, Cee Lo isn't expecting to sing "F--- You" on Grammy night. "Of course, I prefer the original. I'm an adult and I prefer adult entertainment," he told E! "But everybody will be watching the Grammys so I'll do the one that's appropriate for everyone, which is probably the cleaner one. It's just a privilege to perform either of the versions."

[Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images]

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