“Liar Liar GE2017" is one of the most popular songs in Britain this week. At the time of writing, the song is No. 2 on iTunes U.K.'s download chart, second only to another big song of the moment: ‘Despacito’ by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, featuring Justin Bieber.
The track, written and performed by the group Captain SKA, has also neared the top of the official singles chart, the BBC reported Tuesday. However, if you tune into British radio, you are unlikely to hear the song. Stations simply aren't playing it.
Why not? Well, the problem lies in the song's lyrical content — and the clips of British Prime Minister Theresa May that play throughout the song.
“She's a liar, liar,” vocalist Adeolla Shyllon sings in the chorus, interspersed with examples of May apparently backtracking on promises. “No, you can't trust her,” Shyllon sings afterward. Other lines are even more overtly political. “Nurses going hungry, schools in decline,” says a line in the first verse. “I don't recognize this broken country of mine.”
The song's political message is no accident. Captain SKA originally released a song called “Liar Liar” in 2010 in opposition to government plans to raise tuition fees for students. The band members, who told London's Evening Standard that they were session musicians in Britain, decided to remix the song in a bid to capture the mood among those opposing May's center-right government in the run-up to the June 8 snap election.
The video for the song ends with an implicit message to vote against May's Conservative Party. “On 8 June, Tories out,” a caption reads as the track ends.
The song, which was released Friday, is being promoted by an organization called the People's Assembly Against Austerity, which opposes cuts to public spending and is donating proceeds from the song to food banks. The group has been sharing videos of radio stations refusing to play the song, and others have started petitions demanding that radio stations play the song.
In a statement, the BBC's Radio 1 station said it would not play the song because of editorial guidelines about political content. “We do not ban songs or artists, however our editorial guidelines require us to remain impartial and the U.K. is currently in an election period so we will not be playing the song,” the station said.
Reports suggest that other popular radio stations, including Heart and Capital FM, also have decided against playing “Liar Liar GE2017.”
British rules on political broadcasts may explain the song's lack of airplay. The website of Ofcom, Britain's broadcasting and telecommunications regulator, notes that there is a “long-standing ban on political advertising on television and radio in the UK.” British law also states that political parties are not allowed to buy time to run advertisements, for example, and instead must use pre-allocated broadcast slots that are given out free of charge.
Despite these rules, music has often targeted the political elite. Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative prime minister who led Britain from 1979 to 1990, was the target of “Stand Down Margaret” by the Beat. In 1977, the Sex Pistols' ironic “God Save the Queen” became one of the most popular songs in the country ahead of the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne, but the song was banned by the BBC and there were unconfirmed rumors that it was blocked from being listed as No. 1 on the official singles chart because of its political content.
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