Sports video games must license everything. League symbols, player likenesses, individual events, even certain stadiums. Then they must provide a soundtrack every year and, yep, those songs must be licensed, too. It is a neverending headache unique to the sports genre.
Further complicating the job, nearly all league-licensed sports video games are rated E, or close to it. Not only must all of the content of a video game pass inspection by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board—which will boost something to M-for-Mature if a song has a single F-bomb—but league licensing officers also must agree to associate their brands with the music.
This leads to some rather strange and outright sad edits of excellent songs with vulgar lyrics. Some have ended up in an almost unrecognizable state when compared to their original version. These five reflect both the skillful management, and the outright bungling, of that challenge.
"Never Gonna Get It" (Sean Biggs feat. Akon and Topic)
Fight Night Round 3
The twangy synthesizer-horns at the open make this song a natural for a boxing title, but the lyrics needed heavy-duty sanitizing. The full version clocks in at 4:11; after removing all of the references to sex, racial slurs and gun violence, the version in Fight Night Round 3 comes in at 3 minutes. "Never Gonna Get It" has an excellent hook and really communicates the seedy, dead-eyed worldview of an up-from-nothing boxer. But if it required removing 25 percent of the song, I have to wonder why they didn't just make it an instrumental.
"Welcome to the Jungle" (Guns N' Roses)
Madden NFL 11
The silly bleaching of certain lyrics in this song—"feel my serpentine" was removed—may not be EA Sports' fault (or its request). The label made a big push in 2010 to deliver all of the stadium staples fans hear on Sunday, and "Welcome to the Jungle," with its barbarians-at-the-gate opening guitar, has been a fire-up-the-fans introduction song for nearly all of its existence. This may be a version edited by the image-conscious NFL. I haven't been to a league game since 2005 so I can't tell for sure. It's interesting that the remainder of the soundtrack includes the classic "Rock and Roll Part Two" by Gary Glitter, notoriously convicted of possession of child porn and barred from 19 countries as a suspected pedophile.
"Funny Little Feeling" (Rock N Roll Soldiers)
MVP Baseball 2005
This rowdy, fist-throwing punk anthem comes from a band near where I live now, the Rock n Roll Soldiers of Eugene, Ore. What EA Sports was thinking when they went after this one, I have no clue. Read the lyrics, they are shot through with references to sex, and violence, my favorite being the passage about a teenage transvestite prostitute. They removed "transvestite," and also "g-string," which might not be good for the dinner table but you could say it on the nightly news. "I've still got so many musicians to kill/will kill until I fill my landfill full of bodies standing still," got chopped into something completely incomprehensible. The entire first verse was deleted, meaning the song begins with its chorus. Great song, but this is one of the most horrible edits I've ever heard.
"Fast Lane" (Bad Meets Evil)
This sounds like damnation by faint praise but 2K Sports has done a fantastic job with its soundtracks, often the parsley of a sports video game production. "Naive" by The Jealous Sound, was a particularly inspired selection for MLB 2K7 and fired me up to pitch every time I heard it. The only reason I'm not featuring it here is because the song needed no editing.
"Fast Lane," by the collaboration of Royce da 5'9" and Eminem, was quite a risk for 2K Sports. Eminem's driving vocals take me directly to a desperate, back-and-forth game featuring two scorers going unconscious, possession after possession. It certainly made for a showstopping sizzle trailer in advance of the game's release. But the full lyrics are a minefield of swear words, sexual references and racial slurs.