In music, a radio edit is a modification to make a song more suitable for airplay, whether it be adjusted for length, profanity, subject matter, instrumentation, or form. Radio edits may also be used for commercial single versions, which may be denoted as the 7" version. Sometimes the so-called "radio edit" versions are truncated versions of tracks in a manner similar to making them more suitable for radio since not all "radio edit" tracks are played on radio.
Editing for time
Radio edits often shorten a long song to make it more commercially viable for radio stations. The normal length for songs played on the radio is 3 to 4 minutes. Occasionally, the song will simply fade out earlier, common on tracks with long instrumental endings. For instance, the radio edit of 'Heroes' by David Bowie fades in shortly before the beginning of the third verse and fades out shortly before the vocal vamping at the end of the song. However, many radio edits will also edit out verses, bridges, and interludes, such as the original single edit of "Piano Man" by Billy Joel which substitutes the end of the third verse for the ending of the second verse.
Some songs will be remixed heavily and feature different arrangements than the original longer versions, occasionally even being completely different recordings. A popular example of this would be "Revolution" by The Beatles which is a completely different recording than the version which appears on The White Album. This also became more prevalent with the rise of the 12" record, as artists like New Order started making songs specifically for the format. Many of the 7" mixes aimed for pop radio airplay of their songs feature very different arrangements, such as "Bizarre Love Triangle", or even a completely different recording, such as "Temptation".
Occasionally, very long songs do not have a radio edit, despite being as long as six or seven minutes in length. Famous examples of these include "Vicarious" (2006) by Tool at 7 minutes and 6 seconds, "Hey Jude" (1968) by The Beatles at 7 minutes and 11 seconds long, "You're the Voice" (1985/86) by John Farnham at 7 minutes and 9 seconds long, "Stairway to Heaven" (1971) by Led Zeppelin at 8 minutes and 3 seconds, "The Message" (1982) by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five at 7 minutes and 10 seconds, "One" (1989) by Metallica at 7 minutes and 24 seconds, and "American Pie" by Don McLean with a length of 8 minutes and 32 seconds. Ying Yang Twins' "Georgia Dome" has a radio edit removing profanity, but at the same length (6 minutes 6 seconds) as the album version. Occasionally, due to popular demand, the longer version of a song will be played over the shorter version, such as "Like a Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan, which was released on a 7" single featuring the first two verses on side 1 and the rest of the song on side 2. Due to the popularity of the song, radio stations started playing the full version to meet their listeners' demand.
On rare occasions, a radio edit might be longer than the original album version. This may occur when the song is edited for form, such as in the cases of "Creep" by Radiohead and "Miserable" by Lit. The former's radio edit has a 4 second drumstick count off, while the latter's radio edit adds the chorus between the first and second verse.
Editing for content
The radio edit version of Fuck You by Lily Allen uses humorous sound effects to replace the word 'Fuck'
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Radio edits often come with any necessary censorship done to conform to decency standards imposed by government agencies, such as the Federal Communications Commission in the United States, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in Canada, and Ofcom in the United Kingdom. The offending words may be silenced, reversed, distorted, or replaced by a tone or sound effect. The edits may come from the record label itself, broadcasters at the corporate level before the song is sent for airplay to their stations, or in rarer cases, at a radio station itself depending on local standards.
Occasionally, the song may be re-recorded with different lyrics, ranging from just the replacement of one line being re-recorded, like James Blunt's "You're Beautiful," which replaces "fucking high" with "flying high" in the second verse, to the entire song be completely changed, such as D12's "Purple Hills", which replaces profanity, drug references, and other inappropriate lyrics from the original "Purple Pills". Another example of the first type (one-line replacement) is The Black Eyed Peas song "Let's Get It Started", whose original title was "Let's Get Retarded" but was changed to make it suitable for radio play. Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls", in some radio edits, changed "You got me suicidal" to "in denial". The whole chorus of Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You" substituted the word "Fuck" with "Forget", thus changing the title to "Forget You" on the radio edit. Radio edits may have more words edited than the "clean version", because of the stations' or agencies' standards. An "amended" radio edit which only removes the major profanities while keeping the small profanities can be produced for some stations that allow small profanities (e.g. "You're Going Down" by Sick Puppies and "Bad Girlfriend" by Theory of a Deadman) whereas a "dirty" radio edit preserving the offensive language but maintaining the shorter play time may be produced, which may be aimed at club play, post-watershed radio, and non-terrestrial radio stations. Kid Rock wrote the term "radio edit" into two of his songs, both of which are the same on radio and album versions. After two million copies of Michael Jackson's "They Don't Care About Us" had already been shipped, the lyrics of the original track with the words "Jew me" and "Kike me" were replaced with "do me" and "strike me" due to its controversial anti-Semitic reference. Radio edit versions of the track remained with the original version until the edited version was pressed and released.
Other terms for a "radio edit"
- "Album edit" (Sometimes a different version from the 'radio edit')
- "F.M. Version"
- "LP edit"
- "Radio mix"
- "Radio version"
- "Single version" or "soundtrack version" (Typically used to reference singles taken from soundtracks, or lead singles from an album)
- "Single edit" (Shortened version of a single version typically)
- "Single mix"
- "Main version" (Can also be the album version but typical is the radio formatted version)
- "Main edit" (If the "main version" is the album version, "main edit" is typically the radio edit)
On occasions when songs have been completely re-worked or the instrumental arrangements have been changed slightly, the radio edit can be labeled in print with the remixer's name (e.g. Celine Dion's 2002 single of "I'm Alive", the radio version was referred to as the 'Humberto Gatica Radio Mix') rather than just "Radio Edit".
- Censorship of music
- Censorship on MTV
- List of "songs with questionable lyrics" following the September 11, 2001 attacks
- Loudness war
- Parental Advisory: Explicit Content
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