Dozens of radio stations have pulled Ke$ha’s “Die Young” after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut – for reasons of “sensitivity,” says a source close to the Cumulus Media chain, which owns 525 stations, including Q100 in Atlanta and WDVD in Detroit. “Ultimately, ‘Die Young’ has, content-wise, nothing to do with what happened,” adds Steve Jones, vice president of programming for Newcap Radio, a Canadian chain with 82 stations, which removed the song last weekend and will allow its programmers to consider playing it again this Friday. “But a lot of us went, ‘That doesn’t feel right, to be even saying the words “Die Young” right now on the radio.'”
Ke$ha’s reps at the RCA Music Group wouldn’t comment, but the singer tweeted an apology Tuesday night, acknowledging “why my song is now inappropriate,” adding, “I’m so so so sorry for anyone who has been effected by this tragedy.” She also declared, more cryptically: “I had my very own issue with ‘die young’ for this reason. I did NOT want to sing those lyrics and I was FORCED TO.”
Newcap’s stations also pulled Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks,” Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun,” the Offspring’s “Come Out and Play” and other songs with violent or gun-related content. “It’s a fine line between reacting appropriately and grossly overreacting,” Jones says. “In a few days, ‘Die Young’ will be remembered as a goofy song about young people having fun, as opposed to a moment chronicling this tragedy.”
Other stations pulling “Die Young” and “Pumped Up Kicks,” according to reports, include WODS in Boston and WDAQ in Danbury, Connecticut, which replaced it with Eric Clapton’s “Tears In Heaven” and Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Reps for two of the biggest U.S. radio chains, Clear Channel and CBS, didn’t respond to interview requests.
Numerous online news outlets Tuesday picked up a TMZ report that the song’s radio spins “plummeted” by tens of millions of listeners – which in turn prompted Ke$ha’s tweets. However, several sources in the radio and record industries say those statistics are inaccurate and that the single was already at the end of its radio cycle before the tragedy in Connecticut. In addition, we’re well into the time of year when radio begins to replace pop hits with Christmas music – a phenomenon that may be even more prevalent during a time when listeners want to be soothed amid troubling news.
All that said, “Die Young” clearly did lose airplay over the past week. It had more than 9,000 spins during each of the first two weekends of December, according to Nielsen BDS, but dropped to 6,769 spins last weekend. It also fell from Number One to Number Two on Billboard‘s pop songs chart. “Because the song had already been Number One, and the label is already promoting a follow-up, it’s not a hard decision for everybody to just move on,” says a source in the radio business.