A fairytale of two words in New York

Our CTO Derry discusses the challenges of properly reworking Fairytale of New York, so no more beeps, blanks or Ronan Keating & Bon Jovi versions on the radio

“It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid”, as the song says. Except for the fact that every December, the spectre of the Fairy tale of New York controversy rears its head again. The song contains lyrics which are considered by many people to be offensive, but at the time of its release, as Calvin Harris put it, “It was acceptable in the 80s, it was acceptable at the time”.

So, if you like the song, apart from the offensive lyrics, what are you to do?

You could listen to one of the many sanitised cover versions with the offending lyrics excised, but do you really want to listen to the new Bon Jovi version, or heaven forbid Ronan Keating’s?

You can go the well-worn ducking and beeping route as practiced by many radio stations or replace some of the offending words using the alternate “cheap and haggard” line used by Kirsty McColl when the song was performed on Top of the Pops, as the BBC have done this year.

At AudioSourceRE, we felt that as we had the ability to separate out the offending vocals from the original track, we decided to see if we could come up with a solution that was less intrusive than these while staying true to the original version.

Step 1 involved the matter of digging out our cd copy of “If I should fall from the grace of god” and ripping a digital copy of Fairy Tale.

Secondly, and even easier than finding the cd, we passed the song through our state-of-the-art vocal separator in DeMIX Pro (you can also use Essentials) and had a listen to the results. Shane McGowan sounds a much better singer than you would expect in acapella – It is worth a listen for Pogues fans.

The hard part, Step 3 involved deciding what to do with the offending parts of the song. We made the decision simply remove the f fricative and replace it with the m consonant from the earlier maggot.  Thankfully, the pitch of the “aggot” parts are the same, so with some editing and time-stretching, we were able to make the m consonant fit better the second time around. We think that we got a reasonable fit that is not too jarring and that many people will not even notice if they are not paying attention.

Rather than duck the second offending word, using DeMIX again we grabbed the word queen from earlier in the song and edited and time stretched it to make it fit in place.

We think it is far more unobtrusive approach than just ducking the offending words. It just goes to show what is possible with the latest AI separation technology.

Have a listen and let us know what you think of our attempt to save “Fairy tale of New York” in time for Christmas!