As a school teacher I am very conservative, I have to be. As a private citizen I am very open to ideas. That makes me think hard about various things such as lyrics in songs. What gets to me is the method of censorship. Mainly useless censorship. We censor the wrong things for the wrong reasons.
As a school teacher, I have to play channel one (pops) news It is some syndicated kids news show that plays during homeroom for students to watch. For some of them this is their only method of current events. The problem comes when they play a commercial, and their choice of top 40. The commercial bothers me for many reasons, but this isn’t about that. The problem is the music. Look at the list of the Sirius Hits Top 40 (lower right corner). Most of those songs don’t have the “7 dirty words,” but have very descriptive content. So while not cursing, your prurient interest is clearly raised. So while not saying anything bad, it is clearly not appropriate for children. Take Katy Perry’s album Teenage Dream. Only the songs that have expletives are considered explicit. Songs like Teenage Dream and Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F) while considered “clean,” are highly explicit. What about half the songs Ke$ha sings, or Rhianna. I’m not singling them out. Look at the top 40 list. I would put more than 50% as having some song that is considered not for underage children.
If you think that they don’t market these songs to these kids, look at the Kidz Bop line. The third song is Cee Lo’s Forget You. Granted it is the edited version, but they also have Ke$ha and Tik Tok. Do you really want your 3 year old “brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack.” Imagine your 3 year old listening to the radio when these songs come on. So while you may sing along in the car with them, but do you want your daughter singing these songs. Imagine your daughter singing these songs at church.
Another example is that Walmart, a family friendly store, sells only the “clean” versions of these albums. They sell the clean versions of the songs that have expletives in them. Again nobody looks at the content, as a whole.
I enjoy these songs every once in a while, but I am over 18, and consider myself not influenced by media as well as semi intelligent. My liberal side says, the majority of ratings comes from the 18-54 demographic. I want these songs to be written. It is the right of the AMERICAN songwriters to exercise their free speech, and I support that. My family owns a bunch of these songs, and I do listen to them. The problem is that they are not marketing to the 18-54 demographic, but to the tween and younger crowd.
On the other side, there are songs with actual expletives. Those songs are in fact edited. However the content, once again, is not being looked at. Take the song Good Life by OneRepublic. It is a great pop song. It however has one certain word that gets edited out, and it drives me crazy. There is no reason in the context of the song to edit it. I do understand that it is a “bad” word, but it disrupts the whole song. I rather not hear the song on the radio, or after 10pm unedited, than hear it edited. If I had a child, I still rather them listen to the unedited version. If there was a way to change the words, I may take that as a consolation. I understand that playing the songs brings in money, and that most artists are still starving artists, so changing the words makes sense. Cee Lo changed his song in the best way possible. So did D-12 in their song “Purple [Hills] Pills.”
It is easier to explain to my child(ren) that expletives are bad. South Park showed this idea the best. They showed that expletives are bad, and they do have uses in real life, but there is a reason people don’t want to hear them. I rather explain expletives than content. It is much easier to explain that you shouldn’t say certain words, than having to explain to your child what “getting it on” means.
The FCC automatically ban certain words. However they have a caveat that you are not allowed to say offensive content. The FCC unfortunately do not define offensive content. They just say, when in doubt don’t do it. That censorship becomes a problem. If Howard Stern does a bit (when on regular radio) that will be banned, but if a morning zoo did it, it would probably be approved. I would bet that if Howard Stern read the Teenage Dream lyrics vs Ryan Seacrest on his top 40 show, Howard Stern would get into trouble.
Where should we do?
Well I’m against censorship in general, so I rather no censorship at all. I would like to be able to choose an unedited station vs. an edited station. I would like marketing firms to stop marketing to children. I don’t want these songs played to a captive audience in my classroom. I don’t want to worry about young children listening to the radio when parents are not supervising them. I want to have a choice. I want to be able to have an edited or unedited station. I want the unedited stations to be unedited, while the edited stations to censor appropriately. There are enough upstanding citizens that can do this well. Have the FCC write concrete explanations of what is acceptable. These ideas are not revolutionary, they are common sense.