Censorship in Music When listening to the radio, most people come across a song that has been changed from its original version, whether certain words are beeped out, or a string of lyrics are replaced altogether. This is censorship, and it is very common on the radio. It is also very controversial. People don’t agree what should be censored or if anything should be censored at all. However, we believe that censorship is a good thing. Censorship allows offensive music to be altered so that it is not offensive anymore.
It also prevents younger children from being exposed to harsh and inappropriate content in a society where access to music is growing. The positives of censorship outweigh the negatives by far. What is Censorship? Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication that may be considered harmful or sensitive to people as determined by a government or the media. Censorship of music is when free access to musical works is banned. This censorship may come from a series of motivations such as moral, political, religious, or obscenity reasons.
Music censorship first began in the early 1940’s when rock and R&B began to challenge traditional values. “Sex and drugs were no longer hidden and secretive but something to be exposed and celebrated. ” (Gross 126) People thought that rock and R&B had corrupted the young minds of America. In 1955, the first 30 songs were banned, many of them by black artists. Then in the 1970’s not only music, but also music videos were also being banned. Heavy metal was targeted for expressing too much violence in the music. Music videos performed by black artists were also not aired on television.
The first music video by a black artist to appear on MTV was Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. (Baker 9) These efforts to censor black music and music videos were claimed as racism. Incidents involving black-oriented rap music have occurred more than white-oriented hard rock music. Then again, rap music may be censored more often because it contains more offensive material. “None of these music-related claims have been popularly accepted, largely due to the difficulty in providing tangible proof. ” (Epstein 67) If you were turn on the radio today you could definitely find a song that has been censored.
The media usually targets the profanity and obscenity in today’s pop songs, finding different techniques to censor the musician’s ideas and imagery in a song. A very common form of censorship is blanking. Blanking is basically when the music is muted for the swear word or bad phrase. Bleeping is very similar but instead of muting, it plays a noise like a ‘beep’ over the word. Since bleeping and blanking tend to make the song sound unappealing, radio broadcasters like to replace the word with a more appropriate choice.
For example, the original lyrics in Cole Porter’s song stated: “I get no kick from cocaine” and the cleaned up version was: “I get perfume from Spain. ” (Lombardi 1991) The new version completely changes the meaning of the original lyrics, which is a downside to censorship. Other forms of censorship of music is resampling, resigning, skipping, echo, distorting, repeating, or RoboVoicing. RoboVoicing is making the word non-understandable by overpowering a robotic voice effect. These forms can sometimes totally confound the purpose of the song, making it nonsense.
Incidents with Radio Censorship One example when a radio station had a problem with censorship occurred on May 17th 2001 in Portland, Oregon. The KBOO radio station was fined $7,000 because of the playing of Sarah Jones’ “Your Revolution”. The FCC, an organization designed to make sure appropriate things are aired on the radio, stated that the song contained profane sexual references that were meant to “pander and shock” also because it contained language about sexual organs, which is considered indecent speech. (“The FCC, Radio & Censorship”)
Another example, that received more attention than the Jones’ incident, was when in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a radio station aired Eminem’s, a well-known rapper/artist, “The Real Slim Shady”. “Ironically, “The Real Slim Shady” also includes anti-censorship message, pointing out what Eminem sees as double standards about what kinds of speech are considered acceptable in popular culture. ” This station was also issued a $7,000 fine. Even though it was an edited version of the song, and all curse words were bleeped out, the FCC was determined that it was an indecency. (“The FCC, Radio & Censorship”)
In Canada there was a similar case in 2011 that was with the song “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits, with the use of the word “faggot”. The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council (CBSC) banned the use of this word any more. This certain incident to most other broadcasters, and music critics seemed completely irrational. This was unreasonable because of the context of the word and the song aired twenty-five years earlier. There was a significant amount of disagreement with the decision of the CBSC, some stations chose to play the song over and over for an hour, and others just spoke out about it on their broadcasts.
Higher authority got involved soon after. The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), after receiving numerous complaints on the ruling of the CBSC, requested that the CBSC consider the specific context of the lyric. (“Radio Censorship”) Black and White Explicit Content Label The black and white explicit content label, also called the parental advisory label, was first implemented in 1985 by the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA). The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) wanted a way to label explicit content so it could be easily recognized by both children and adults (Cole 2010).
Usually radio stations will avoid playing music with the parental advisory label or will at least play the clean version. There is no set standard for music; instead, each record company can decide whether any given album requires a label. Most are labeled explicit if they have reference to profanity, sex, drugs or violence (Mika 2005). Since there is no set standard, some songs get it for using one swear word while another can swear throughout the song and not get labeled. For example, Aaron Carter’s self-titled album was labeled explicit even though he had a clean reputation at the time as well as clean music content.
Some albums by Green Day and Maroon 5 were released without a label even though most would agree it deserved one, because they were produced by small record companies. Positives of Censorship Censorship is advantageous in many ways. It avoids controversy over music content for starters. If something is censored on the radio, it is most likely to not upset those who would be offended by it. People have different ideas on what is appropriate, so what someone thinks is okay, another person may find inappropriate. Censoring gets rid of that issue altogether and avoids the controversy.
Censoring also prevents younger children from being exposed to inappropriate content. The radio is easily accessible. People can listen to it on the mp3 players, in their cars, on the internet, on cell phones, and in public places. If nothing was censored, parents could never be sure what their children were listening to. Parents usually want some censorship so that their children don’t learn to be disrespectful or begin swearing, drinking, smoking, etc. at an early age. Parents would like their children to be structured and under good influence which can be achieved through radio censorship. Peabody) Negatives of Censorship Although censorship is primarily good, censorship also has some disadvantageous effects. When music content is censored, it is edited. Depending on the way it’s edited, it can change the central idea of the song. For example, Nas, a well-known rapper who has multiple platinum records, was censored in his song Hip-Hop is Dead. The original lyrics “cuz we love to talk on a** we gettin’” were censored to “cuz we love to talk on nasty chickens”. This change the meaning from what the artist originally wanted to say, but it is more appropriate and less offensive.
Sometimes there is a phrase or multiple swear words in a row where it would be better to just change the phrase completely to a non-explicit one. Songwriters can argue that this changes the meaning of the song when their main lyrics get omitted. In a way, it limits artists’ creativity and freedom of speech. However, it is better to limit creativity than expose young ears and eyes to inappropriate content. What they hear and see could very well lead them into other inappropriate and dangerous things for people of young age.
Another negative component of censorship is that people’s opinions differ on what is appropriate. Younger people usually think profanity isn’t a big deal while older people are usually annoyed by it. This is because there is a difference in the values of the generations. Also, some just find vulgar language amusing and funny while others find it disgusting; this usually depends on a person’s personality and what they like. Since not everyone can agree, no one can define the extent at which music needs to be labeled explicit. This disagreement causes anger and annoyance between people.
Artists usually resent the idea of being labeled explicit because it limits their audience and therefore their popularity. Once again, most find that the positives of censorship outweigh the bad and decide to follow through with it, even if people disagree to the extent something should be censored. (Peabody) Forms of Censorship One of the largest forms of censorship is airplay censorship. We hear this kind of censorship on the radio on a daily basis. Airplay censorship consists of Artists’ lyrics being banned from being played on the radio.
An example of this would be when, in 1956, ABC radio refused to play Billie Holiday’s “Love for Sale” because the lyrics are about prostitution, but “Love For Sale” would be on the radio again. ABC also made Cole Porter change the lyric of “I Get A Kick Out Of You”, which was a hit for Frank Sinatra. Porter’s original stated “I get no kick from cocaine”. The cleaned-up version was “I get perfume from Spain. ” (Plummer 2010) BBC radio is a public broadcaster, so almost all of the time they cannot play songs that include product placement.
Ray Davies of the British rock band The Kinks was forced to travel back to the United Kingdom during an American tour in order to change references from Coca-Cola to “cherry cola” from their hit song “Lola in order to allow it to be given airplay in the country. (“Banning songs” 2007 ) Another form of censorship is censorship due to copyright infringement which indicates that sampling material without the permission from the original material’s copyright owner is illegal in the U. S. An additional form of censorship would include political censorship.
Not common in most democratic countries, but autocratic governments usually censor music considered negative towards the government, the military, stores, TV stations, or other authorities. Rapper Eminem released “Mosh”, with its accompanying video on October 24, 2004, to encourage young people to vote to defeat George W. Bush. While the song is a generalized attack on the Bush presidency, most of the specific complaints are related to the Iraq War. “Let us beg to differ As we set aside our differences And assemble our own army To disarm this Weapon of Mass Destruction That we call our President, for the present
And Mosh for the future of our next generation To speak and be heard. ”(Lamb. ) Another category of radio censorship would be Religious censorship. A recent example is Lady Gaga’s song “Judas” (from her album Born This Way) which was banned in Lebanon in April 2011 for being “offensive to Christianity”, according to the Daily Star, a Lebanese newspaper. (“Lady Gaga gets” 2011) In addition to censorship of album artwork, which is self-explanatory, there is one more type of censorship, self-censorship. Some record labels, or artists choose to censor themselves to avoid negative publicity, or the parent advisory label.
One example of this would be the release and subsequent advertising of Michael Jackson’s greatest hits album was delayed until after his 2005 trial. How People Feel About Censorship Most people believe that the censorship of music is wrong. Artists use their lyrics to capture their emotion The lyrics, in so many ways, explain what the music can not. The music is used as an atmosphere for the message that is expressed by the lyrics. Many people believe that it is directly the Federal Government’s fault. Other people believe that it is the doing of religious groups, radio stations, or other non-government. Censorship Wikipedia. ) Artists and other anti-music censorship advocates have ridiculed the “stickering” bill for years. Mainly because the artists feel that their first amendment right to freedom of speech is being restricted. Many small printing companies have put out T-shirts, bumper stickers and posters, mocking the “Parental Advisory” warning that is seen on most records. The rapper Ice-T, has put out an album entitled “The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech. ” It also displays a humorous warning. “Parents strongly cautioned… Some material may be X-tra hype and inappropriate for squares and suckers. These criticisms make light of the government’s continued actions towards the censorship of music. Musicians hope to show how the government is being excessive with these bills that censor their music (Jagen 1990). “Stickering” is a good idea for a guide, but an album shouldn’t be illegal when being sold to a minor. Music is an art form, and restrictions on who should be allowed to appreciate it are ridiculous and asinine (Hagen 1990). Most problems with those who are out to censor music, is that they take the artist’s work out of context and construed the true meaning to fit their accusations.
Parents, politicians, and the media use music as a scapegoat to blame the problems of society’s actions upon. The media attacked AC/DC when a serial killer left his baseball cap bearing the emblem of the band at one of his crime scenes. Reports were then circulated that AC/DC’s music had satanic messages that drove him to kill. All accusations were found to be false, but the media did not care nor did they apologize for their slanderous actions. The press makes easy prey out of the musicians. Not caring if they ruin the artist’s reputations at all. (Plummer, 2010. Works Cited Baker, Susan, and Tipper Gore. “Record Industry Misunderstands PMRC. ” Billboard Magazine Vol. 101, February 11, 1989: p. 9 “Banning songs not a rare occurrence for the BBC. ” nzherald. co. nz. N. p. , 19 Dec. 2007. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. <http://www. nzherald. co. nz/radio-industry/news/article. cfm? c_id=295&objectid=10483279&ref=rss>. “Censorship. ” Wikepedia. N. p. , 18 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. <http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Censorship>. Cole, Tom. “You ask, We Answer: ‘Parental Advisory Labels-The Criteria and the