Sex, Violence, Cursing: Explicit Lyrics Stickers Get Explicit

By | June 5, 2002 at 12:00 AM

Ever since “explicit lyrics” warning stickers were introduced in 1985, artists have been only too happy to have their albums labeled, figuring kids who want graphic material will see the sticker as incentive to buy the disc.

Following that reasoning, surely they’ll welcome the latest move from the BMG Music Group, which is getting explicit with the explicit lyrics stickers.

Starting July 31, discs on the group’s BMG, RCA, J and Arista imprints will, when necessary, include “parental advisory” stickers updated with additional warnings about strong language, violent content or sexual content.

The first disc to contain the new labels will be Lady May’s May Day, which comes out July 31 on Arista and will include warnings of strong language and sexual content.

In addition to upcoming releases, previously issued albums will be affixed with updated advisories when new pressings are made, a BMG spokesman said.

Pressured by lawmakers’ condemnation of sex and violence in the media, BMG had been engaged in internal discussions regarding warning label updates for some time. Two years ago, then-BMG Entertainment President Strauss Zelnick encouraged additional industry policing of its products in order to provide parents more information about the music their kids are listening to.

The company’s chairman and CEO, Rolf Schmidt-Holz, announced BMG’s expanded parental advisory policy on Monday (June 3) and emphasized that the move will be beneficial both to artists under fire for creating explicit music and to consumers.

“BMG recognizes our dual responsibility to help parents make informed decisions about the entertainment their children consume and to protect the right of our artists to express themselves freely,” he said in a statement. “Our labeling initiative will offer parents additional tools to help them decide what is appropriate for them and their families.”

Spokespeople at Warner Music Group and Sony Music Group have said they’re satisfied with the current parental advisory labels. Spokespeople at EMI Music Group and Universal Music Group were not available for comment.

A source at the Recording Industry Association of America, which drafted the original warning label system, said the organization wants to preserve the existing program. RIAA President Hilary Rosen has asserted that lyrics are open to interpretation, and what one person views as sexual or violent might mean something completely different to someone else.

The battle for record labeling began in 1984 when a group called the Parents Music Resource Center, headed by Tipper Gore, wife of former Vice President Al Gore, expressed outrage at explicit content on albums by artists like Twisted Sister, 2 Live Crew and Frank Zappa. At the conclusion of heated Senate hearings on the issue, the RIAA adopted the current “parental advisory” label.

In recent years, Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne Cheney, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) and others have re-administered explicit-content thumbscrews, citing acts like Eminem and Cannibal Corpse as heinous corrupters of today’s youth.

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