Censorship in Music? (12th June 2015)
I haven't written a blog for a few weeks now but came across a bit of a quandary while transcribing a popular song for a children's ukulele group which has made me want to write.
I was transcribing the Bruno Mars song "The Lazy Song" for two of my children's groups and had to change the lyrics which are less than wholesome shall we say. Certainly not suitable for children ages 6 to 8 years old. The sad thing is that I remember going to a children's party at a play centre in Barnsley a couple of years ago where all the children were lined up and skipped into the party area to this song. They sang along to the genius hook chorus part beautifully and thankfully didn't know the words for the rest of the verses. Most parents were either blissfully unaware of the rest of the words or had turned a blind eye. A couple of weeks later at another children's party, I remembered raising my eyebrows at a DJ's song choice while my wife was nodding her head happily at the song she hadn't heard before saying that it was really catchy. I said that I couldn't believe that the song had even managed to get onto radio 2's playlist. I was initially laughed at and the humiliation made me feel rather stiff - ooh er - I made that somewhat unfunny and childish double entendre to show I'm not prudish in the slightest, just a concerned parent.When the rest of the world awoke to realise what the lyrics were about, the song which turned out to be "blurred lines" was banned on certain university campuses and given a 7:30 watershed on BBC radio / tv.
I felt like the only person in the country who actually listens to the words.
Both songs are absolute genius at the way they pull you in and would stand perfectly well without x-rated content. Pop song writing at its very best. It is just a shame that by the very definition of pop song, writers no longer feel the need to be aware of audiences of all age groups. These two songs are not by a long way the only examples of inappropriate lyrics. On any given day on any mainstream radio station you will hear examples of totally unsuitable lyrics on songs aimed at young audiences.
You may be surprised to learn that I do not necessarily blame the artists themselves for writing these words. I feel that they are after all just plying their trade in an ultra competitive and lucrative environment and will tweak their product to give it what it needs to sell as many units as possible. If that includes appearing naked in the video on a demolition ball á la Miley Cyrus then that is what these people will do.
I feel that the real fault lies with censorship teams which to me appear to have been either unaware of what the words actually mean or worse, have been bribed to allow this material through. If unsuitable videos and songs couldn't get through censorship processes, most artists would not make them. I said most but certainly not all.
My brother-in-law recalled days of buying punk albums by bands like the sex pistols and the dead Kennedys purely to raise eyebrows in his parents' old fashioned household. He would turn his old record player up full blast and loved to watch his mum's shocked reaction,to such happily titled songs as "Holiday in Cambodia" and "Frigging in the Rigging". She was probably having exactly the same dilemma I am now.The best bit is that he didn't even like many of the songs he subjected her to. He was a breakdancing addict who also loved artists as diverse as kraftwerk and George Benson!
The final bits of this blog relate to my role as a parent and the fine line that I tread between being overly liberal and overprotective.
I have long been a fan of the American musician Ben Folds. A wonderfully funny, observant writer who plays great piano. My eight-year-old son is a keen piano player who I would love to introduce to Ben Folds' music. I've tried, but I have to skip most of the best tracks for fear of awakening sensibilities I am just not ready to deal with yet.
The same goes for the brilliantly talented Australian comedian Tim Minchin. All of his best showy piano songs are absolute filth. It seems that the virtuosity of the piano part in each song is directly proportional to the rudeness of the lyric. It would be plain irresponsible to subject my boy to Tim Minchin at his tender age. Maybe I'll just have to be patient and wait until he grows up.
I am totally aware that this is not a modern problem. TV channels weren't allowed to show Elvis Presley from the waist down. A little further back in time Socrates was charged with corruption of the youth of Greece.
I would be interested to know how other people feel about this and whether you feel I've become an old stick in the mud.