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Friday, May 23, 2003

Radio Ga-Ga

I feel a certain degree of guilt about the following confession:

I like radio edit versions of many pop songs better than the uncensored versions.

I know, heresy. Blasphemy. I must be a prude, a bluenose, a blowhard.

Why don’t I care for obscenity in pop music lyrics?

For me, it takes all the fun out of it.

Fitting art within boundaries can be an exercise in creativity as easily as it can be stifling.
Watching an artist walk a delicate tightrope of acceptability is much more interesting to me than someone doing something purely to outrage.

Why? When you’re outraged, you’re usually not thinking. You react at a lower level. If all you feel is shock, you’ll either miss the bigger picture or the fact that there is no bigger picture at all to see.

It was fun finding out what all those Steely Dan songs my parents used to listen to were really about as I reached maturity. (Especially since they didn’t generally know what they were about either.) There is something beautifully subversive about hearing a song about dirty old men who show porno movies to teenagers in a shopping mall, or a song about an inventive dope dealer on the lam from the law, in Muzak form.

On another level, the way Stephen Tyler (Aerosmith) let loose sexual innuendo in the form of metaphor was vicariously thrilling. Even a song that leaves a little less to the imagination, like Prince’s “Darling Nikki,” left at least some gray areas exist as you wonder just what the narrator and Nikki were doing the night.

Now all anyone has to do is come at and say it in the most explicit form possible. F--- this! F--- that! She’s a c--- b----h!

Dropping an F-bomb (or whatever) here or there can be an effective strategy to highlight a turn of phrase, to emphasize a point. But a series of them will deny them their proper, in much the same fashion that highlighting every word on a page is pointless. (Yes, I'm aware that there are Steely Dan, Aerosmith, and Prince songs with F-bombs in them.)

The first time I heard a 2 Live Crew song, it was somewhat amusing – there has always been a certain cachet in something that so infuriates one’s parents, or the government in general. But now? It’s insufferably boring to me.



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