Banned Song Lyrics

–Steve Wright

It occurred to me one day as I mulled over the lamentable state of above-ground pop music that the best way to effect positive change would be through a series of minute steps mandated by specific and draconian FCC regulation. And since I have a relative who works at the FCC, I figured I’d have a slightly better chance of working this out than most of you plebes (right Uncle Chris?). So upon receiving this revelation, I immediately flushed and drew up a plan for how to best understand today’s musical problems and the current regulations and legal precedents that address them. The resulting research, interviews, and legal advice I gathered this summer have coalesced into a specific set of guidelines that will spell out for pop music artists, producers, and managers what is and is not lawful under the proposed Crappy Music Eradication Initiative (CMEI).

Song lyrics are the best place to start, as they receive the most listener attention and require less musical knowledge and understanding than say arrangements or production values. Moreover, the FCC already has experience in regulating what is said in mass produced electronic media and in prosecuting those who offend. As you will see, the standard this proposed regulation would establish is more concerned with poetics than decency; language that plies cliché, sentimentality, and stagnation is deemed offensive rather than language that is lewd or lascivious (though such language, if clichéd or played-out, certainly would fall within the boundaries of Article One). This first article lists words to be banned from use in the lyrics of popular music, be these recorded, performed, or written down. The intended simplicity of this regulation is designed for ease of enforcement and prosecution. Appeals by those using these words lyrically may be heard if the use is judged to be ironic, sarcastic, or otherwise fresh and/or subversive. Finally, please note that some clichéd words (ie., “love” or “baby”) are not banned as they have been used well in certain instances. All banned words have never successfully been employed in lyrical form.

Reproduced below for your consideration is an excerpt from Article One of The Crappy Music Eradication Initiative:

“…The following words shall not be included in any recorded, performed, or written incarnation of any song lyric found within the territory of the United States of America. Such a word found to so exist by a jury will result in the applicable punishment.


Overly proscriptive spiritual or emotional instruction delivered at this stage in mass media is at best redundant (as such products are already focus-grouped in every note and wink to tug heartsleeves), middles in tropes of teen sentiment that were stale when delivered by Little Peggy March, and at its worst wallows in today’s fetid combination of self-help psychobabble and emo-grade tantrum. A brief selection of recent offenders best conveys the depth of today’s atrocities: Cher, Korn, Nickelback, Yellowcard, ‘N Sync, Jon Secada, Boyzone. Felons convicted on this count will be sentenced to re-enact the most masochistic moment of their particular religious cultural background.


For centuries Afro-American cultural expression has reliably produced the freshest linguistic innovations in the English language (and beyond). However, the supremacy of this particular dart and its attending topical focus has shut down 20 years of the once-radical form known as rap and threatens to ensconce a 21st century minstrelry at the heart of today’s youth culture. Depending on offending lyrical content, perpetrators must drink three gallons of either Cristal or Hennessy each morning until they are medically determined to be unable to get a freak on ever again.


Freud began the dilution of this concept in the public imagination, though its current douche-like application to emotions more easily described by a series of “la, la, la”s could not have been envisioned by even the most saturnine of critics. A violator of this section of Article One will have her cable turned off and magazine subscriptions cancelled.


The visible universe is full of many substances possessing reflective surfaces, but to deduce that these same objects possess an empathy for the viewer does not necessarily follow (though Quantum Theory does suggest that these objects are effected by said observation). A person convicted of this particular crime must hold a large boombox over his head in the wee hours of the morning and blast the offending song until overtaken by fatigue.


Words are occasionally employed in certain lyrics merely as rhythmic place-holders. Lyrics employing this particular term are to the popular music canon as Party of Five episodes are to the greatest films ever made: worthless and deserving of slaps (the number of slaps being commeasurate to the relative hotness of the star in question). An “artist” this lazy will not be woken up for his or her next Mountain Dew cross-promo.


Contrary to the beliefs of its initiates, indie rock is no longer less susceptible to moronic choruses than metal or prog or whathaveyou. In an incessant and doomed insistence on ignoring the innovations of punk rock, the indie-type employs uberliteral bon mots such as “fisticuffs” at his own immediate peril. Any offense of this nature is likely to cause swift and significant vigilante-style retribution that will preclude and far outweigh any possible legal punishment.


The “eee” sound is one of the most infantile sounds in any language. Combined with the 98% chance of this term being coupled with “crazy”, the likelihood of a severe and violent nausia overtaking the listener is great enough to require that certain protections and compensations be provided by government. Compensation for this crime shall be no less than 2.5 million US dollars. “Hazy” employed without “crazy” forgoes financial compensation, but instead requires that the felon read Wuthering Heights in its entirety.

Jesus Christ

While said religious icon was more in vogue during the grunge years than now (Soundgarden, Toadies, etc.), steadily-increasing retrometric activity suggests a full blown ‘90s revival is right around the corner and thus a preemptive ban on this lyric would help to ease the upcoming plague. Future legislation in the Stage Antics Amendment will also restrict the “throw-out-your-arms & hang-your-head” move that is often made in conjunction with such lyrics by offending performers on video soundstages and in pavilion settings (attn.: Mr. Stipe, Creed-dude). Conviction on this count will lead to the removal of the following items from the subject’s person: crown of thorns, cross, “Christ-sized shoes”, hot air.


Incorrect application of title aside, if the evidence for the term in question includes the lyrics of Fabolous (“I need the cash in my palm, the ice in my charm – ma be easy (Watch it, please) / wanna lean to the side…”) and Joe Budden (“The way you do your thing, I can`t forget it / Got me screamin, “Ma ma-ma ma, ma ma ma ma”…”), one already understands that some brick-handed, suavisticated sexx talk is in question, and that a comprehensive examination of the ways in which this term becomes a poetic loogie would result in far more written pages than the publishers of federal legislation are prepared for. Offenders will be forced to watch their biological birth-mothers model lingere for their homiez.


The Homosexual Gangsterman Principal has always held that if David Yow cannot successfully employ a certain word in lyrical form, then it is indisputably impossible for lesser artists to do so either (Better Than Ezra, Thursday, Shakespeare, et. al.). The Crappy Music Eradication Initiative recognizes and abides by this principal. Those found to violate this rule as it relates to “porcelain” will be charged with 20 hours of community service, to be met through the performance of “tight & shiny” for local community groups.


Stars imagery has tripped up many an artist, from those with obvious special needs (Switchfoot, 311 ) to the recently-lauded (Wilco, Modest Mouse). Indeed, it is likely that anyone who has taken a 9th grade English class in the United States would have difficulty not duffing up this theme, since as a student he or she undoubtedly spent many a Thursday night copying Cliff Notes analyses of “stars imagery” into their book reports and thus holds dehabilitative associations with “stars”. One found to use such imagery in songwriting (consciously or unconsciously) must sign a writ mandating that each subsequent offense forfeits a digit of his or her writing hand.


Unarguably the most overused adjective of the past two years, this sentiment is as facile and fluffy as “blue” or “groovey” was for its respective milieu, but with the added pubescent schmegma of Ashley trying to sound like Emily Dickinson in Taylor’s high school yearbook. The list of artists who’ve recently come undone is simply staggering: Mudvayne, Lighthouse, Tori Amos, Staind, Lit, Robbie Williams, Switchfoot, Carrie Underwood, Five for Fighting… Apparently an emotional disorder of epic proportions is running rampant amongst America’s top mediocre artists. Yet sometimes the way out of a depression is to follow it all the way to it’s lowest depths. In the spirit of this kind of reflection, the experts who have informed this legislation recommend that such artists take some personal time to actually LISTEN to their music, at home, by themselves, with headphones. There can be no greater punishment – and no stronger motivation to reform – than this…”

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