Monday, October 22, 2007

Explicit Means Never Having to Ask, "What the &$%#@?"

I'm hip. Okay: I am a hipster doofus.

Be that as it may, I don't get shocked by strong language.

If anything, I think it can be used very effectively under the best circumstances. A couple of years ago, I took twice as long to recover from a fall that occurred in front of a 2-year-old because I couldn't say the only word that would make it all better. (Had she not been there, I'd have cursed a blue streak and probably wouldn't have had to go to the doctor because my knee wouldn't have felt as shattered after that much swearing.)

I've never been a big swearer, though I was ridiculous as a teen. Once, I tried writing an emotional story in which the strongest language the grief-stricken characters could use was, "Shoot!" As that sentence came out of my pen, I knew I wasn't ready to write that story, or any story that required realistic language.

Can one write without using swear words? In some contexts, yes. In fact, using foul language in some circumstances shows a lack of creativity. In other circumstances, there are no other words. The true test of a good writer is to know the difference.

This being said, I'm not opposed to purchasing albums with "explicit" lyrics. I'm a fan of Uncle Kracker, and one of his "explicit" albums has a single song on it with some pretty strong language. I just skip that song if I'm in the office or if I don't want another audience member to hear it. (I don't want to be on this planet when Conor tells his mom he learned that word from Aunt Kwis!)

Fergie, on the other hand, has songs so laced with profanity it's impossible to listen to them without blushing. I didn't understand why Yahoo! Video had what was titled the "Oh Snap!" version of "London Bridges" until I heard the other version. I almost got why the other word (replace "nap" with "hit") was there. It was the exclamation at the end that was totally unnecessary: the word popularly referred to as the F-bomb coupled with the term for female dogs.

killed the song for me. I couldn't comfortably play the song for Nikki, David's 17-year-old daughter, or my 15-year-old friend Corinne. "Honey, it's okay for men to dismiss confident women with profanity and disrespect. Here, let's listen to it together." Yep, that would play.

The other popular songs had a little profanity in them, but nothing that was distressing — wait, there's that phrase she tossed out in "Glamorous" that I don't like. And what's the line in "Fergalicious" that always makes me wince?

So, I did something I never had done before: I purchased the "clean" versions of a couple of Fergie songs from iTunes. At first I told myself it was so I could listen to the album comfortably in mixed company. Then I realized the truth: I myself could do without the gratuitous language.

Now, when an album is labeled explicit, I am going to have to think long and hard about whether I want to listen to it. I respect an artist's freedom of expression, but I don't have to listen to it if I find its value more gratuitous than appropriate.

If I have to ask, "How explicit?" I'd better step away from the CD rack — 'cause if you have to ask, you shouldn't be buying it.

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