How goddamn long has this been going on? I admit, I don't listen to much commercial radio anymore – partly because of crap like this and mostly because I simply can't take seriously an industry that calls the Goo Goo Dolls “alternative” music.
That, however, is for another post. This time out, I simply want to know how long stuff like this has been happening:
The words “crystal meth” got censored in a song about drug addiction.
I'm out of town, staying at a Hampton Inn in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The clock-radio went off this morning, and I was treated to your typical white bread, harmless, meaningless, “let's talk for 5 hours about Britney, Christina and Brangelina” morning show. The station was 92.9 FM “the Peak”, and the morning show is “The Peak Morning Show with Jim Berry and Tammy Oakland”. Blah.
Well, I was only subjected to the snappy patter for a couple of minutes when Third Eye Blind's “Semi-Charmed Life” came on. Damn if that's not a tune that really fits the station – musically, at least. I have to wonder if anyone in management at that station understands that lyrically, it's a song about crystal meth addiction. Here is a short sample of the lyrics:
The sky it was gold, it was rose,
I was taking sips of it through my nose,
And I wish I could get back there,
Some place back there,
Smiling in the pictures you would take,
Doing crystal meth,
Will lift you up until you break,
It won't stop,
I won't come down, I keep stock,
With a tick tock rhythm and a bump for the drop,
And then I bumped up. I took the hit I was given,
Then I bumped again,
And then I bumped again.
Is there any question at all that this verse is about drugs? Now, there's pretty much only two ways you can take a song about drugs. It's either pro-drugs or it's anti-drugs. If the management at “The Peak” knows it's a song about drug addiction, you have to wonder which direction they think it faces. They censored the words “crystal meth” from the above verse. Why? Do they think maybe that the song is pro-drugs (and in particular, pro-crystal meth)? If they do, what the hell are they doing playing the song to begin with? Do they think that it's anti-drugs (which it is, read the rest of the lyrics)? In that case, why bother audio-blurring “crystal meth”? If the song takes a stance on addiction, wouldn't saying the name of the drug serve to educate people in that regard?
No, I have a feeling it's far more fucking dumb than either of those theories. I think it's more like this – management at “The Peak” doesn't have anything to do with the decision to modify the song. The corporate types at Citidel Broadcasting (parent company of “The Peak” and over 220 other stations) decided that any overt reference to a drug – i.e. actually naming it – would be a liability risk. It basically goes down like this: someone hears a song on the radio, hears the words “crystal meth”, and then when her son puts a shotgun to his head while high on ‘meth, she gets to sue the radio station for making him kill himself.
The only other option is that someone at either the station or the parent company is trying to protect impressionable listeners by not naming the drug, for fear that the listener will immediately go out and try it – and that is even more messed up than my prevailing theory.
Look, I'm not so naive that I think radio stations should be able to play whatever whey want whenever they want and standards-be-damned. There is little place on public radio for songs whose only reason for existence is to put every profanity, sexual innuendo, and violent thought into tangible form. There should be lines drawn – but it never ceases to amaze me how arbitrary the lines always are and how inconsistently they are applied. Turn to a classic rock station and you'll hear “who the fuck are you” (from “Who Are You” by the Who), “Don't give me that do goody good bullshit” (from “Money” by Pink Floyd), and “shit I gotta have her” (from “Legs” by ZZ Top) to name a few. Those pass, but saying “crystal meth” on the radio isn't allowed. Stunningly brilliant.
Like I said, I don't listen to much commercial radio anymore, so maybe this is old news to people. Screw it – it's news to me, so this gets a firm “they gotta be goddamn kidding” in my book.