Once upon a time there were grownups in the music business. They were around to insist that artists meet standards and to step in when they went too far. Artists, by definition, don't have limits. Many also don't have taste or restraint, nor do they care about such things. Which is why there were record producers some years ago. They were there to set standards and draw the line. [Pictured: One of the great grownups, Atlantic's Ahmet Ertegun]
So it was somewhat distressing last week to read in The New York Times that three of the Top 10 hits on the pop music chart have choruses that drop the F-bomb. These songs are here, here and here (I'm a big believer in actually listening to what you don't like first before trashing it). [Pictured: Pink]
What's unfortunate is that the songs themselves are quite good, as contemporary pop goes. They're passionate, catchy and soulful. Sadly, someone decided that adding the F-word would be a sign of brassy emotion and a badge of creative honor. The adults clearly weren't around—and haven't been for some time.
Which begs the question: Does our culture really need to drop this low to be creative and engaging? Mind you, I'm not a prude. But I do trade in sentences, and words to me are important. There are so many of them, giving us plenty of choices when expressing ourselves. When we make an effort to think, at least.
This problem is more widespread than a lack of supervision in the music industry. When I'm on line at the airport or an eatery, I often hear young adults using four-letter words casually and loudly, as though applying them publicly is perfectly acceptable. Not to me. No one likes to wear, smell or eat garbage. I have the same reaction to hearing foul language used for emphasis in everyday conversaion.
I'm not sure where rudeness began in rock. My own personal theory is that rudeness and music began with the Beatles' first press conference at Kennedy Airport in February 1964, when nearly all questions were answered with flip, snotty remarks. Before then, rock and rollers were actually quite polite. Or perhaps it all begins with the last line of West Side Story's Officer Krupke.
Four-letter words in conversation and song offend me—not because I'm uptight but because they are senseless and bereft of creative thinking. They also are lazy and have little meaning or flavor. Adults on lines and in the music business used to know better.