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Monday, 27 May, 2002, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Spotlight on explicit lyrics warning
Eminem is known for courting controversy

The Eminem Show, the latest profanity-laced album from US rapper Eminem, has gone on sale with the now familiar parental warning label signalling the CD's explicit content.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) recently launched a new campaign to improve awareness among parents, educators and music consumers about its Parental Advisory programme.

Over the past six months the campaign has been stepped up through the use of public service announcements, fronted by the music legend Quincy Jones, on American TV and radio.

Eminem was sentenced for carrying a concealed weapon
In addition, a special website has been established and a brochure distributed to explain to parents and caregivers how the advisory label is designed to protect innocent ears from obscene and explicit content.

The label signals that a CD may contain strong language or depictions of violence, sex or substance abuse, and that parental discretion is advised.

The RIAA says the voluntary scheme, established in 1985, is a success and that it is being embraced by more and more record labels and artists.

"You measure success by parents' familiarity with it," said the RIAA's west coast manager, Joel Flatow.

"That familiarity is very high. In spot-checking recently of over 200 stores and albums 100 per cent of albums had the logo in permanent and consistent place," he explained.

Earth, Wind and Fire
Philip Bailey [2nd from L, front row] says the warning could boost sales
However, it is debatable whether the presence of the stickers has any real influence in stopping children hearing unsuitable lyrics.

US rapper, Ja Rule, is a supporter of the system.

"That's what we can do as musicians to try to deter the kids from getting that lyrical content," he said. "There's really nothing else we can do - we put that sticker on there and tell the parents be aware."

However, he added: "I don't think it deters the kids - it's just another sticker on the tape right now."

Rising R&B star Ashanti took a less cynical view, saying: "People pay attention.

"When a mother is going to take her child to the record store and you have one that says parental guidance and one that doesn't - obviously they're going to try to get the one for their kid that does not say it.

Joel Flatlow
Joel Flatlow: "Parents need to be involved" in children's music buying
"So the clean version is heard and not the explicit," the singer explained.

She added that contemporary music and its influence on young people has always been "a lightening rod to guardians of public morality".

"From Elvis Presley and the Beatles to Ozzie Osbourne and shock-rocker Marilyn Manson, the lyrical content of songs has been subjected to constant scrutiny," she said.

But through the decades the attitudes of young people seem to remain constant.

US rapper, Lil Bow Wow, 15, reflects the views of many people his own age.

Dusty Smith and her children
Dusty Smith says the label is useful when buying music for her children
"I've got to tell you the truth," he said. "The whole sticker thing - it doesn't really matter because teenage kids they listen to it anyway and I know and listen to it.

"They like music like that - I know, I like music like that."

Despite the scepticism of some artists, the Parental Advisory programme has strong support from the record companies and retail outlets.

"Many stores have their own internal policies that they won't sell stickered products to consumers who are under 18," explained the RIAA's Mr Flatow.

However, he acknowledged that not every shop is geared up closely to monitor the system.


Veteran performer, Philip Bailey, lead singer with Earth Wind and Fire, added: "For the most part it might even sell more records in some areas - all you've got to do is tell somebody this is a no-no and then that's what they want to go see."

Anecdotal evidence on the streets appears to support the view that the labels have little impact on teenagers with a free reign buy their own CDs.

However, Dusty Smith, a mother from Los Angeles, said the warning system is a useful tool for parents who bother to monitor what their children are buying.

"I think that if you are really involved in what your kids do and you talk to them and you keep an open line of communication I think that it'll work," she said.


Her children are not old enough to go shopping on their own, but she recognises that older teenagers are likely to be swayed by the presence of a sticker.

"I think it's like a status symbol to buy the CD because it has a warning on it," she explained.

Mr Flatow agreed that "kids are sophisticated in their choices".

But he added that he did not think it was just about the label.

"Parents need to be involved in these sorts of choices," he added.





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