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Music industry responds to terrorism

By Jeremy Dutton and William Puchert
Zephyr Staff
Posted on October 10, 2001

Cold has rereleased its single "Bleed" under the new name "Thirteen in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The music industry is still reeling from the September 11 attacks on America, encouraging artists and their labels to reconsider some themes in songs and lyrics.

With a heightened sensitivity now prevalent, radio stations and music video outlets have tempered their playlists, opting to not play songs with references and themes to violence, murder, suicide and terrorism.

The questions that many are asking is where does one draw the line and how far is too far?

Music industry responds

In the weeks following the attacks, alternative radio stations across the nation didn't play songs such as Sugarcult's "Stuck In America" and Jimmy Eat World's "Bleed American."

"Stuck in America" included the lyrics "Everyone's talking about blowing up the neighborhood." Sugarcult, who are scheduled to play Reno Oct. 27, modified the song's lyrics to "Everyone's talking about waking up the neighborhood."

Jimmy Eat World has decided to re-release their song as simply "Bleed." That title was also the name of Cold's new single, which has now been changed to "Thirteen."

Bush's new CD originally featured artwork of a burning plane.

Bush' s new "Golden State" CD, due to be released next week was originally to contain artwork showing a silhouette of a plane on fire. However, the band has chosen to change the artwork.

Bush is also making changes to the content of its new CD as well. Their new single "Speed Kills," will be changed to "The People That We Love." Another change under consideration are the lyrics to a track called "Head Full Of Ghosts," which features the line "I'm at my best when I'm terrorist inside."

The Crystal Method--who played in Reno this summer--will release their new single originally named "Murder" as "Its Hard."

Programming on MTV and VH1 has changed with several videos being pulled in the aftermath of the attack. According to MTV News, Videos that were pulled included Staind's "Fade," Dido's "Thank You," U2's "Elevation," Gorillaz's "Clint Eastwood" and Creed's "With Arms Wide Open" reportedly because the clips contain explosions or crumbling buildings.

Incubus's video for "I Wish You Were Here" had originally contained a clip of the band jumping off a bridge. That clip has been changed to the band being chased by teenage girls.

Both networks' programming directors said that they wanted to "be sensitive to content and images in videos that after September 11 had new, unintended meaning."

Heightened sensitivity understandable

Many in the media and the music industry say they understand the changes that have been made.

Local KRZQ disc jockey Sean McCoy, University of Nevada broadcast journalism major, said he agreed with some of the decisions made by the industry.

"You have to respect their decision, they didn't do it to make money," he said. "If they're not playing songs then they are not making money."

However, he said there should be limits on sensitivity.

"Say we can't play this song because of an attack that happened 10 years ago, he said. "Eventually you have to move on."

Taking it too far

While McCoy says he respects some of the decisions made, he said that sensitivity can go too far.

Clear Channel Communications, owners of the largest share of the nation's radio stations, has come under fire for reportedly distributing a list of more than 150 songs that might be considered questionable following the attacks and distributed it to the company's nearly 1,200 stations.

The list included some of the above-mentioned songs but also included such famous benign standards as Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World," Simon And Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Cat Stevens' "Peace Train," Elton John's Rocket Man" and John Lennon's "Imagine."

The list, which was distributed on the company's newsletter Hits Daily Double, was intended as an advisory for its programming heads to consider, however became construed as "a list of banned songs."

One week after the terrorist attacks, Clear Channel released a statement denying the list was a corporate mandate and indicated that programming decisions are at the local level on a station by station basis.

"In the wake of this terrible tragedy, the nation's business community is responding with a degree of hypersensitivity," said Clear Channel CEO Mark P. Mays in a Sept. 18 statement. "Clear Channel strongly believes in the First Amendment. We value and support the artist community."

Some view positive changes

Jodi Raggiero, a Washoe County School Board trustee, said the heightened sensitivity might lead to some positive changes she would like to see in the entertainment industry.

"If a song promotes murder, violence or mayhem it just doesn't make sense to play that right now," she said. "One would hope that this would lead to a change in the industry. But when dollars are involved sometimes it doesn't happen. Unfortunately that's what makes America work...It's sad that it would take something like this to finally make the industry realize the responsibility they have."

Before joining the school board, Raggiero founded People Against Violence in Entertainment and Media (PAVEM), dedicated to monitoring and discouraging violent and inappropriate themes in the media.

Her group successfully lobbied Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn and University of Nevada administrators to cancel a Marilyn Manson concert at the Lawlor Events Center two years ago in the wake of the Columbine massacre in Colorado.

"It's confusing to young people when people like me are holding up a red flag," she said. "What they think is censorship is just others exercising their right to free speech."

Raggiero said the First Amendment is not an absolute statement of rights--referring only to laws and government action and not what private entities do.

"If someone is shouting obscenities on my street I have the perfect right to yell shut up. That's not censorship," she said.

Music shouldn't be used as a scapegoat

McCoy said music should not be held responsible for recent tragedies. While he said believes that it is good to be sensitive to others feelings in the face of a tragedies, fingers should not be pointed to an artist's expression.

"Music didn't cause the planes to go into the World Trade Center and didn't cause the shootings at Columbine," he said. "You can't blame music for what people do."


Copyright 2000, 2001 Zephyr