Holden Caulfield-ing the F-Bomb

Wanting More from Music (and Less Boob on the Tube)

While flipping through my car stereo recently, I was shocked to hear Nelly say the F-word in his most recent song.

Me and Nelly

I’m not anti-Nelly. We did a movie together. Really. It’s called “Snipes.” But hearing an uncensored f-bomb in the middle of the day on the radio was something I’d never experienced. I thought it was illegal—so why not call the FCC?

The F in FCC

The FCC has been in the news a lot recently. First there was when Bono (of U2) said “f-ing brilliant” on the Golden Globes, and the media made a stink. The FCC didn’t fine him, because they said he used it as an adjective, not to describe a sex act. However, FCC chairman Michael Powell recently called for stiffer fines for obscenity cases.

And, of course, now we all know what Powell thinks when an ex-boy band member manhandles an aging pop star in the name of choreography, accidentally-on-purpose exposing her breast to 89 million people.

I found Powell’s comments on both occasions funny, because if the chairman of the FCC thinks people shouldn’t be allowed to get away with such things, his employees didn’t get the memo. When I complained to the FCC about the Nelly song, the third woman to whom I was transferred told me that they didn’t censor anyone and the station had the right to say whatever they wanted.

The station’s program director told me that the line was “rocking” and not the f-word, but then admitted that new radio stations play uncensored songs to create a buzz.

The Catcher on the radio
Now, I have no desire to become Holden Caulfield, trying to erase the “F you’s” from the walls of society, to keep young people innocent. Holden Caulfield ended up in a mental institution, and I can see why, with my brief taste of the bureaucratic nonsense and flippant attitude that media institutions take towards obscenity.

It just dismays me that people see obscenity and its accompanying negativity as an easy way to get a point across, to sell a record, or even to get people to listen to a radio station.

The real goods
The real shame is that there’s a huge market of people looking for positive messages that popular music all but ignores. I’ve seen 800,000 young people from around the world sleep out during a downpour that would make Noah tremble just to be able to celebrate the Eucharist with an 80 year-old guy with Parkinson’s Disease, because he happened to be the successor of St. Peter.

These people want to hear positive messages.

Pope John Paul II told them, “Dear young people, do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals! … You are right to be disappointed with hollow entertainment and passing fads…If you have an ardent desire for the Lord you will steer clear of the mediocrity and conformism so widespread in our society.” Dude, the Pope rocks.

Beautiful music and a little persistence
Secular music can have positive messages. The Flaming Lips have a beautiful song called “Do You Realize,” about not taking life for granted and letting your loved ones know they’re appreciated. The song’s been out for months and never made a dent on popular radio, but is now being used to sell Mitsubishi cars. So the songs are being made, but not necessarily getting the airplay they deserve.

I don’t know that we’ll have a sea change in popular music, but you and I can make a difference. I was very pleased to witness the public outcry in the wake of the Janet-Justin debacle.

The only way to combat the obscene envelope-pushing is to stand firm for what’s right. That radio station eventually edited the f-word out of that song after I wrote them a letter. I’ll just continue to pray for positivity to prevail. And begrudgingly, I guess I’ll have to be a Holden Caulfield from time to time.