Explicit Lyrics

I really mean it: Explicit lyrics ahead.

I can’t figure out why iTunes labeled “Maps”, by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with a big red “EXPLICIT”. According to iTunes, I’ve listened to it 13 times in my iPod, and I still don’t hear anything remotely explicit about it.

I’ve read the lyrics online, hoping to find out there are two versions out there. But, no: No “bad” words.

Who determines that label: the record company or Apple?

(I have nothing against “explicit” words in a song if the message is right. I don’t care about the label, except to wonder why it’s there.)

What started me wondering about this are those four songs by Chvrches I bought recently. “The Mother We Share” has the “EXPLICIT” label, and it’s understandable. There is a pair of lines: “And when it all fucks up / You put your head in my hand.” That’s the only time the f-word is used in the entire song. It’s sung  so quickly that you can almost miss it if you’re not listening carefully. (In concert videos, the word is sometimes changed to “scuffs”.)

And yet, another of the four Chvrches song, “We Sink”, has the line “What fuck were you thinking?” The song is from the same album. The f-word is used only once, but it’s sung with more emphasis. It’s hard to miss. And there’s no “EXPLICIT” label. Why? (In concert videos, it’s sometimes changed to “eff”.)

“Creep”, by Radiohead, has no “EXPLICIT” label, even though it’s the album version – with “fuckin’ special” – rather than the radio version – with “very special”. I imported it from a CD, so maybe iTunes determines the label in its store.

There’s no way to avoid the f-word in “Little Lion Man”, by Mumford & Sons. It’s prominent in the often-repeated chorus, after all. It has no “EXPLICIT” label, and I bought it from iTunes.

“Foundations”, by Kate Nash, does not contain the f-word, but has the lines “Then you call me a bitch / And everyone we’re with / Will be embarrassed / And I won’t give a shit” – so I guess it deserves the “EXPLICIT” label iTunes gave it.

“Stranger Me”, by Amy LaVere, is the only song in my iTunes library with a “CLEAN” label. (But not the only “clean” song.) It was a free song download from Starbucks. I keep wondering what the “explicit” version sounds like.

It seems obvious that iTunes slaps on the label. I just can’t figure out what their criteria is.

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