"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Thursday, May 05, 2005
But, I must say, this makes me cranky:
Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics are too hot for Starbucks. NEWSWEEK has learned that the nation’s favorite coffee chain has retreated from a potential deal to sell the singer’s new album, “Devils & Dust,” because of one steamy tune on the 12-song disc.
The song, “Reno,” is in part about an encounter with a prostitute. Springsteen includes a description of anal sex, including the price she charges for the act. Critics generally are hailing the CD, which was released last week on Columbia Records, a Sony Music label. It is the only Springsteen album to carry a parental warning (Adult Imagery) due, apparently, to “Reno.”
The episode appears to be the first time Starbucks has declined to stock an album by a major act because of concern over lyrics, notwithstanding the warning sticker. The java juggernaut, with almost 6,400 outlets in the U.S., has become an influential link in music distribution in just a few short years, especially in 2004. Starbucks boldly demonstrated its power in music last year when its outlets accounted for at least a third of sales of the million-selling album of Ray Charles duets, “Genius Loves Company.” Record labels increasingly view Starbucks as an attractive outlet for reaching fans of adult contemporary music, including baby boomers flush with disposable income but who’ve long since stopped browsing record-store aisles. What’s more, the mix of coffeehouse and music has a nostalgic appeal.
Now, I will grant that the song in question is a bit graphic, but certainly not gratuitously so:
She took off her stockings
I held 'em to my face
She had your ankles
I felt filled with grace
"Two hundred dollars straight in
Two-fifty up the ass" she smiled and said
She unbuckled my belt, pulled back her hair
And sat in front of me on the bed
She said, "Honey, how's that feel
Do you want me to go slow?"
My eyes drifted out the window
And down to the road below
She slipped me out of her mouth
"You're ready," she said
She took off her bra and panties
Wet her fingers, slipped it inside her
And crawled over me on the bed
She bought me another whisky
Said "here's to the best you ever had"
We laughed and made a toast
It wasn't the best I ever had
Not even close
But, really, you've got to be kidding me. And by the way, since when have records gotten plastered with "Tipper Gore signature model" warning stickers for "adult imagery?" Does Johnny Cash get one of those for singing "I shot a man in Reno [!] just to watch him die?"
Anyway, I would hope that artists of conscience would speak out about this sort of thing. In particular, I have had my eyes on that Elvis Costello "Artist's Choice" compilation, but I would happily do without if only Elvis would withdraw his permission for their continued distribution. It seems to me that the man who wrote "Mystery Dance" ought to be in a position to sympathize with Bruce on this one.
Update: I would be remiss if I failed to mention that you could strike a blow for liberty by purchasing Springsteen's Devils & Dust here.