Parental Advisory

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The current Parental Advisory warning label, introduced in 1996. Parental Advisory label.svg
The current Parental Advisory warning label, introduced in 1996.

The Parental Advisory label (abbreviated PAL) is a warning label introduced by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in 1985 and adopted by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) in 2011. It is placed on audio recordings in recognition of profanity or inappropriate references, with the intention of alerting parents of material potentially unsuitable for children. The label was first affixed on physical 33 1/3 rpm records, compact discs and cassette tapes, and it has been included on digital listings offered by online music stores.

Recording Industry Association of America Trade organization representing the recording industry in the U.S.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is a trade organization that represents the recording industry in the United States. Its members consist of record labels and distributors, which the RIAA says "create, manufacture and/or distribute approximately 85% of all legally sold recorded music in the United States." The RIAA headquarters is in Washington, D.C.

British Phonographic Industry Trade association of the recorded music industry in the United Kingdom

The BPI Limited, commonly known as the British Phonographic Industry or BPI, is the British recorded music industry's trade association.

Compact disc Optical disc for storage and playback of digital audio

Compact disc (CD) is a digital optical disc data storage format that was co-developed by Philips and Sony and released in 1982. The format was originally developed to store and play only sound recordings (CD-DA) but was later adapted for storage of data (CD-ROM). Several other formats were further derived from these, including write-once audio and data storage (CD-R), rewritable media (CD-RW), Video Compact Disc (VCD), Super Video Compact Disc (SVCD), Photo CD, PictureCD, CD-i, and Enhanced Music CD. The first commercially available audio CD player, the Sony CDP-101, was released October 1982 in Japan.


Recordings with the Parental Advisory label are often released alongside a censored version that reduces or eliminates the questionable material. Several retailers will distribute both versions of the product, occasionally with an increased price for the censored version, while some sellers offer the amended pressing as their main options and choose not to distribute the explicit counterpart. However, the label has been described as ineffective in limiting the inappropriate material to which young audiences are exposed.


Mary "Tipper" Gore, the co-founder of the Parents Music Resource Center commonly credited with beginning movements for the Parental Advisory label. Mary Elizabeth Gore.JPG
Mary "Tipper" Gore, the co-founder of the Parents Music Resource Center commonly credited with beginning movements for the Parental Advisory label.

Shortly after their formation in April 1985, the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) assembled a list of fifteen songs with deemed unsuitable content. Particular criticism was placed on "Darling Nikki" by Prince, after PMRC co-founder Mary "Tipper" Gore heard her 11 year old daughter sing the lyrics, which included an explicit mention of masturbation. [1] The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) responded by introducing an early version of their content warning label, although the PMRC was displeased and proposed that a music rating system structured like the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system be enacted. The RIAA alternatively suggested using a warning label reading "Parental Guidance: Explicit Lyrics", and after continued conflict between the organizations, the matter was discussed on September 19 during a hearing with the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Notable musicians, Frank Zappa, Dee Snider, and John Denver each testified at this hearing with strong opposition to PMRC’s warning label system, and censorship in general. [2] Approximately two months after the hearing, the organizations agreed on a settlement in which audio recordings were to either be affixed with a warning label reading "Explicit Lyrics: Parental Advisory" or have its lyrics attached on the backside of its packaging. [3]

Parents Music Resource Center

The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) was an American committee formed in 1985 with the stated goal of increasing parental control over the access of children to music deemed to have violent, drug-related or sexual themes via labeling albums with Parental Advisory stickers. The committee was founded by four women known as the "Washington Wives" – a reference to their husbands' connections with government in the Washington, D.C. area. The women who founded the PMRC are Tipper Gore, wife of Senator and later Vice President Al Gore; Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker; Pam Howar, wife of Washington realtor Raymond Howar; and Sally Nevius, wife of former Washington City Council Chairman John Nevius. The PMRC eventually grew to include 22 participants before shutting down in the mid-to-late 1990s.

"Darling Nikki" is a song produced, arranged, composed, and performed by American musician Prince and originally released on his Grammy Award-winning 1984 album Purple Rain. Though the song was not released as a single, it gained wide notoriety for its sexual lyrics and in particular an explicit reference to masturbation. Compared with the slick production of the other songs on the album, "Darling Nikki" was deliberately engineered to have a raw and live feel.

Prince (musician) American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, and filmmaker

Prince Rogers Nelson was an American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, dancer, actor, and filmmaker. With a career spanning four decades, Prince was known for his eclectic work and flamboyant stage appearances. He was also a multi-instrumentalist and regarded as a guitar virtuoso. Prince was also known for his very wide and extensive vocal range, in particular his far reaching falsetto. His innovative music integrated a wide variety of styles, including funk, rock, R&B, new wave, soul, psychedelia, and pop.

In 1990, the now standard black-and-white warning label design reading "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" was introduced and was to be placed on the bottom right-hand section of a given product. The first album to bear the "black and white" Parental Advisory label was the 1990 release of Banned in the U.S.A. by the rap group 2 Live Crew. [4] By May 1992, approximately 225 records had been marked with the warning. [5] In response to later hearings in the following years, it was reworded as "Parental Advisory: Explicit Content" in 1996. The system went unchanged until 2002, when record labels affiliated with Bertelsmann Music Group began including specific areas of concern including "strong language", "violent content", or "sexual content" on compact discs alongside the generic Parental Advisory label. [6] The Parental Advisory label was first used on music streaming services and online music stores in 2011. [7] That year, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) revised its own music censorship policies to incorporate more prominent usage of the warning label. [8]

<i>Banned in the U.S.A.</i> 1990 studio album by Luke featuring the 2 Live Crew

Banned in the U.S.A. is the fourth album by the 2 Live Crew. It was originally credited as Luke's solo album. The album included the hits "Do the Bart" and the title track. It was also the very first release to bear the RIAA-standard Parental Advisory warning sticker.

2 Live Crew American hip-hop group

The 2 Live Crew was an American hip hop group from Miami, United States which had its greatest commercial success in the late 1980s to the early 1990s. Fronted by Luke Campbell, they were considerably controversial in the U.S. due to the pornographic content in their songs, particularly on their 1989 album As Nasty As They Wanna Be. They're also infamous for the court cases fighting for and protecting the first amendment and becoming the reason why music has parental warning labels.

Bertelsmann Music Group Record label company

Bertelsmann Music Group was a division of German media company Bertelsmann before its completion of sale of the majority of its assets to Japan's Sony Corporation of America on 1 October 2008. Although it was established in 1987, the music company was formed as RCA/Ariola International in 1984 as a joint venture to combine the music label activities of RCA Corporation's RCA Records division and Bertelsmann's Ariola Records and its associated labels which include Arista Records. It consisted of the BMG Music Publishing company, the world's third largest music publisher and the world's largest independent music publisher, and the 50% share of the joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment, which established the German American Sony BMG Music Entertainment from 2004 to 2008.


An earlier version of a warning label, used during the 1980s. Parental Advistory Logo (old).png
An earlier version of a warning label, used during the 1980s.

The "Parental Advisory Label Program" in the United States and the "Parental Advisory Scheme" in the United Kingdom lack agreed-upon standards for using the warning label, although they provide guidelines for its recommended inclusion. [8] [9] Although a voluntary practice that is ultimately left to the discretion of record labels, [10] the RIAA suggests that material with "strong language or depictions of violence, sex, or substance abuse to such an extent as to merit parental notification" be affixed with the Parental Advisory label. [9] The BPI additionally requests that "racist, homophobic, misogynistic or other discriminatory language or behavior" be taken under consideration when determining the appropriateness of a record. [8]

Physical copies of albums which have the label generally have it as a permanent part of the artwork, being printed with the rest of the cover. In some cases, the label is affixed as a sticker to the front of the case, which can be removed by putting the artwork in a different case.

Audio recordings that include Parental Advisory labels in their original formats are generally released in censored versions that reduces or completely eliminates the questionable material. [11] They are recognized as "clean" editions by the RIAA, and are left unlabeled in their revised formats. [9] American retailers including Best Buy and f.y.e. distribute explicit and censored records; [12] Target has sold both versions of a given record, [13] although has occasionally offered only the explicit version depending on the product. [14] Walmart and their affiliated properties are well known for only carrying censored versions of records; in one instance, the retailer refused to distribute Green Day's 2009 album 21st Century Breakdown because they were not given the "clean" copies that they requested. [15] Online music stores, including the iTunes Store, [16] generally have the Parental Advisory logo embedded into digital files. [3]

Best Buy Consumer electronics retailer

Best Buy Co., Inc. is an American multinational consumer electronics retailer headquartered in Richfield, Minnesota. It was originally founded by Richard M. Schulze and James Wheeler in 1966 as an audio specialty store called Sound of Music. In 1983, it was re-branded under its current name with an emphasis placed on consumer electronics.

Target Corporation Retail chain in the United States

Target Corporation is the eighth-largest retailer in the United States, and is a component of the S&P 500 Index. Founded by George Dayton and headquartered in Minneapolis, the company was originally named Goodfellow Dry Goods in June 1902 before being renamed the Dayton's Dry Goods Company in 1903 and later the Dayton Company in 1910. The first Target store opened in Roseville, Minnesota in 1962 while the parent company was renamed the Dayton Corporation in 1967. It became the Dayton-Hudson Corporation after merging with the J.L. Hudson Company in 1969 and held ownership of several department store chains including Dayton's, Hudson's, Marshall Field's, and Mervyn's. It is unrelated to Target Australia.

Walmart U.S.-based multinational discount retailer based in Arkansas

Walmart Inc. is an American multinational retail corporation that operates a chain of hypermarkets, discount department stores, and grocery stores, headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas. The company was founded by Sam Walton in 1962 and incorporated on October 31, 1969. It also owns and operates Sam's Club retail warehouses. As of July 31, 2019, Walmart has 11,389 stores and clubs in 27 countries, operating under 55 different names. The company operates under the name Walmart in the United States and Canada, as Walmart de México y Centroamérica in Mexico and Central America, as Asda in the United Kingdom, as the Seiyu Group in Japan, and as Best Price in India. It has wholly owned operations in Argentina, Chile, Canada, and South Africa. Since August 2018, Walmart only holds a minority stake in Walmart Brasil, which was renamed Grupo Big in August 2019, with 20-percent of the company's shares, and private equity firm Advent International holding 80-percent ownership of the company.

Since 2015, digital providers such as iTunes, Spotify, and Amazon Music tag tracks as 'Explicit' if they have been identified as such. This frequently includes tracks from older albums that predate the use of the label, or were released afterward but do not feature the label on physical releases.

iTunes media player and library software

iTunes is a media player, media library, Internet radio broadcaster, and mobile device management application developed by Apple Inc. It was announced on January 9, 2001. It is used to play, download, and organize digital multimedia files, including music and video, on personal computers running the macOS and Windows operating systems. Content must be purchased through the iTunes Store, whereas iTunes is the software letting users manage their purchases.

Spotify Music streaming service

Spotify Technology S.A. is a Swedish media-services provider founded in 2006. The company's primary business is its audio streaming platform that provides DRM-protected music and podcasts from record labels and media companies. As a freemium service, basic features are free with advertisements or automatic music videos, while additional features, such as improved streaming quality, are offered via paid subscriptions.

Amazon (company) American electronic commerce and cloud computing company, Inc., is an American multinational technology company based in Seattle, Washington, that focuses on e-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, and artificial intelligence. It is considered one of the Big Four technology companies along with Google, Apple, and Facebook.


Since its introduction, the effectiveness of the Parental Advisory label has frequently been called into question. Jon Wiederhorn from MTV News suggested that artists benefited from the label and noted that younger customers interested in explicit content could more easily find it with a label attached. [6] On behalf of Westword , Andy Thomas said that the label was purposeless on the grounds that a young customer "would get a copy of the album sooner or later from a friend or another lethargic record store clerk" like the cashier that sold him a labeled pressing of La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1 (1992) by White Zombie in his childhood. He noted that its intended reaction in parents was varied; his lax mother was indifferent towards the warning, while the mother of his stricter companion did not allow her child to listen to the record. [17]

Danny Goldberg from Gold Village Entertainment opined that the Parental Advisory label offered minimal value other than "being a way for certain retailers like Wal-Mart to brand themselves as 'family friendly'"; he felt that children were successful in getting content they desired "even before the Internet", and believed that the label had little impact on sales figures. [3] In contrast, the RIAA maintains that "it's not a PAL Notice that kids look for, it's the music". They stated that research they had gathered revealed that "kids put limited weight on lyrics in deciding which music they like, caring more about rhythm and melody" and implied that the label is not a deciding factor for a given purchase. [9] Tom Cole from NPR commented that the Parental Advisory label has become "a fact of music-buying life", which made it difficult for current consumers to understand the widespread controversy that came about from its introduction. [3] Greg Beato of Reason observed that by the 1990s, "A hip-hop album that didn't warrant a Tipper sticker was artistically suspect." [18]

The label has become well-known enough to be parodied. Guns 'n' Roses 1991 albums Use Your Illusion 1 and Use Your Illusion 2 included a similarly-styled sticker saying "This album contains language which some listeners may find objectionable. They can F?!* off and buy something from the New Age section.". [19]

Edited counterparts

It is fairly common for an album which received the Parental Advisory seal to be sold alongside an "edited" version which removes objectionable content, usually to the same level as a radio edit. However, the RIAA Uniform Guidelines say "An Edited Version need not remove all potentially objectionable content from the sound recording." [20] These albums are packaged nearly-identically to their explicit counterparts, usually with the only indicator being the lack of Parental Advisory seal, although if the artwork is explicit too, it will normally be censored (an example being Rainbow by Kesha where on the edited version, the body is moved lower so the buttocks are not visible). In the case of some albums such as Box Car Racer , a black box reading "EDITED VERSION" is placed where the Parental Advisory seal would be. This was part of new guidelines introduced on April 1, 2002, which also included a label that featured "Edited Version Also Available" next to the Parental Advisory seal. [21] Sometimes, an artist will deliberately change the title or artwork of an edited version as to reflect the censorship. For example, as well as removing the marijuana leaf, the cover of the edited version of Dr Dre's 1999 album 2001 has a big box reading "CENSORED VERSION" while the edited version of 2 Live Crew's 1989 album As Nasty As They Wanna Be not only changed the title to As Clean As They Wanna Be. but also censors part of the cover photograph with a blue bar that has a disclaimer that reads "THIS ALBUM DOES NOT CONTAIN EXPLICIT LYRICS".

Most of the time, the edited version will only edit the content which is absolutely necessary, in order to be as identical to the explicit counterpart as possible. However, some edited albums, such as Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars ("Star 69"), Curtain Call: The Hits (first 2 tracks), Straight to Hell ("Crazed Country Rebel" and "Dick in Dixie") and The Marshall Mathers LP ("Kim") will have tracks removed completely, while others, such as Take Off Your Pants and Jacket ("Happy Holidays, You Bastard" renamed "Happy Holidays") and The Slim Shady LP (4 tracks were renamed) will remove objectionable content from song titles. The edited version of Life After Death is notable for having so many tracks omitted that it was able to be condensed to one disc in spite of being a double album.

The edited version of an album will normally edit to the level in which the content would be considered appropriate for radio airplay. Strong language is almost always edited out (however the edited versions of The Marshall Mathers LP and The Slim Shady LP left in nearly all profanities other than "fuck", with the exception of the album's singles in which the existing radio edits were used), in addition to racial slurs. Specific drug references are also usually edited out, primarily slang terms for illegal drugs. Generally, however, some edited albums are not consistent with editing violent and sexual lyrics, as often, these lyrics are left in unedited. An example is "Tomb of the Boom" on the edited version of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below , which leaves in detailed lyrics about street violence (including sound effects of gunfire and police sirens) and sexual innuendos, both of which would normally be edited out, but on the other hand, all obscenities are muted. Sometimes, edited versions of albums will have lyrics changed entirely, which was the case with the Maroon 5 album Overexposed, in which the song "Payphone" had lyrics extensively changed, especially in the chorus.

See also

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