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Magazine Guides Parents Through the Naughty and Nice in Popular Music

December 11, 1995

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Hootie & the Blowfish’s album has the word ``wasted″ in it. Janet Jackson’s is filled with ``sexual content″ and even Garth Brooks’ has ``potentially offensive language.″

A new magazine has made its list of who’s naughty and nice this Christmas, finding only 10 of 40 popular albums on sale this holiday season free of profanity or lyrics dealing with drugs, violence or sex.

``I can’t believe all this is in the records,″ said Charles Gilreath, publisher of the Hollywood, Calif.-based Entertainment Monitor, which attempts to cut through the pop-culture slang to decipher lyrics for parents.

Gilreath said he got the idea for the magazine when he heard his 11-year-old stepdaughter singing along to a song with slang references to oral sex.

Another song, Alanis Morissette’s ``You Oughta Know,″ is a favorite for both Gilreath and his daughter, but he shudders at the lyrics, particularly the verse where a woman asks her old boyfriend whether his new paramour is ``perverted like me.″

But unlike others who have put the blame on record companies, Gilreath said parents should be informed and take responsibility for the music their children listen to.

``Don’t scream bloody murder when you get home and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony is talking about gang rape and killing. And don’t blame Time Warner. You bought it,″ he said.

Only discs by such performers as Mariah Carey, Tim McGraw, Michael Bolton, Selena and Natalie Merchant were deemed by the magazine to contain ``nothing seemingly offensive.″

Entertainment Monitor’s holiday list _ which came out before major releases from the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen _ doesn’t tell people what not to buy.

Instead, it outlines the themes of records, explains what language is used and tries to decipher slang _ often in tones so dry to be comical. ``Get down″ is translated as ``have sex″ on Tha Dogg Pound’s ``Dogg Food″ disc.

And it sets tough standards: Xscape’s ``Off the Hook″ album is flagged for sexual content for phrases like ``freak you″ and ``work me slowly.″

Gilreath insists he’s not interested in censorship and has turned away religious groups that wanted to use his material for crusades.

``I want to inform people so they can make their own choices,″ he said. ``Many of them want to seek ways to ... limit choices. I think informed consumers will make their own choices.″

But one music industry executive said he’s suspicious of anyone who tries to interpret what an artist is saying.

``The only purpose for a publication like this is for somebody using it as a censorship tool,″ said Jerry Heller, founder and former general manager of Ruthless Records, a rap label.

Parents who want to know what their children are listening to should listen themselves, Heller said.

Gilreath said he wants to sell his magazine at record stores, but several major retailers have rebuffed him. He figures they don’t want to display something that might encourage people not to buy.

He predicts that a growing backlash among parents will target retailers who sell albums with violent or sexually explicit lyrics.

``The retailers are going to regret the fact that they said no,″ he said.

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