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Sunday Song Lyric:
As if there were any doubt, the FCC has determined that the "F-word" is too profane for television, even when used as an adjective. So continues the current obsession with offensive material on radio and television. As I noted last week, this heightened sensitivity has the potential to chill political expression. The obsession with specific words or phrases can also distract from more serious consideration of the merits of particular works. There is nothing about the use of offensive language or imagery that is necessarily deep or penetrating - though many modern artists certainly seem to think otherwise. By the same token, some such material is quite evocative and powerful.

The current brouhaha over obscenity in music and on the airwaves is not the first, and it will not be the last. In the 1980s, Tipper Gore launched the Parents Music Resource Center to seek album content labels. In their presidential campaigns, Bill Clinton attacked rapper Sister Souljah in 1992, and Bob Dole condemned offensive lyrics in 1996 as well. Like many critics, Dole almost exclusively assailed rap artists. The one non-African-American band subject to his criticism was Nine Inch Nails, the source of this week's lyric (chosen, I suppose, in honor of the FCC).

Nine Inch Nails gained political notoriety for the stark, graphic, and sexually violent lyrics of The Downward Spiral, especially those to the hit single "Closer." (Another single from the album, "Hurt," was more recently covered by Johnny Cash and became Spin's Video of the Year. Watch it here.) But the controversy over Trent Reznor's lyrics obscures the depth and power of much of Nine Inch Nails' music. Case in point is this week's lyric, the title track from The Fragile, Spin Magazine's album of the year in 1999.
she shines
in a world full of ugliness
she matters when everything is meaningless

fragile
she doesn't see her beauty
she tries to get away
sometimes
it's just that nothing seems worth saving
I can't watch her slip away

I won't let you fall apart

she reads the minds of all the people as they pass her by
hoping someone can see
if I could fix myself I'd -
but it's too late for me

I won't let you fall apart

we'll find the perfect place to go where we can run and hide
I'll build a wall and we can keep them on the other side
...but they keep waiting
...and picking...

it's something I have to do
I was there, too
before everything else
I was like you
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