Wal-Mart = Censorship

Wal-Mart SucksWith the death of local record stores, and even the smaller national chain music stores, Wal-Mart has now taken the spot as the big dog atop the music selling food chain. Problem is, Wal-Mart refuses to sell any album with what they consider “offensive” lyrics, so artists are forced to ether produce “clean” versions of their albums, with lyrics, parts of songs, or sometimes whole songs censored out, or not have their album carried by the biggest music retailer at all.

Well of all people, Green Day has decided to tell Wal-Mart to kiss it’s ass. It’s latest album 21st Century Breakdown is #1 in the country, but you won’t find it at Wal-Mart. The retailer told Green Day to censor the songs or it would not carry the album, and Green Day’s front man Billy Joe Armstrong said this, likely while wearing eyeliner:

“Wal-Mart’s become the biggest retail outfit in the country, but they won’t carry our record because they wanted us to censor it. They want artists to censor their records in order to be carried there … we just said, ‘No.’ We’ve never done it before. You feel like you’re in 1953 or something.”

Billy Joe also pointed out another huge problem with having Wal-Mart be the biggest music retailer, and how it effects ALL musicians:

“If you think about bands that are struggling or smaller than Green Day … to think that to get your record out in places like that, but they won’t carry it because of the content and you have to censor yourself. I mean, what does that say to a young kid who’s trying to speak his mind making a record for the first time? It’s like a game that you have to play. You have to refuse to play it.”

The reason this story hit home to me is because the lesser told story about Hank Williams III’s struggle to get his album Straight to Hell released. III’s label Curb Records was not the only boogey man in that situation. Straight to Hell was the first album ever published under the CMA to have a Parental Advisory sticker, meaning Wal-Mart would not stock it. This gave ammo to Curb. They could say “How can we publish an album that cannot be stocked by the country’s largest retailer?”

Eventually to satisfy this problem, they created a “clean” version of the album. Now how disappointed would you have been if you had walked into Wal-Mart, seen a new album by Hank III, and taken it home to discover that there were bleeps in songs and content missing?

Wal-MartI don’t want to get off on some populist political tangent about this, but needless to say, Wal-Mart sucks, and from my experince, this sentiment crosses political lines. Wal-Mart has killed many local stores, not just music stores. But specifically it effects the “country,” small towns, and towns in the South and West, disproportionately. And so thus, it effects country music and it’s fans disproportionately.

In regards to offensiveness, I find 90% of what they play on pop country radio offensive. I find the way Wal-Mart treats its employees and the towns it moves into offensive. I find the way they try to sell you cheap plastic crap from China made by slave labor that breaks after a few days offensive.

My point is that different people find different things “offenisve,” and when you start censoring things because of who it might offend, it can boil down more to taste, or even worse, political ideology. That is why going down the road of outright censorship should always be questioned.

Everyone has the right to protect their children from offensive language, and I certainly don’t have a problem with that. That is the point of the Parental Advisory stickers. There is no point beyond the stickers to censor the albums, as all this does is create angry and confused customers, who likely thought they were purchasing the full version of the album.

Wal-Mart is the biggest music retailer, and their selection is a joke, and it doesn’t take into any consideration local bands or even regional tastes, causing the further homogenizing of our culture. Furthermore since many REAL country artists might let some “offensive” language slip out, this puts an institutionalized roadblock in the way to them distributing their music. Good thing digital downloads and online stores will likely marginalize Wal-Mart’s music sales here soon.

Sure I’ve shopped at Wal-Mart before, because like most people in small towns, I have no choice.

Say what you want about Green Day, but I applaud their stance, and it is about time that someone with the weight they have start throwing it around for good purposes. Hell, it makes me curious enough to listen to the album or maybe even buy it. I’ll leave the eyeliner to Billy Joe and the frau though.

The only male sanctioned by savingcountrymusic.com to be able to wear eyeliner, is Mike Ness.

If you want to hear an almost verbatim take on my feelings about censorship in music, fast forward to 3:58: