Art analysis: Where have all the songs gone?

· Sep 19, 2001 Tweet

The terrorist attacks on America last Tuesday forced many of us to seek help and consolation. Many turned to friends and family members, some sought support from their faith, and some of us turned to music. A song’s words, although not one’s own, have the ability to reach into the soul and rock it to a soothing state with its melody. For a mere three minutes things can seem a little better.

Yet, like any other medium, radio is trying its best to complicate things. Since Tuesday’s tragedy, the airwaves have been cluttered with classic songs mixed with voice-overs from news coverage. John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Enya’s “Only Time” now play with eyewitness accounts or anchormen’s quotes.

Adding news remarks to radio songs benefits no one. Instead, it detracts from the solace of the song. Like films, music can be an escape, even if it’s just for three minutes. Yet the overdubs make it impossible to ignore.

“So turn it off,” you say, and rightly so. Choice is part of freedom. Yet Clear Channel communications is infringing on this freedom. According to, Clear Channel, which owns hundreds of stations across the country and is the world’s largest radio network, issued a list of 150 songs they believe to be insensitive in lieu of Tuesday’s attacks. Although not insisting, Clear Channel is encouraging its stations not to air these recordings. Among the songs listed, The Beatles’ “A Day In The Life,” Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust,” Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper,” and Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” The songs are “lyrically questionable,” according to Clear Channel, whose interest in providing its listeners with a variety of tunes has apparently taken a back seat to absurd politically correctness. All Rage Against The Machine songs have been suspended, along with a handful of AC/DC tracks, including “Highway to Hell.”

Setting aside the political correctness aspect, and going along with the “lyrically questionable” argument, the songs mentioned above could possibly pass as understandable. Yet Clear Channel’s list continues with John Lennon’s “Imagine” (a song being used by other communications stations to comfort), Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World,” Simon and Garfunkle’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and Cat Steven’s “Peace Train.” Cutting the more aggressive songs may make sense in a few minds, but snipping the peaceful anthems is a case of political correctness gone amok. Further illustrating this point is the corporation’s decision to yank “St Elmo’s Fire,” a completely instrumental song, leaving one to wonder, and fear, how far the “lyrically questionable” claim can stretch.

Clear Channel’s attempt to protect its listeners from insensitive music is ridiculous. Many of the artists on the list promote ideas of acceptance and fight against intolerance, two ideals that are more important now than ever.

Compliance with the list has been mixed with some stations agreeing to cut certain songs and others disregarding it altogether. This is a good sign, because it is this same freedom of choice that will come in handy as blacklists continue to grow out of the wake of the war on terrorism. In a kind of media Red Scare, open-mindedness will be an asset to all.

Clear Channel, like many of us, is searching for an easy answer. And unfortunately, like some of us, its witch-hunt for a scapegoat has led them astray. Banning these songs will not erase what happened or bring swifter justice. Those offended by the music should be able to choose to turn it off, and those comforted should be able to choose to turn it up. When the corporation robs us of these choices, it robs us of a freedom. Lately, that has been happening too often.


This article was published Sep 19, 2001 at 12:00 am and last updated Sep 19, 2001 at 12:00 am


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