Poster for a death-metal band

Poster for a death-metal band

Parents have criticized their children’s musical preferences for decades, if not longer. The Beatles were accused of corrupting the youth, while many parents deemed the swiveling hips of Elvis “obscene.”  Even jazz music encountered moral critics during its early years. While many of these bands and genres were later determined to be rather harmless to society, more modern genres of music that address sexually-explicit, pro-drug, and pro-violent themes have sparked even greater concern among older generations.

Recently, parents and other adult members of society have been particularly concerned with the youth’s penchant for gansta rap and death metal. Parents have attempted to involve the government in censoring the music lyrics of new popular genres to little avail, so what is the solution to cleaning up graphically violent and sexually explicit lyrics?

Be sure not to miss the upcoming Article, The “Spiritual Temperature” of Contemporary Popular Music: An Alternative to the Legal Regulation of Death-Metal and Gangsta-Rap Lyrics, in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Laws Winter 2009 edition. The abstract of the Article follows.


The purpose of this Article is to contribute to the volume of legal scholarship that focuses on popular music lyrics and their effects on children. This interdisciplinary cross-section of law and culture has been analyzed by legal scholars, philosophers, and psychologists throughout history. This Article specifically focuses on the recent public uproar over the increasingly violent and lewd content of death-metal and gangsta-rap music and its alleged negative influence on children. Many legal scholars have written about how legal and political efforts throughout history to regulate contemporary genres of popular music in the name of the protection of children’s morals and well-being have ultimately been foiled by the proper judicial application of solid First Amendment free-speech principles. Because the First Amendment prevents musicians from being held liable for their lyrics, and prevents the content of lyrics from being regulated, some scholars have suggested that the perceived problems with popular music lyrics could be dealt with by increasing public awareness and group action.

This Article provides reasons why both direct legal regulation and indirect social regulation will ultimately result in the silencing of unpopular ideas–a phenomenon that is unacceptable to the well-settled “marketplace of ideas” approach to First Amendment jurisprudence. This Article is unique in its interdisciplinary approach because it explains that the “spiritual temperature,” or the current moral state of society, can be determined largely by the words its members speak to one another through the high art of music. It concludes that members of society who are understandably concerned about the increasingly and unacceptably violent, sexually explicit, pro-crime, and pro-drug subject matter contained in certain genres of popular music should shift their focus of reform out of the courts, legislatures, and government offices and towards responsible education and a complete moral and cultural transformation. This cultural transformation can only be achieved by the return to a moral mindset that respects and appreciates the power and animus of popular music and gears it toward the positive growth of the youngest members of society.

Article Author: Tracy Reilly

Image Source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *