|Posted on 1 May, 2009 at 12:00|
There is so much wrapped up in the simple dispute between Wal-Mart and Green Day that you could teach a class in economics, branding, governmentand history.
In the 24 years since Tipper Gore testified before Congress to fight explicit music lyrics, a new generation of music fans were born, grew up and are more aware of the world's challenges than any other generation before. In global warming, this generation sees Al Gore as the "Clean Energy Crusader." But many of them would be shocked to learn his wife, Tipper, made a name as a "Clean Music Crusader." Back in 1985, Tipper turned red when she bought a Prince album for her 11 year old. Prince's lyrics led Tipper to testify before Congress to urge warning labels for music marketed to kids.
Fast forward to the 21st Century and we watch Green Day, one of the world's top bands, fighting the world's top retailer over lyrics in their #1 CD, "21st Century Breakdown."
Wal-Mart has a long standing policy of not stocking music with a parental warning sticker. (Drink all the pop and junk food you'd like, but leave the CD in the rack please). So when Green Day's CD was released, Wal-Mart said 'we'd love to sell it, but you have to edit out some language.' Some artists comply with Wal-Mart, if for no other reason, to sell CDs. But Green Day said 'no way.' Taking a line from Nancy Reagan, the 1980's anti-drug crusader, "We just said no. We've never done it (edited out lyrics) before. You feel like you're in 1953 or something," said Green Day frontman Billie JoeArmstrong. "1953" from the mouth of a musician born in 1972, when Nixon was fighting Vietnam and Watergate. But this "21st Century Breakdown" between Wal-Mart and Green Day is tame in comparison with the spirited debate between Gore and the likes of Frank Zappa and Twisted Sister in the '80s.
This breakdown shows how two brands can fight and both can still win. Wal-Mart, ever so sensitive to upsetting the public, can rally behind its family-friendly brand. Green Day, with a fan base skeptical of big corporations and adult supervision, gets to take on Goliath to the cheers of fans who, never stepping inside a Wal-Mart, buy much of their music through iTunes.
So what lyrics on this CD make it "explicit?" In the title track, we hear lines such as "Born into Nixon, I was raised in hell...Homeland security could kill us...Raised by the bastards of 1969." It sounds like Wal-Mart fears the wrath of its conservative customers more than the memory of Tipper Gore.
GreenDay's Armstrong describes the album as "snapshot of an era in which we live as we question and try to make sense of the selfish manipulation going on around us, whether it be the govenrnment, religion, media or frankly any form of authority."
Pick-up in aisle two.