[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at 1999's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Tuesday, Nov. 16.]
Third Eye Blind have heeded their label's request to alter a potentially
controversial song from their upcoming album that lead singer Stephan
Jenkins had previously said was meant as an anti-violence message.
The band, whose hit singles have chronicled suicide and addiction to
the drug crystal-meth, was asked to drop lyrics from "Slow Motion" on its
second album, Blue (Nov. 23), by the label's chairwoman and
CEO, Sylvia Rhone, according to an Elektra Records spokesperson who
Though Rhone was not available for comment Monday (Nov. 15), she reportedly
has said the decision to remove the lyrics, which deal with drug use and
violence, was not intended to censor the group.
"That song didn't work in the context of the rest of the album," online
music site RollingStone.com quoted Rhone as saying. "And it didn't
work in the context of the current social climate, and in the overall
vision of this band." The Elektra source said the chairwoman's comments
represented the company's position.
Frontman Jenkins said in late September that the song's lyrics were intended
to be an anti-violence message. The song includes these lines:
"Miss Jones taught me English, but I think I just shot her son/ 'Cause
he owed me money, with a bullet in the chest/ With a bullet in the chest
he cannot run/ Now he's bleeding in a vacant lot."
"That song is a protest song. It's an irony. 'Slow Motion' is about how
we revel in amorality," Jenkins said while his band was finishing the
album in a hometown San Francisco studio two months ago. To illustrate
his point, he cited these lyrics:
"Hollywood glamorized my wrath/ I'm a young urban psychopath/ I incite
murder for your entertainment/ 'Cause I needed the money, what's your
excuse?/ The joke's on you."
"It is supposed to be seductive," Jenkins said. "It's almost like an
opiate. It is intent on drawing you in. I'm sure I'll get a lot of sh--
for it. I'm sure nobody's going to get any sense about it at all. But I
like it, I get it" (RealAudio excerpt of interview).
The spare, down-tempo ballad was recorded by Jenkins on piano and
guitar. It is expected to appear on the album in a mostly instrumental
version, punctuated by a haunted-sounding chorus: "Slow motion/ See me
Jenkins said he is used to his band being misinterpreted. It began with what some pegged as the pro-drug message of the band's breakout 1997 hit, "Semi-Charmed Life" (RealAudio excerpt), a song rife with images of oral sex and drug use. Among the lyrics penned by Jenkins for that song are, "She comes round and she goes down on me," "Chop another line like a coda with a curse," "Doing crystal-meth will life you up until you break/ It won't stop, I won't come down, I keep stock."
Nina Crowley, the leader of anti-censorship group Mass Mic, called the
removal of the lyrics from the band's album a part of the "whitewashing"
of American culture in the wake of the deadly April school shootings at
Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
"This is really distressing," she said Monday (Nov. 15). "I know labels have done these kinds of things in the past and kept it quiet, but this is self-censorship, and people are running scared; it's hysteria. Here, you're getting a song censored based on the words, not the intent."
Jenkins said the band's new songs, such as the ballads "Deep Inside of You" and "Never Let You Go" and the driving first single, "Anything" (RealAudio excerpt), are about life's messier moments.
"[The new songs] have the friction and things smashing into each other that I'm always interested in," Jenkins said. He also put into that category the new album's song "Wounded" a dramatic chronicle of a friend's sexual assault driven by a jungle-style rhythm, violins and '70s-style rock riffs.
The Elektra spokesperson said the band was interested in releasing "Slow Motion" on its own label next year. Neither Jenkins nor Third Eye Blind's management could be reached for comment for this story.
Other bands asked to change their lyrics or song titles to avoid controversy include Nirvana, who agreed to change the title of their anti-rape song, "Rape Me" (RealAudio excerpt) to "Waif Me," to get the album into some major retail chains. The arty rock group Radiohead cleaned up the chorus of their breakthrough 1993 hit, "Creep," from "You're so fucking special" to "you're so very special" to get radio play.
In June, following a protest from a religious group calling itself Be Level-Headed, the Offspring and Silverchair chose not to play songs the activist group had termed dangerously violent at the Hard Rock RockFest '99 in Hampton, Ga. A spokesperson for the Offspring later told SonicNet Music News that the band's song "Beheaded" (RealAudio excerpt) which inspired Be Level-Headed's name and was cited by that group as offensive was not on the Offspring's setlist.
Blue is Third Eye Blind's follow-up to their multiplatinum 1997 eponymous debut, which was a mix of Jenkins' evocative lyrics and power-pop stylings. The debut spawned a number of radio hits, including "Graduate" (RealAudio excerpt) and "How's It Going to Be" (RealAudio excerpt).