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The current Parental Advisory logo

Parental Advisory is a message affixed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to audio and recordings in the United States containing excessive use of profane language. Albums began to be labeled for "explicit lyrics" in 1985, after pressure from the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). In 2000, the PMRC worked with the RIAA to standardize the label, creating the now-familiar black and white design. The first albums to receive the label in its new form included Danzig's self-titled album, Soundgarden's Louder Than Love, Guns N Roses's Appetite For Destruction, and 2 Live Crew's As Nasty As They Wanna Be and had the label in the form of a sticker on the cellophane wrap. The first hip hop album that received the label is Ice-T's debut album Rhyme Pays, released in 1987, whose lyrics were associated with gangsta rap, and popularized the genre. Later pressings of Danzig's self-titled, as well as many new albums with the label after 1992, had the label printed onto the artwork. To some, it has become known as the "Tipper sticker" because of Tipper Gore's visible role in the PMRC.

Some retailers (such as Wal-Mart) refuse to sell albums containing the label, and many others limit the sale of such albums to adults only, although, most stores have settled on an age limit of 17 in order to buy an album containing the label. In some countries, however, such as the United Kingdom, albums displaying the sticker are available for purchase by persons of any age. While the label is mostly prevalent on rap and rock albums, it can appear on any genre of CD which the RIAA believes warrants the need for one.

Sometimes the sticker reads "Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics". Sometimes it mentions "Parental Guidance".


One of the first Parental Advisory logo as it appears on "Gotta Stop (Messin' About)" LP cover by Prince.

Originally, the sticker was a square with a dotted white line near the center of the sticker. "EXPLICIT LYRICS" is on the top, and "PARENTAL ADVISORY" is on the bottom. The first incarnation of the logo, introduced in 1990, used a generic font and was used until late 1993, when it was redesigned with a white box in a black rectangle instead of a white bar between black bars. This continued until 1994, when the white bar between black bars design was mixed with the second iteration and "ADVISORY" started using a modified font. In 2001, the fonts for "PARENTAL", "ADVISORY" and "EXPLICIT CONTENT" were simplified, and "EXPLICIT LYRICS" was dropped entirely after being used concurrently with "EXPLICIT CONTENT" for a few years.

A variation of the sticker says Parental Guidance instead of Parental Advisory but has only been seen on a few albums, such as Fatboy Slim's Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars, Miyavi's Galyuu, and some copies of Metallica's Garage Inc.


Many albums with few to no instances of strong profanity, instances of violence, and/or sexual situations in lyrics have a Parental Advisory sticker; examples include Bloc Party's Silent Alarm, Blue October's History for Sale, and others. Inversely, albums with multiple uses of explicit language may not have a Parental Advisory, such as the records Antics and Our Love to Admire by Interpol, and some albums/collections released by The Smashing Pumpkins. It is not a rating; there are no agreed-upon standards for a parental advisory label. It is the record company's decision whether an album needs one or not.

The presence of a Parental Advisory label does not seem to mean that an album is any more profane than one without. One such example is the death metal band Morbid Angel's 1993 album Covenant. While the band was signed on with the major record label Giant Records, pressings of Covenant had the parental advisory sticker in the corner. However, when Giant Records went bankrupt and Morbid Angel returned to their old independent label Earache Records, future pressings of the album no longer contained the sticker.

But many major-label artists' CDs evade Parental Advisory, such as most albums from Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, The Prodigy, Incubus, and The Rolling Stones. Also, The Hives' Barely Legal, Three Days Grace's One-X, Pearl Jam's Ten, Coheed and Cambria's The Second Stage Turbine Blade, Rage Against the Machine's The Battle of Los Angeles, and Breaking Benjamin's Saturate do not carry the sticker. Older albums often avoid being given a label even on their CD re-release, such as The Sex Pistols' 1977 LP Never Mind The Bollocks, despite its title and repeated strong language in the lyrics.

Moreover, some albums may receive Parental Advisory labels even though these albums contain no use of strong language, sexual references, or violent lyrics at all. Examples include Danzig's first four albums and EP, and Saving Abel's Saving Abel (these albums only contain mild-to-moderate profanity), as well as Gorillaz' G-Sides, Slayer's Seasons in the Abyss, and From First to Last's self titled.

Some albums, such as Blink 182's Enema of the State, Janet Jackson's All for You, Jennifer Lopez's J.Lo, Lily Allen's It's Not Me, It's You and Godsmack's self-titled album were initially released without a label, despite extremely explicit lyrical content, then re-released with one. The former already had an edited version released in Wal-Mart stores removing one of the heavily sexual tracks, and was then released in 'explicit' (with the label) and 'clean' versions in all stores. The re-releases of the first two (All for You and J.Lo) added a new remix of the single from the album that was currently being promoted at the time. (Both of the remixes were of explicit songs, so the remixes made the albums even more explicit, explaining why the label was added). The latter album, was released normally, with no label or edited version. About a month after its initial release, it was released with a label, alongside an edited version.

Most albums released on Sony Music's record labels (Arista Records, Columbia Records, Jive Records, LaFace Records, J Records, among others) that contain the PA sticker provide additional explanations of why the disc warrants the sticker and sometimes note that there is a clean version of said album available. On System of a Down's Hypnotize, for instance, under the label it reads "STRONG LANGUAGE, SEXUAL + VIOLENT CONTENT", and on the North American versions of Pink's albums Funhouse and I'm Not Dead, under the label it reads "STRONG LANGUAGE". Also, Radiohead's Hail to the Thief has a warning of the strong offensive language inside the CD booklet, next to the listed lyrics.

Many albums with the label have clean versions available, especially on online music stores such as iTunes or Napster. However, some of the "clean" stickers may be given to albums with no profanity, such as the case with Blur's self-titled album, which was given a clean sticker because it had three tracks within "Essex Dogs": "Dancehall", the former song, and "Intermission". Relient K had a similar case on iTunes, where they released a "clean" version of "Must Have Done Something Right", even though the band is known for not using any profanities. In 2007, rock group Garbage's "best of" collection was released worldwide through Warner Music Group, with all editions carrying a parental advisory label. A "clean" version of the album was, however, released through iTunes, yet the single instance of profanity found throughout the album (on the track "Why Do You Love Me") remained uncensored.

A few albums have a note saying that the lyrics are of an adult nature, but without the sticker: Bruce Springsteen's Devils & Dust, James Blunt's Back to Bedlam, Vanessa Amorosi's Somewhere In The Real World, Motion City Soundtrack's Even If It Kills Me, and Guns N' Roses' "The Spaghetti Incident?" (though some pressings of the latter did use the Parental Advisory sticker). The album Blood Sugar Sex Magik by Red Hot Chili Peppers sometimes carries a sticker claiming the record "contains language that some people may find offensive", though some copies carry the Parental Advisory sticker instead.

There have been some cases of unusual use of the label. After Frank Zappa campaigned against music censorship in 1985, the sticker was attached to his next album, Jazz from Hell, because of the title of one track, "G-Spot Tornado", although the album is entirely instrumental and contains no lyrics that could be "explicit lyrics". The designation of instrumentals as taboo, however, is nothing new; in the 1950s, the "Rumble" instrumental by Link Wray was banned from some radio stations because it could supposedly incite "juvenile violence".[citation needed]

To some, the stickers appear to have had the reverse effect to what was intended—the sticker can make an album more desirable, and the sticker has been called the musical equivalent of an "alcohol content" label. The RIAA, however, officially states that "it's not a PAL Notice that kids look for, it's the music. Independent research shows kids put limited weight on lyrics in deciding which music they like, caring more about rhythm and melody. The PAL Notice alone isn’t enough incentive."[1]

In December 2004, Trevin and Melanie Skeens of Maryland, who had bought the Evanescence album Anywhere But Home for their thirteen-year-old daughter, filed a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart after hearing the word 'fuck' spoken during the song "Thoughtless", a cover of a Korn song. The lawsuit claimed that while the album contained this explicit word, there was no Parental Advisory sticker on the package. It also claimed that this album violated Wal-Mart's policy of not stocking music with explicit lyrics, and that the company had to be aware of the problem because the word was dubbed out of a free sample on the website. Some copies are being sold with a Parental Advisory notice now, but most still don't have one.[citation needed]

The label is also seen in the United Kingdom, Portugal, Greece, Finland, the Netherlands, Brazil, Denmark, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Philippines, New Zealand, and Canada on albums of American origin. An album with the label is automatically banned in some conservative countries. At Wal-Mart (and until recently K-Mart) stores, only a "clean" version of an album is allowed, and if no "clean" version of the album is available, the album will not be available. However, Wal-Mart's policy on carrying "explicit" versions of music albums in their stores seems to vary by country, as albums with the parental advisory label are found in Canadian Wal-Mart stores, for example. Most CDs are available at Wal-Mart in edited formats. However, some CDs are available in edited formats at, but are not available in the stores due to controversy. In sharp contrast, retailer Best Buy only carries uncensored CDs in their physical stores, but customers can buy the "clean versions" at their website for an additional fee whereas in the retail store F.Y.E. you can buy either and clean or explicit version. A notable exception: while the Guns N Roses album Chinese Democracy carries a Parental Advisory on some online copies, physical Best Buy stores tend to carry only sticker-less copies.

In 2009, Wal-Mart asked Green Day to censor their album 21st Century Breakdown or they wouldn't carry it. Green Day chose not to censor the album so Wal-Mart refused to carry it. This has also happened to the band when American Idiot was first released.

Notable significant albums with the Parental Advisory Label

See also


  1. ^ "RIAA Parental Advisory". RIAA. 
  2. ^ Nuzum, Eric. "Censorship Incidents: 1980s". Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America. Retrieved 2007-07-23. 

External links

Simple English

Parental Advisory is a sticker that tells parents that something may not be suitable for children. The sticker is usually placed on Music CDs. It tells parents that the texts of the songs contain words or phrases that some consider bad for children. Parental Advisory stickers will usually appear on Hip Hop and Rap albums.

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