The following was received from the Recording Industry Association of America: Parental Control website at www.riaa.com
The Parental Advisory is a notice to consumers that recordings identified by this logo may contain strong language or depictions of violence, sex, or substance abuse. Parental discretion is advised.
The use of the Parental Advisory Label isn’t a determination of whether a recording is or is not appropriate for particular listeners. Rather, the non-removable label is a “heads up” to parents (and consumers, retailers, and wholesalers) that parental discretion is advised when purchasing the particular recording for children or when listening to the recording in the home.
The following issues may have been considered in making a determination regarding application of the label.
Whether, in light of contemporary cultural morals and standards and the choices and views of individual parents, the recording might be one that parents may not want their child to listen to.
Context is obviously important: Some words, phrases, sounds, or descriptions might be offensive to parents if spotlighted or emphasized, but might not offend if merely part of the background or not a meaningful part of the lyrics.
The context of the artist performing the material, as well as the expectations of the artist’s audience, is also important. In addition to profanity, “depictions of violence, sex, or substance abuse” must be considered when making a determination regarding the application of the Parental Advisory Label.
Lyrics are often susceptible to varying interpretations. Words can have different meanings. Also, words cannot be viewed in isolation from the music that accompanies them. Lyrics when accompanied by loud and raucous music can be perceived differently than the same lyrics when accompanied by soft and soothing music.
Labeling is not a science; it requires sensitivity and common sense. Context, frequency, and emphasis are obviously important; isolated or unintelligible references to certain material might be insufficient to warrant application of the label.
These guidelines apply to the case of a single track commercially released as well as to full albums (whether released in the form of a CD, cassette, or any other configuration) and videos.
The “Clean Lyrics” label is used to distinguish between an edited version of an album or song whose contents have been changed from the original so that it does not require the “Explicit Lyrics” label.