||This article possibly contains original research. (August 2012)|
The Parental Advisory Label (PAL) is a label affixed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) to audio recordings in the United States containing excessive use of profane language and/or sexual references.
The logo is not a rating, and there are no agreed-upon standards for the label. It is the record company's decision whether or not an album requires a label. Some albums, however, have been considered so extreme in their violent content that the distributor of the album has put on a secondary warning next to the Parental Advisory sticker, most notably Geto Boys' self-titled album released in 1990.
The warning, which has been called the musical equivalent of an "alcohol content" label, has appeared to make some albums more desirable, resulting in the reverse effect to what was intended. The warning has achieved a degree of cult status, with comedian George Carlin titling an album Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics and numerous t-shirts, metal signs, and other paraphernalia bearing the logo. The RIAA, however, officially states, "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."
The label is occasionally seen on other content not intended for young children, such as novels.
Albums began to be labeled for "explicit lyrics" in 1985, after pressure from the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). The first albums to be labeled for explicit lyrics included Prince's Purple Rain (1984), Megadeth's Peace Sells... but Who's Buying? (1986), Danzig's self-titled album (1988), Soundgarden's Louder Than Love (1989), Guns N' Roses's Appetite for Destruction (1987), and 2 Live Crew's As Nasty As They Wanna Be (1989) and had the label in the form of a sticker on the cellophane wrap. Among the first music video releases to receive the label was Duran Duran's self-titled video album (1983), for partial nudity. 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.
The sticker was introduced in 1990 as a square with a dotted white line near the center of the sticker. The phrase "Explicit Lyrics" was marked on the top, and "Parental Advisory" on the bottom. The first album to bear the standard, non-removable sticker was Luke & the 2 Live Crew's 1990 album Banned in the USA. Since 1992, albums to which the label apply to have the label placed onto the album artwork. This incarnation of the logo 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. In 1994, the fonts of "Parental" and "Advisory" were simplified, and "Explicit Lyrics" was replaced with "Explicit Content", although this design was not prevalent on most albums until 1996. In 2001, the fonts of "Parental Advisory" and "Explicit Content" were modified ("Explicit Lyrics" was later dropped from the labels after a few years of usage alongside "Explicit Content").
However, not all albums that contain profanity carry a Parental Advisory label.
A lesser-used variation of the sticker says "Parental Guidance" rather than "Parental Advisory," as seen on some albums, including Fatboy Slim's Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars, Miyavi's Galyuu, UK copies of Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill, Britney Spears' Blackout, and some copies of Metallica's Garage Inc..
Often, an album will be released in two formats, an unedited version with the label, and an edited or amended version without the label, often called a "clean" version. American retailer Best Buy only carries uncensored albums in their physical stores, though customers can purchase the clean versions at its website for an additional fee, whereas in F.Y.E., a customer may purchase both explicit and clean albums in-store. (One notable exception is Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy, which carries a Parental Advisory on some online copies, though Best Buy tends to carry only the clean version.)
Walmart is known for only selling edited albums. If no edited version of the album is available, Walmart will ask the artist to make one; if the artist refuses to make an edited version, Walmart will not carry the album. However, the chain's policy on carrying explicit versions of music albums in its stores seems to vary by country, as albums with the Parental Advisory label are found in Canadian stores, for example. Some albums are available in edited formats only at the Walmart website but are not available in the stores because of controversy. The company requested the band Green Day to edit its albums American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown in 2004 and 2009, respectively, or the retail chain would refuse to sell those two albums. In both cases, Green Day refused. Later, coinciding with the release of the ¡Uno!, ¡Dos!, ¡Tre! trilogy in 2012, Green Day released clean versions of American Idiot, ¡Uno!, ¡Dos! and ¡Tre!.
The label is also seen in the United Kingdom, Portugal, Poland, Germany, Greece, France, Finland, the Netherlands, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, Australia, Philippines, India, New Zealand, and Canada on albums of American origin. An album with the label is banned in some conservative countries (such as China and Saudi Arabia).