“Today to sell a song, you need a video with soft porn” 

A wise man once said this, and his name was Wyclef Jean. The lyrics above come from his song Low Income, from his album The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book released way back in 2000. Oh yes, I know my stuff. But that was almost 14 years ago now and I’m pretty sure music videos from back then would be largely considered very mild by today’s standards.

But he has a point. Many music videos are effectively soft porn nowadays, and it’s no longer just the realm of misogynistic hip-hop videos with dem fly honeys and their bouncing chesticles. And Annie Lennox has picked back up on this issue recently suggesting that music videos should be given age ratings. She has a point too.

Annie Lennox described some offending music videos as dark and pornographic, and to quote her directly, “I’m all for freedom of expression, but this is clearly one step beyond and it’s clearly into the realm of porn. How do you stop your kids being exposed to it? It’s so powerful. You don’t want to see your seven-year-old girls twerking all over the place.” She also goes on to say that there is nothing wrong with sexuality and sensuality, but it should be age appropriate.

If movies and video games have to abide by certain rules that dictate what age rating they will receive, surely music videos should fall under the same kind of scrutiny. An age rating restricts a TV channel from airing certain things at certain times or at least having to provide some kind of parental warning. It is frequently the case where movies will have to cut material from the film in order to get a certain age rating and as a result, open themselves up to a large target audience and make more money.

Music videos don’t really have to worry about this too much. Sure, some music videos can get banned by blatantly crossing the line, going back to the line, tearing the line up and setting fire to the line’s remains. But for the artists like Britney, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke, they know they can freely approach the line, cross it a little and then reap the free publicity that gets thrown in their direction.

Music Porn

If orally pleasuring a sledgehammer and swinging around completely billy-bollocks naked on a wrecking ball is wholesome family viewing, I will not only eat my hat, but also my socks, my batman onsie and my fridge. I think Annie Lennox’s idea is spot on. Make “artists” censor their videos or risk missing out on screening opportunities.

To try and get the ball rolling, I have a few suggestions for how the system could be work. 

U Rating

  • Appropriate for all ages but don’t expect anything exciting
  • Content could be transferred directly into a Disney animated family movie with zero editing
  • Most offensive gesture – thumbs up
  • Typical artists – Jonas Brothers, Jack Johnson

12 Rating

  • Outfits cover at least 70% of the body, this ain’t no skin fest
  • Dances must be limited in sexuality, light to medium petting allowed on screen between a wholesome couple
  • Most offensive gesture – medium petting
  • Typical artists – One Direction, Michael Bublé, Daft Punk

15 Rating

  • Outfits retreat significantly more, manly rappers can show off their chiseled pecs if they must
  • Dance moves may be a little more mature, but contact should still be limited
  • Behaviour may be moderately outlandish or weird, especially to aid humour
  • Most offensive gesture – crotch grabbing, blurred hand gestures
  • Typical artists – Eminem, Dizzee Rascal, Tenacious D

18 Rating

  • Outfits must cover lady nips and both gender’s downtown areas, everything else is fair game. Nudity allowed as long as no aforementioned areas show
  • Fellating sledgehammers and other sexual implications allowed, twerking still frowned upon
  • Most offensive gesture – we’re all grown ups here, expect lots of sex
  • Typical artists – Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke

X Rated

  • Imagine the really weird stuff Japan does, crank it up and take some hallucinogens, this is what you get
  • Typical artists – Lady GaGa, Bjork

 What would your music video ratings look like?

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