Dole took some hard shots at entertainment industry, but his aim was a little off Facing the MUSIC

THE BALTIMORE SUN

When Senator Bob Dole attacked the entertainment industry in a fund-raising speech last week, he pulled no punches. Popular music, movies and television were responsible for "mainstreaming deviancy" in our society, he said; they are "bombarding our children with destructive messages of casual violence and even more casual sex."

Music was particularly criticized by the presidential candidate. "A line has been crossed -- not just of taste, but of human dignity and decency," he thundered. "It is crossed every time sexual violence is given a catchy tune. When teen suicide is set to an appealing beat." The worst pop groups, he fumed, "revel in mindless violence and loveless sex."

L Dole didn't just rely on righteous rhetoric. He named names.

Trouble is, those names weren't terribly current.

For instance, none of the rap acts he mentioned -- Ice-T, the Geto Boys and 2 Live Crew -- have recorded in the last two years. In fact, Ice-T, whom Dole saw as emblematic of a lack of conscience at Time Warner, was dropped by the conglomerate's music division in 1992, a year after it pulled "Cop Killer" off the shelves. 2 Live Crew has been inactive since releasing a greatest hits album in 1992, while the last Geto Boys release hit the streets in '93.

All of this led many in the music industry to argue that the presidential hopeful was running a campaign based on issues leftover from the last election. Warner Music Group chairman Michael Fuchs was quoted as dismissing Dole's speech as purely political, and "not directed toward getting results."

Is Dole's argument really as out-of-date as his examples? To find out, we decided to take a look at what Billboard magazine listed as the Top 15 singles for the week Dole gave his speech. Determined by both radio play and consumer sales, the Billboard chart is as accurate a measure of what America is listening to as can be found.

Our survey examined each single (and, in many cases, the accompanying music video) for traces of sex, violence and depravity. Each was then rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being as wholesome as "You Light Up My Life," and 10 being as bad as Bob Dole's worst nightmares.

How did they fare? Should we be afraid? See for yourself:

No. 1: "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman," Bryan Adams (A&M;)

What's it about? Written for the film "Don Juan de Marco," the flamenco-tinged "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman" is a celebration of romance that flies in the face of the music Dole says champions "loveless sex." It's accompanied by a video that plays off Don Juan imagery while presenting Adams as a man looking for something more enduring than the pleasures of the flesh.

Sexual content: "To really love a woman, hold her 'til you know how she needs to be touched" is about as racy as it gets.

Violence involved: None

Depravity quotient: Nothing, unless you think there's something kinky about the masks people wear in the video.

Overall rating: 2

A Time Warner release? No

No. 2: "This Is How We Do It," Montell Jordan (PMP/RAL)

What's it about? A celebration of style, "This Is How We Do It" talks about the way young people in South Central Los Angeles party on a typical Friday night. Despite its talk of "O.G. macks" and 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor, Jordan paints a surprisingly wholesome picture of a night in the 'hood where "all the gangbangers forgot about the drive-by" and even the party crowd has its share of designated drivers.

Sexual content: A passing allusion to "honeys in the street" out to make money.

Violence involved: None

Depravity quotient: None

Overall rating: 4

A Time Warner release? No

No. 3: "I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By," Method Man featuring Mary J. Blige (Def Jam)

What's it about? A declaration of love, although in somewhat unconventional terms. As Mary J. Blige sings the refrain from the old Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell hit "You're All I Need to Get By," Method Man offers his version of love talk, telling his woman he'll always be there for her and thanking her for bearing his babies and not asking for a ring or a wedding. Not exactly traditional family values, but a far cry from sexual objectification.

Sexual content: Never gets more explicit than lines like "I've got a love jones/For your body and your skin tone."

Violence involved: None

Depravity quotient: Limited to having children out of wedlock and a few marijuana references

Overall rating: 6

A Time Warner release? No

No. 4: "Total Eclipse of the Heart," Nicki French (Critique)

What's it about? A cover of the 1983 Bonnie Tyler hit, it's an overblown tale of lost love that finds the protagonist pining extravagantly for her departed lover.

Sexual content: Includes the line "I need you now tonight," but never specifies for what

Violence involved: None

Depravity quotient: Well, they did remake it as a disco number. . .

Overall rating: 3

A Time Warner release? No

No. 5: "Water Runs Dry," Boyz II Men (Motown)

What's it about? Rather than let love turn sour, this understated love song advocates repairing the relationship before "we make the biggest mistake of our lives." That's right: it's a plea for compromise and counseling, intended to keep couples together.

Sexual content: Although the video shows an attractive woman wandering the desert in a very sheer outfit, the song emphasizes love (or the lack thereof) over sex.

Violence involved: "Why do we hurt each other/Why do we push love away" is as rough as it gets.

Depravity quotient: Less than zero

Overall rating: 1

A Time Warner release? No

No. 6: "Freak Like Me," Adina Howard (East/West)

What's it about? She likes sex; wouldn't you like her? About as blatant a come-on as can be found in the Top-40, this musical fantasy may be sung by a woman, but was clearly written by men for men. The video is as suggestive as you can get without actually resorting to nudity.

Sexual content: Mostly innuendo, but unmistakable in intent

Violence involved: None

Depravity quotient: Nymphomania

Overall rating: 9

A Time Warner release? Yes

No. 7: "Don't Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days)," Monica (Tommy Boy)

What's it about? She's feeling stressed and needs some space, so she asks her boyfriend not to "take it personal" and let her be by herself for a while. A surprisingly mature message, it finds Monica admitting that she's feeling angry and confused but doesn't want to take it out on her lover.

Sexual content: Not even mentioned

Violence involved: A few references to anger

Depravity quotient: An appallingly healthy single

Overall rating: 2

A Time Warner release? Yes

No. 8: "I Know," Dionne Farris (Columbia)

What's it about? He's playing games, she's not having any. An assertion of emotional confidence, it finds Farris recognizing the intent behind her lover's full-court press, and telling him "It's not going to work this time."

Sexual content: Only if you read between the lines

Violence involved: None

Depravity quotient: Romantic dishonesty, but that's all

Overall rating: 2

A Time Warner release? No

No. 9: "I Believe," Blessid Union of Souls (EMI)

What's it about? The world may be full of violence, greed, prejudice and strife, but one day love will find the way. It may sound like a throwback to the hippie era, but this string-laden ballad is an earnest and optimistic appeal to the higher instincts within us all. You'd think Dole would be applauding this one.

Sexual content: None

Violence involved: Only in the abstract, although the singer's girlfriend is afraid her dad will be angry when he learns she's in love with a black man.

Depravity quotient: It mentions drugs and violence to disdain them.

Overall rating: 1

A Time Warner release? No

No. 10: "Red Light Special," TLC (LaFace)

What's it about? Sex. "Baby it's yours, if you want it tonight" goes the refrain, and the verses are filled with descriptions of just how the girls intend to give it up.

Sexual content: Heavy innuendo. The video finds the group playing strip poker with a group of well-muscled men.

Violence involved: None

Depravity quotient: Depends on how deeply you read into the lyrics.

Overall rating: 8

A Time Warner release? No

No. 11: "Let Her Cry," Hootie & the Blowfish (Atlantic)

What's it about? A man in love with a substance abuser prays for transcendence and the strength to leave. Rather than demonize the woman, the song describes the pain of still being able to see the good qualities beneath the bad habits, and the difficulty of letting go of a bad relationship.

Sexual content: Nil

Violence involved: Emotional turbulence only

Depravity quotient: She gets high too much.

Overall rating: 4

A Time Warner release? Yes

No.12: "Keep Their Heads Ringin'," Dr. Dre (Priority)

What's it about? Taken from the soundtrack to "Friday," this tune consists mainly of Dr. Dre's boasting about how bad he is. He's tough, an awesome lover, a sharp dresser, a great MC, etc., etc.

Sexual content: General braggadocio, but few specifics; numerous obscenities

Violence involved: Rivals get "popped like a pimple," and worse.

Depravity quotient: Some allusions to non-procreative sexual practices.

Overall rating: 7

A Time Warner release? No

No.13: "Dear Mama," 2Pac (Interscope)

What's it about? He may come on like a thug, but Tupac Shakur is really a mama's boy at heart. The tale of a kid from the streets who, on the verge of manhood and serious trouble, stops to think about how hard his mother's life has been, and how deep her love is. Not exactly a Norman Rockwell scene, but genuinely touching and deeply respectful of womanhood.

Sexual content: None

Violence involved: Some anger toward dad, some crime

Depravity quotient: None

Overall rating: 5

A Time Warner release? Yes

No. 14: "Can't You See," Total featuring the Notorious B.I.G. (Tommy Boy)

What's it about? After a rap in which the Notorious B.I.G. boasts about what a great lover and rapper he is, the girls in Total sing about how they can't wait to get together with their lovers. Because the track emphasizes the chorus and groove, there's not much in the way of lyric content once the rap ends.

Sexual content: Mostly innuendo

Violence involved: Mostly metaphorical

Depravity quotient: None to speak of

Overall rating: 5

A Time Warner release? Yes

No. 15: "Run Away," Real McCoy (Arista)

What's it about? Running away to avoid the seamy underside of utopia. Or something. Though the rap-style verse suggests an ++ ominous sci-fi scenario, the details are too sketchy to make out what, precisely, is going on. Apart from running away, that is. Clearly, not a song for people who pay attention to lyrics.

Sexual content: Not really

Violence involved: None

Depravity quotient: Not enough content for that

Overall rating: 3

A Time Warner release? No

JUDGE FOR YOURSELF

To hear excerpts from these singles, call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6112 after you hear the greeting.

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