Top Ten Songs of 2013

Posted on 01/27/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

MTV is one of the most credible brands to choose for selecting the Top Ten songs of 2013.  We looked at over ten other brands and found editorial bias or genre related bias. So, who did MTV choose for this honor? 

            Song                                       Performer      THF Review               Genre             THF Violations 

1.     Royals                                            Lorde                    Non Compliant            Pop                   Drug – 2, Violence - 2

2.     Blurred Lines                             Robin Thicke   Non Compliant            Hip-Hop        Drug – 1, Sex – 5

3.     Get Lucky                                    Daft Punk          Compliant                       Disco              

4.     Wrecking Ball                           Miley Cyrus      Compliant                      Pop

5.       Roar                                              Katy Perry         Compliant                      Pop

6.       Started From the Bottom   Drake                   Non Compliant           Hip Hop           Hate Speech – 17

7.        Can’t Hold Us                           M&L                     Compliant                     Hip Hop

8.       Clarity                                         Zed                        Compliant                      Pop

9.       Radioactive                               Imagine D’s     Compliant                      Pop

10.    I Knew You Were Trouble Taylor Swift      Compliant                      Pop                            


If we consider these songs as representative of the music industry, we would surmise that 30% of songs published in 2013 over multiple genres were non-compliant according to the Town Hall Foundation. In this case we would likely want to add Wrecking Ball due to the music video that has Miley Cyrus swinging on a construction wrecking ball without her clothes. Not exactly something our target audience of 5-17 year-olds need to see and mimic. 

The review of the top ten is used for illustrative purpose.  If this is the best of the bunch, the music industry and the offending artist need to adjust their moral compass. But, if we think the artists are writing these lyrics for shock value and monetizing the Over-the-Top lyrics, then we should take responsibility and step in.

The THF is willing to work with artists prior to the release of their songs.  In many cases, only a small modification or suggestion would allow the artist and their song to avoid the THF Stamp of Shame.  We stand ready to help the artists.  Are they ready to ask for the help??

That’s the message for today, more coming.

Smoking Warning Saves Lives

Posted on 01/20/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

The cigarette industry spent billions of dollars with studies that were aimed at tarnishing the anti-smoking studies. In 2010 alone, the industry spent eight billion dollars on advertising for their product. In fact, teens smoke their first cigarette at a pace of 3,000 per day.

The clear evidence that smoking causes cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and a multitude of other illnesses has not stopped our children from starting the cigarette habit. The reduction in overall smoking has benefits to society in the form of lowered health care costs, life longevity, and quality of life issues.

So how does this relate to Over the Top music lyrics? The parallel is startling. Today, the music industry has no set of metrics in place to control artists from pushing the envelope in their lyrics. It’s all about the money. Sound familiar, like the cigarette industry in 1960?

As it became clear to us as a society and politicians that cigarettes do kill, life changed for the cigarette industry. We took charge and the outcomes speak for themselves. Today, smoking indoors is banned, smoking in many pubic outdoor arenas is banned, the price of cigarettes has climbed from 25 cents a pack to 5 dollars a pack, and the impact of second-hand smoke has diminished.

With the leadership of the Town Hall Foundation, we need to take charge and confront the music industry. Academic studies clearly show the Cause and Effect of Over the Top lyrics to bad behavior, and we have the ability to impact change. Artists hide behind the Constitution and want their Right to Free Speech protected. On that point the THF agrees.

But, as we have stated over and over, their speech should be unrestricted; however, that does not mean we have to support them with our dollars. By using the academic studies and creating Review Criteria, the THF will provide the Music Distribution Industry with data showing which lyrics (songs) are harmful to childhood development.

Again, using analogies from the past, the THF needs to lean forward and assign a Town Hall Foundation Seal of Shame for songs that violate the Review Criteria. A simple solution to a complex problem. If the lyrics attain the Stamp of Shame, music distributors such as iTunes, Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart should remove the songs from their inventory.

That’s the message for today,more coming.

Grammy Awards

Posted on 01/13/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

On January 26 of 2014, we’ll know who has won a Grammy from the 410 artists in 82 categories who have been nominated. At the THF, we have only reviewed 51 songs and they are posted on our Website. By the end of 2014, we will have reviewed thousands of songs and likely all of the 2015 Grammy nominees.

The Grammy Awards are in place to recognize the top artists in the 82 categories based on the selection committee criteria. The editorial today is to ask the question: “Why are artists who sing lyrics that are harmful to childhood development selected by anyone for recognition?"

Let’s take a look at what we know. In the category “Record of the Year” we have Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. Thicke is a Canadian and this song was thrust (pardon the pun) into contention by the performance of Miley Cyrus 'twerking' with Thicke on stage. Our review of this song shows one reference that glamorizes drug use and five instances of sexual misconduct. Hardly a good reference for a Grammy nomination.

In the category of “Album of theYear," The Heist, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s song Thrift Shop was reviewed and THF found three instances of hate speech and one instance of sexual misbehavior.

In the category of “Best New Artist," Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are nominated (see above). Justin Timberlake is nominated for “Best Pop Duo," Suit and Tie, which has two instances of glamorization of drug use and one instance of hate speech. The list of specifics goes on, but the crown jewel of the nomination race is: Jay Z.

His nine nominations were at the top for all nominees. Although we have not officially reviewed his nine nominations, his collaboration in Suit and Tie with Justin Timberlake is one of the nine nominations, and it failed the Town Hall Foundation review criteria.

It seems to me that as the THF grows and becomes more influential, we need to step up and as a Foundation address the selection committee and ask that they use our review criteria to eliminate these offending lyrics. At a minimum, they will have to publicly respond and from there we can begin a dialogue regarding their harmful impact on childhood development.

That’s the message for today, more coming.

Synthetic Drugs

Posted on 01/06/2014 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

Attorneys General Bondi-Texas, Madigan-Illinois, and Zoeller-Indiana have all spoken out against the rise in synthetic drugs. The pace of new drug development is exceeding the ability of law enforcement to keep up with testing and enforcement.

In Illinois, Attorney General Madigan drafted legislation which is now law that: defines a “synthetic drug product” as any product containing a controlled substance not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and significantly increases the penalty for selling or possessing with intent to distribute any drug that is misleadingly labeled.

On October 9, 2013, Attorney General Bondi posted on her Website: Attorney General Pam Bondi today filed an emergency rule outlawing four new synthetic drugs, including one called “Crazy Clown.” The emergency rule designates these new synthetic drugs as Schedule I of controlled substances, making it a third-degree felony for an individual to “sell, manufacture, or deliver, or possess with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver" these drugs. Synthetic drugs can cause psychotic episodes, hallucinations, seizures, paranoia, tremors, and more. Attorney General Bondi will work with the Florida Legislature during the 2014 legislative session to permanently ban these drugs.

“I will remain vigilant in my efforts to keep these drugs off store shelves and will continue to outlaw emergent synthetic drug compounds. These drugs pose a serious threat to Floridians, particularly our youth,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. “I thank the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for their continued partnership in the fight against synthetic drugs.”

She sent two FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) agents into the Tallahassee Mall. They bought this stuff legally. They took it back to the lab, they tested it, and they said, “Pam, this is synthetic heroin and LSD acid.”

According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network report, more than 11,000 emergency room visits nationwide involved a synthetic cannabinoid product in 2010. Seventy-five percent of these visits were from people ranging in age from 12 to 29. Alarmingly, the majority of those people were between 12 and 17.

Throughout 2013, Attorney General Bondi has outlawed 127 synthetic drugs and the four she banned in October were the fewest in any month of 2013. Her efforts must be working. The drugs go by such names as: Spice, “K2,” ‘Scooby Snax,’ and ‘Mr. Smiley”, all are synthetic cannabinoids.

With some artists in the music industry encouraging our youth to do drugs, and now synthetic drugs purchased over the counter, let’s join together and stop the sale of songs that encourage drug use.

That’s the message for today, more coming.

Time Magazine Person of the Year

Posted on 12/30/2013 by John Poland CEO, Town Hall Foundation

We all know who the 2013 Person of the Year is, Pope Francis. Let’s look a little deeper into the process and the other nominees. The nominees included: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, President Obama, Pope Francis, gay rights activist Edith Windsor, Jeff Bezos CEO of Amazon, Senator Ted Cruz, Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran, Edward Snowden, N.S.A. leaker, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of HHS, and Miley Cyrus. Miley Cyrus??? What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, let’s keep this simple. Ms. Cyrus also had two of the 10-most-clicked-on stories across USA TODAY's website. In tenth place was her picture smoking pot on stage in the Netherlands and, in fifth place, Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus performing during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards on August 25 in Brooklyn. No one else had more than one story or picture that was in the top ten.

So darling Hanna Montana was smoking pot on stage and was viewed by the millions of Internet boys and girls. Setting a strong moral standard is not Ms. Cyrus’s strong suit. But following that with her Twerking scene with Robin Thicke, basically sex on stage, was even more popular. Twerking is one of the new words in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary for 2013, made famous by Ms. Cyrus.

So, back to the top ten Persons of the Year. We have four heads of state, a Cabinet Secretary, a Senator, an Activist, a CEO, a Top Secret Leaker, and Ms. Miley, a music artist. The criterion was: persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year. Based on the criteria, the Time magazine editors were way off base with Miley Cyrus.

Whom did she affect around the world, and what was embodied by her work that allowed her rise to the same level as the other nine. Sounds to me like the editors were doing what Miley did in the Netherlands.

That’s the message for today, more coming.