The Warner Bros.-distributed Maverick label will provide parental warning stickers to at least one major retailer for the album containing "Smack My Bitch Up," the hotly debated song from rock group Prodigy. The move, made at the request of the Target chain, comes long after Warner began distributing the album without a sticker because the company did not regard the lyrics as potentially offensive.
The 797-store, Minneapolis-based Target chain--a division of Dayton-Hudson Corp.--should have the warning labels within two weeks, according to Target representative Carolyn Brookter. "We don't think we should be censors," Brookter said. "We felt that the way for us not to be censors was to work with the record company and see if they would provide us with warning stickers, and they said OK. Now consumers can make an educated decision as to whether they want to purchase this product."
Target competitors Wal-Mart and Kmart--which, unlike Target, have a policy against carrying albums that have received parental warning stickers--pulled the album from their combined 4,400 stores two weeks ago, after a story on the controversy first appeared in The Times.
Leaders for the National Organization for Women have criticized the single, which they say glorifies violence against women. Janice Rocco, president of the Los Angeles chapter of NOW, met Friday with several representatives of Warner and Maverick, including Warner Bros. Records Vice Chairman David Althschul and Maverick Chief Operating Officer Ronnie June Dashev.
Rocco said the executives "made it very clear that they didn't find this CD offensive."
Warner representative Bob Merlis confirmed that Target will receive stickers. He said the decision to supply them was made "at the Maverick level." Maverick is co-owned by Time Warner and by a partnership that includes singer Madonna.
But he said Target is an isolated case and that the company does not plan to sticker the albums for shipment anywhere else.
Rocco vowed NOW will continue to pursue the issue. "It's clear that Time Warner released this album without advisory labels because they intended to market it to children," she said, adding that a coalition of the nation's leading feminist organizations had sent a letter to Time Warner Chairman Gerald Levin, requesting a meeting. The letter's authors, including Gloria Steinem and Feminist Majority leader Eleanor Smeal, are awaiting a response.