Explicit Content: The Albums That Made Our Parents Cringe

Whether it came on vinyl, cassette or CD, the album that opened up a Pandora’s box of sexual feelings was a huge deal. FLARE editors share their scintillating first listens

Meghan Collie

Do you remember the first album you bought that made you feel like you should close your door while you listened? Maybe there was artwork of a naked girl on the cover, or one of the songs was lousy with F-bombs. Regardless, you couldn’t believe you managed to get your hands on it and you proceeded with extreme caution to ensure your parents couldn’t hear. You promptly soaked up lustful tales of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll without having any damn clue what they were really about. Here are our firsts, shared in a wave of longing for days when thrills came simply from throwing on Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill.

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No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom
When I was nine, I managed to convince my mom to buy me Tragic Kingdom on one of our many Costco trips. Although the lyrics were a little advanced for me, my mom was more focused on the fact that the orange on the back said “Sunpist,” which isn’t even a real swear word, but was close enough in her opinion. Despite that less-than-clever orange brand wordplay, Tragic Kingdom remains one of my favourite albums, and the songs are definitely more relatable now. —Tara MacInnis, assistant fashion and beauty editor

Britney Spears, Oops!…I Did It Again
After Brit’s totally iconic vid for …Baby One More Time, I knew I had to immediately buy the album Oops!…I Did It Again. Yes, I was only seven, but obviously very headstrong. I vividly remember dragging my dad to the mall and bee-lining for the CD, the cover of which featured the young pop star standing in a sea of beaded curtains, midriff first. I couldn’t believe how much of her stomach the whole world could see, and my dad definitely had an “OMG, I have a daughter” moment. I memorized every single lyric, right down to the sampled convos from The Titanic. In retrospect, the tracks on this album are not scandalous at all and I am making it painstakingly clear that I lived a very shielded childhood. —Meghan Collie, digital intern

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Alanis Morissette, Jagged Little Pill
This was one of the very first albums I was able to buy myself. ON CASSETTE TAPE. There was a parental advisory symbol on the front that my 11-year-old self managed to squeak past my parents. It was on repeat on the stereo in my bedroom constantly. That angst! Me too, Alanis, me too. I felt so grown up listening to it. There was a bonafide F-bomb in You Oughta Know that I relished belting along with her (albeit under my breath, behind a closed bedroom door). Singing about sex! And swearing! Never mind that some of the concepts were a bit beyond me. I always thought she was singing about a cross-eyed bear… — Lindsay Murrell, photo editor

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magic
Way back in what was basically the Mesopotamian era as far as FLARE is concerned (1991), I received a copy of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magic in the mail as part of my  (“8 CDs for a penny!”). It was scandalous for both the black-and-white parental advisory warning on the cover and also the fact that it had “sex” in the title, a word I don’t believe I’ve said to my mother to this day. Twenty-five years later—gawd—I stand by this selection and will always stop station surfing if Under the Bridge comes on the radio. But my favourite memory of this album was when my mom accidentally put her Rita MacNeil CD overtop of it (in her defence, CD technology was still new), pressed play and then exclaimed “This is NOT Rita MacNeil!!!!!” when The Power of Equality started blaring through the speakers.  —Maureen Halushak, deputy editor

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Nirvana, rarities collection
To me, my first “scandalous” album had less to do with the content than the way in which it was procured. I bought a Nirvana rarities bootleg cassette tape off of an AOL forum—not behaviour my parents exactly condoned.  Since I was about 10 then, I had to send (Canadian) cash to a complete stranger in the US, but somehow it ended up in my mailbox. Definitely went on many a walk for a couple weeks waiting for it to come so I could snatch it up before my parents saw it. I managed to hide it for a year or so before they found my contraband drawer. I thought it was funny that my parents cared so much about it because they were very open about my music choices—my mom took me to Madonna’s Blonde Ambition Tour when I was six, which to me is still much more “scandalous.” I also had all the commercially released Nirvana records at the time. I guess it was probably the level of obsession that scared them because they actually really liked the music in the end. — Preetma Singh, fashion editor

Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville
I first listened to this album at a friend’s cottage with a slightly older (and yes much cooler) friend who had this indie rock album by this girl named Liz ON TAPE that we had to listen to. Mind you, this was a number of a years after it came out but without the Internet’s constant presence, I was unprepared for the smart, honest, sexual lyrics about to make me blush, giggle and generally freak out that a woman could sing-talk about these things (blow jobs, boy-on-girl emotional crimes, more sex stuff) all with a killer lo-fi sound. Bonus: it still holds up today. — Andrea Miller, digital managing editor

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Usher, 8701
Oh, how clueless I was listening to Usher’s 8701 on loop. The Atlanta-raised babe friggin invented the word “twerk” (he spelled it “twork” but whatever). Not that I knew what it meant at the time. Ditto for his sexed-up lyrics: “Now that I got you all soakin’ wet, I bet you know what’s comin’ next.” I had no idea. — Caitlin Kenny, beauty editor

Janet Jackson, Janet
The first album I ever asked my parents for was Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. I got it for Christmas when I was nine, and I listened to it exclusively for about a year until a group of mean girls in Grade 5 gym class told me Janet was the cooler Jackson and only losers listened to Michael (srsly, what did they know??). So that next year, for my birthday, I asked for Janet’s new cassette, not really knowing anything about it other than that she was cool. For good measure, I also asked for Mariah Carey’s Music Box (the mean girls were into her, too). My grandmother went out and bought me both, and when I unwrapped them I was shocked to see a bare-chested Janet on her cover, an anonymous man holding on to her breasts from behind. “I don’t like the looks of her,” my nan said. “That Mariah girl looks much nicer on her cover.” After that, I knew that I was probably too young to listen to Janet—but that kind of made me like her more. —Charlotte Herrold, digital editor

Christina Aguilera, Christina Aguilera
In the earliest 2000s, my main method of finding new music was scribbling down titles of music videos I liked while watching the MuchMusic Video Countdown on Saturday mornings at 8am. My dad would then download whatever songs I had listed. He was very much surprised to hear his five-year-old daughter singing along with Christina Aguilera about “getting rubbed the right way” one day after school. When he realized “Genie in a Bottle” was one of the songs he’d burned onto my homemade mix CDs, he made a point of looking up the lyrics of all my suspiciously-titled song requests. But I did get to keep the original disc–mostly because he (correctly) assumed I had no idea what she was talking about.— Jessica Robinson, culture intern

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