Did f-bombs ruin The Concert for Valor?
"Happy Motherf---ing Veterans Day!" shouted Eminem into the microphone at Tuesday's Concert for Valor.
The rapper was the closing act in a star-studded tribute show that included Rihanna, Zac Brown Band, Jennifer Hudson, The Black Keys, Bruce Springsteen, Carrie Underwood and Metallica.
And he capped a night that also included a lot of f-bombs. It's hard to know exactly how many. One Twitter user put it more than 55. In the rapper's four-song set — The Monster with Rihanna, Guts Over Fear, Not Afraid and Lose Yourself, the f-word appears at least once in each song. And in Not Afraid multiple times.
Earlier in the evening, George Lopez also used the f-word as he introduced Carrie Underwood, saying, "I know we can make more motherf---ing noise than that."
Twitter lit up with complaints, many saying it was not appropriate to use explicit language at an outdoor free concert on the mall in Washington, or in a concert being broadcast on unscrambled HBO outlets to military members around the world between the hours of 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET.
The idea for the concert came from HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler. The acts, all approached about three months ago, were meant to be a mix of rock, country, bluegrass, heavy metal, soul and rap to offer something that would "appeal to everyone," says HBO's Quentin Schaffer.
As for the language? It's HBO.
"Most people know that HBO doesn't censor its artists nor do we try to sanitize what they say," he says, noting that two of the biggest acts, Metallica and Eminem, are "strong favorites among the troops, many of whom shouted out the lyrics as the songs progressed. While Eminem, to no one's surprise, had some strong lyrics, he was the last act of the night."
Schaffer says that as with live Comic Relief specials in the 1980s which featured some colorful language and benefited homeless causes, "the greater good was the awareness that the concert brought to the cause."
HBO doesn't know how many people watched the special. The channel allowed its cable operators to open the signal, potentially broadening the audience from HBO's 30 million plus base to a potential 70 more million homes who didn't subscribe.
The concert was also available online via live stream on Twitter and powered by Ustream. IHeartRadio carried a live simulcast and it was also available on the American Forces Network. HBO repeated the concert after it ended, allowing those on the West Coast to see it in prime time.
Brennan Mullaney, who served two tours of duty in Iraq with the Army and now works as a regional director with Team Red, White and Blue, one of the veterans organizations mentioned during the concert, was sitting in bleachers near the stage and was startled by the language.
"I heard it and I was like, Oh, ok. That's somewhat surprising." He adds, "For me, personally, it's unfortunate. I come from the Army, I'm well versed in all the cuss words, but I don't think you need to use them. It wasn't necessary for the nice event that it was."
Nevertheless, he says, he didn't think it cast a shadow on the show. "I hope the point of the concert wasn't lost on people. It was a few entertainers. That's their thing. It wasn't about George Lopez or Eminem."
In a poll on Entertain This!, respondents are close in their opinions, with 51% saying the show was fine and our country is about free speech, while 49% say it just want's the right venue for that kind of performance.
Kerri Childress, vice president of communications for Fisher House, another veterans organization, says, "The overall concert was fabulous. The concept of it was wonderful. It was the first time anyone has really done anything on that scale to thank veterans."
As for the explicit language? "I think anybody who was watching it, 99% of the time, would have felt that this was a really a tribute to our veterans."
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