The Boss Censored

Music News | May 13th, 2005

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The Boss is paying the cost for some racy lyrics and anticorporate politics.

Starbucks says it will not stock Bruce Springsteen’s just-released Devils & Dust, in part because of one track’s graphic imagery.

The song in question, “Reno,” depicts an encounter at a Nevada brothel, including a reference to oral sex and the line: “Two hundred dollars straight in, two-fifty in the ass.”

But that alone didn’t trigger the Boss ban.

“There were a number of factors involved…Lyrics was one of the factors, but not the only reason,” Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment, tells Reuters.

According to Newsweek, Starbucks decided to dust Devils after a deal fell through for a cobranded disc and promotional deal that prominently featured the Starbucks name. Springsteen’s label, Columbia Records, balked when the idea was floated, citing the blue-collar champion’s well-known opposition to merchandising his music.

Although Springsteen is doing just fine without Starbucks’ help–Dust debuted atop Billboard’s Hot 200 last week, selling more than 222,000 copies–the loss of a vital retail outlet could dent long-term sales.

The latte-slinging megachain has become an increasingly important part of the music business in the past two years. Caffeine junkies can now buy a variety of adult-alternative CDs–from Norah Jones to Elvis Costello to Joni Mitchell to Michael Bubl–and even make customized discs at some outlets. It was Starbucks that was credited with the massive success of Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company, accounting for a full 25 percent of the Grammy-winning disc’s nearly four million copies.

Starbucks even bought music chain Hear Music, which now produces its own line of CDs for the java-sipping set and an XM satellite radio station based on its music.

Springsteen, meanwhile, is currently in the middle of a solo acoustic tour, stopping in Denver Saturday before hitting St. Paul’s Xcel Energy center Tuesday night.