Spotify vs R. Kelly

R. Kelly

So Spotify just did a thing. According to their new public hate content and hateful conduct policy, they’ve chosen to take R. Kelly’s music off of their streaming playlists. His music will still be available on Spotify, but will no longer be promoted.

After nearly 20 years of allegations that the artist has had sexual relationships with underage females, it’s about time.

This new policy focuses on distancing Spotify from those artists whose lyrics and behaviors oppose the streaming service’s stated belief of “openness, diversity, tolerance and respect.” And because Spotify’s gatekeepers can’t effectively monitor all the content on their service, they’re developing filters and asking listeners to do their part when they hear hateful content.  This is a step in the right direction.

But the lines become hazy pretty quickly. Spotify itself states that “cultural standards and sensitivities vary widely. That means there will always be content that is acceptable in some circumstances, but is offensive in others …” So, who determines what is, and is not, appropriate in certain cultures? Who decides where to draw the line? And for whom?

R. Kelly isn’t the only artist who has allegations of abuse against him. Artists like XXXTentacion and Kodak Black have both been convicted of crimes related to sexual and physical abuse, including aggravated battery against a pregnant woman. Just listen to a fragment of their lyrics and you will be bombarded with misogynistic and degrading themes that regard women as no more than disposable, sexual objects. We could look at other musicians from all musical genres—scores of them, maybe—who’ve had similar legal entanglements. And, of course, this is to say nothing of the lyrics that seem to encourage the demeaning, harassment and abuse of both women and men.

I’ve previously written about the #MeToo movement and it’s correlation to music, and these patterns of abuse in our culture, and in the world, are systemic. The abuse and mistreatment of people dates back to Cain and Abel. This is the brokenness of our world. So we shouldn’t be surprised by the havoc that sin wreaks, but we are called to pay attention to it and to the people who are being affected. It’s nice that Spotify’s taking a step in the right direction, but ultimately it’s up to us. Perhaps it’s time that each of us fine tunes our ears to hear what’s being said.

Who wrote this?

Kristin Smith is the most recent addition to the Plugged In team. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. When she's not writing or editing, she enjoys traveling the world with her husband, Eddy, and running through Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods. She loves coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan), and is eagerly awaiting the birth of her first baby, Judah.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't think this is something to be celebrated. Spotify said that they are working with groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (a famously anti-Christian company) and others on their new policy. This new policy could very well be used to censor Christians and the music they make. Just because we dislike R. Kelly and approve of the new policy's removal of his music doesn't mean the policy wouldn't be used to censor Christians as well.
seraph_unsung More than 1 year ago
If I may, I have several issues with this line of reasoning:

1) Since when is the Southern Poverty Law Center 'anti-Christian,' let alone "famously" so?

2) I think the only message this is going to send to people outside the church is that "Christians want to be free to speak messages of hate so long as it's in the name of their cause," which isn't going to endear the Gospel to others.

3) Even if Spotify did start censoring Christians, there's no reason Christians couldn't go elsewhere or start their own version.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Southern Poverty Law Center has put Christian organizations with a Biblical view of marriage on their "Hate Map" alongside other organizations that are truly hateful (white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups for example). Organizations like the Ruth Institute, The American Family Association, The Alliance Defending Freedom, The Family Research Council, and others have been targeted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, costing them support and funds. 
In 2012, a man guided by the SPLC's "Hate Map" entered the Family Research Council's headquarters and attempted to shoot it up. It was discovered that he intend to kill the people in the Family Research Council's offices because they had been labeled a "hate group" by the SPLC.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree, Spotify is just pandering with this one. Just trying to appease the masses without do anything really controversial. They know they won't get away with remove artists like Eminem or Dr. Dre from their playlists, so they chose artists with a strong hate-base to remove instead. It's all to pander to the PC audience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agreed with the part where you said "If Spotify removed every single artist (especially rap) who had done something horrible or been accused of such, they would instantly lose genres upon genres of music." 

Spotify is just removing two artists out of a sea of artists who have done inappropriate things. While you may praise their actions, they are clearly pandering to the PC audience for PC approval. If Spotify really cared, they would remove David Bowie, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Backstreet Boys, Miguel, Nelly, 6ix9ine, Eminem, Dr. Dre, and more. However, there would be a massive backlash and a possible loss of listeners if they remove these artists. Spotify is 100% doing this for marketing and only targeting artists with strong hatebases.

If Spotify really cared they would go all the way but they don't actually care, they are doing it for marketing, there is no moral background to it.