Okay kids, before I get into the nitty gritty of this post, I’m about to bring y’all some history (haha, just a little R. Kelly humour before I tell you a whole lot of awful things about this guy). Basically, R. Kelly been accused of tons of horrific stuff in the past—mostly a strong cocktail of sexual misconduct and underaged females with a hint of a sex cult—the most infamous being his 2002 child pornography accusations. He was accused of filming his sexual relations with a 14-year-old, thus ~allegedly~ creating child porn. He was eventually found not guilty in 2008 and acquitted, but the evidence against him was pretty damning regardless (no, I know nothing about law or the U.S. legal system and have no business having an opinion like that. Yes, I still stand by it).
Oh, btw, if you’re a 2000s baby, or you’re just white, and have no idea who the hell R. Kelly is and you’re still reading this post only because you love and support me and my blogging endeavours: you know that song that sometimes gets stuck in your head out of absolutely nowhere and it goes I believe I can flyyyyyy, and you don’t remember learning or even ever hearing the actual song but somehow you still know it? Yeah, that’s his song.
A few days ago, Spotify released a statement declaring that the service would no longer be including R. Kelly’s music in “playlists and generated content”. His music will remain on Spotify, but it means you’ll have to manually search for him in order to listen to it. This is part of a new policy Spotify is rolling out, named the “Hate Content and Hateful Conduct” policy. Spotify’s explanation of their new policy is super vague and slightly contradictory. In the release statement, Spotify says, “We don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behaviour, but we want our editorial decisions — what we choose to program — to reflect our values. When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful (for example, violence against children and sexual violence), it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.” But what they’ve done to R. Kelly’s music is arguably a form of censorship, so…
Look, I won’t lie—I’m the first person who’ll stop supporting an artist because of things they’ve done in their personal lives. I can prove it! I don’t have a single Chris Brown song in my Apple Music library and refuse to listen when his songs come on the radio. I simply choose not to support the work of a domestic abuser. But the difference is, I’m a consumer. One person. A single listener with agency and the right to make decisions for myself. I’m not a corporation or a provider of a service; I’m not making the decision for other people about what’s morally wrong and right.
I mean, think of all the music Spotify should be getting rid of based on this new policy. Chris Brown should be totally wiped off the board, along with everything Russell Simmons has produced (this includes Aerosmith, Kid Rock, Pitbull, Timbaland, Kanye West, and about a billion more), and most 1960s/70s classic rock bands. Hell, even the Christmas classic Baby It’s Cold Outside will probably need to be thrown out—the lyric “say, what’s in this drink?” sounds a little dicey, if you ask me.
To me, this policy feels like a very slippery slope into moral policing, witch hunting, media censorship, and social justice black holes. It doesn’t sit well with me that a provider of music whose motto is literally “give people access to all the music they want all the time” is restricting people’s access to certain music based on their own moral standpoints. Let users decide who and what they do and don’t want to support. It shouldn’t be up to a music streaming service to tap on listeners’ moral compasses.