Spotify removing R. Kelly's songs is a sign of a worrying trend towards censorship

  • Written by Scott Davie, Piano tutor and Lecturer, Sydney Conservatorium Music, University of Sydney
Spotify removing R. Kelly's songs is a sign of a worrying trend towards censorship

Music streaming service Spotify recently removed the music of R. Kelly and XXXTentacion from its playlists as part of its new policy on hateful content and conduct. Subsequently, Apple Music has also ceased promotion of R. Kelly in featured playlists. While the music of both black American musicians remains searchable on their sites, it is arguable that the decisions amount to censorship.

In the case of Kelly, a multiple award-winning R&B artist with a decades-long career, a campaign under the hash-tag #MuteRKelly has waged for months. On the basis of both long-standing and recent allegations of sexual misconduct, the Time’s Up movement more recently also began calling for a boycott of his music. Kelly was acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008, and has not faced any further charges.

The rapper XXXTentacion was charged with robbery and assault in 2015, and has served time in jail. More recently, he has faced charges of false imprisonment, witness tampering, and aggravated battery of a pregnant woman.

Both artists deny the recent allegations. R. Kelly’s management issued a statement highlighting the musician’s history of writing lyrics that express “love and passion for women”, claiming the allegations are a “smear campaign”. XXXTentacion’s representative released a statement listing numerous musicians accused of sexual misconduct, asking if similar action will be taken against them.

Read more: How do you remember a rock god? The complicated legacy of Chuck Berry

Some, such as ABC broadcaster Zan Rowe, have argued that you can’t separate the art from the artist.

However, I am inclined to see Spotify’s move as a dangerous trend toward censorship. Countless events of history show that censorship - removing the right to a voice - represents a challenge to central precepts of democracy. As US rapper Jay Z has written, “we change people through conversation, not through censorship”.

The removal of R. Kelly and XXXTentacion’s music comes as part of Spotify’s new Hate Content and Hateful Conduct policy, released on May 10. The policy, working with rights advocacy groups, aims to identify hate content and remove it and also deals with “hateful conduct”. While Spotify says it doesn’t “believe in censoring content because of an artist’s or creator’s behavior”, the policy allows for the streaming service to remove support for an artist if they do something “especially harmful or hateful (for example, violence against children and sexual violence)”.

Spotify has stated that community advice will inform how it enforces its hate policy. At the same time, the policy notes that “cultural standards and sensitivities vary”, and that what is “acceptable in some circumstances […] is offensive in others”. It remains to be seen if the force of public opinion alters what we tolerate in music, and from musicians.

In the current situation, the decision to remove the music of R. Kelly and XXXTentation from playlists rests solely on allegations of their behaviour, without reference to either their music or lyrics. Arguably, it is an example of what some now term the “Weinstein effect”.

A bigger consequence of Spotify’s new policy may be its ramifications for other male hip-hop artists, whose lyrics have often been interpreted as sexually objectifying women. Researchers have identified a range of misogynistic themes in hip-hop, from legitimisation of rape and violence, to celebration of prostitution and pimping. Jay Z has, for example, referenced domestic violence in his lyrics, while Eminem has used hateful language directed at the gay community. How might Spotify deal with complaints about content from artists such as these?

Censorship of music and musicians due to the artist’s behaviour and politics is nothing new. Due to his denigration of the Jewish race, 19th century German composer Richard Wagner’s music has drawn immense opprobrium; its performance in Israel remains a taboo. Even so, the anti-Semitism of other composers (such as Frédéric Chopin, or many of the Russian school) has not caused censure.

In Soviet Russia, the music of Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev was banned from performance for a period. Under the policy of “socialist realism”, music that failed to reflect the supposed benefits of the new system was blacklisted. In fact, the power that certain music and musicians exert in society can disturb many.

Read more: One year on, we should remember David Bowie as both genius and flawed human

Some have claimed recently that there is a history of protection for those in the music industry whose lives have been entangled in allegations of sexual misconduct. A question remains how we can reconcile the issue of these artists continuing to make money with allegations of sexual misconduct.

However censorship is not the answer. We can, and must, continue to critique the conduct of musicians, but should separate the art from the artist.

Authors: Scott Davie, Piano tutor and Lecturer, Sydney Conservatorium Music, University of Sydney

Read more http://theconversation.com/spotify-removing-r-kellys-songs-is-a-sign-of-a-worrying-trend-towards-censorship-96461

Australia Today

10 Unmissable Attractions for first time visitors to Melbourne

News Company

Melbourne, the most fantastic city in Australia! If this is your first ever travel experience in Melbourne, well it is guaranteed that you are never going to forget it. The metropolitan hub has a lot to offer to its visors, both within the city and the outskirts. There are so many attractions tha...

Read more

Grass trees aren't a grass (and they're not trees)

John Patykowski, Plant ecologist, Deakin University

Xanthorrhoea have no real trunk – just tightly packed leaves. CC BY-SASign up to the Beating Around the Bush newsletter here, and suggest a plant we should cover at batb@theconversation.edu.au.Grass trees (genus Xanthorrhoea) look like they were imagined by Dr Seuss. An unmistakable tuft of wi...

Read more

Peter Grimes is a thrilling and moving staging of the great English opera

Trevor Jones, Lecturer in Musical Theatre, Griffith University

Stuart Skelton in the title role of Peter Grimes.Brisbane FestivalReview: Peter Grimes, Brisbane FestivalPeter Grimes, one of the centrepiece events of this year’s Brisbane Festival, is a remarkable collaboration between the festival, Opera Queensland, Philip Bacon AM, the Queensland Performin...

Read more

Michelle Grattan on strawberries, Sudmalis, schools, and the au pair affair

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Michelle Grattan speaks with University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Deep Saini about the week in politics. They discuss rushed legislation on strawberry contamination, the Liberals continued women problem with Ann Sudmalis’ announcement she won’t recontest her seat, the government’...

Read more

Super. If Labor really wanted to help women in retirement, it would do something else

Brendan Coates, Fellow, Grattan Institute

Labor's plan to pay super to women on paid parental leave would barely boost their retirement incomes.ShutterstockWhen it comes to the gender gap in retirement incomes, symbolism appears to matter more than actually achieving something.Labor’s plan to add super contributions to government-fund...

Read more

Is it time for Australia to be more open about research involving animals?

Tyler Paytas, Research Fellow in Philosophy, Australian Catholic University

Most people never have the chance to see how animals live in laboratories.from www.shutterstock.com The use of animals in scientific research is a complex ethical issue, and these studies typically take place behind closed doors.But since 2012, more than 120 of Britain’s universities, research...

Read more

Holidays & Travel

Things to Do and See in Ballina, Australia

The intricate coastline of New South Wales is renowned for its sumptuous, decadent beaches, hidden resorts and secret camping spots. A long and slow ride down the winding highway that...

Guide to Travel Necessities for 2018

Sure, it sounds like quite an adventure to hit an open road with nothing but a one-way ticket and an open mind, but the harsh reality is – you won’t...

Top Sightseeing Spots in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the most fascinating locations for anyone to visit in the world. After all, it’s a place with a variety of unique landscapes, but it isn’t...

Must-Pack Items for a Travel Blogging Boss

As a travel blogger, you get to see and explore so many wonderful destinations and meet various interesting people, but before you embark on a new adventure you need to...

Luxury Camping Adventures Around the World

Perhaps in direct response to the dominance of technology in the modern world, many travelers are feeling a strong draw towards nature. While some are able to fully embrace their...

Dredging works underway Plantation Island

Tourists and workers travelling to popular tourist destination Plantation Island, Fiji, are set to benefit from safer access when marine channel dredging is completed at the end of June 2018...

Top 5 Tips for Traveling With Dogs

Travelling with your dog can be thrilling, but sometimes it can turn into a real nuisance. Unless you know how to properly restrain the pooch, whether it’ll be able to...

Top Island Destinations for 2018

When we picture island destinations in our minds, we often imagine a tropical beach of white sand, a sun lounger laid out in the shade of a line of palm...

Why Car Rental Excess Insurance is a Smart Choice

Some car rental agencies include basic damage cover in the standard rental fee, with the option to add on liability reduction, or excess insurance. The addition of excess insurance normally...

Fashion & Beauty

Groom To Do List

Sorry Aussie Men, you no longer just pay for the alcohol, flowers and marriage license. Times have certainly changed. Wedding Expert shares what Australian Grooms are now expected to do before...

Simple Secrets To A More Confident Smile

We all know just how important first impressions are. After a handshake, what’s one of the first things people will notice about you? It’s your smile. A friendly smile is...

Improve Your Body Confidence and Feel Great

No matter how good you feel about yourself, sometimes you just can’t help but see a few little flaws that seem gigantic to you and make you feel self-conscious. Whether...

First-Timer Tips For Your First Lip Filler Appointment

Getting injectable lip fillers can be a quick and effective way to plump up your smile with minimal drama. They’re a cost-effective and safe way to boost the natural shape...

The Most Common Skin Conditions and How to Deal with Them

We often underestimate the importance of our skin, but as the largest organ in our body, and our primary layer of defense, it is constantly affected by many environmental factors...

Beach Babe Basics: Everything You Need to Look Stylish at the Beach

Summer is right around the corner, and this year, we all should make the best of it. Right now, it is not just about looking stylish on the streets, it...

HEALTH

Virectin Reviews and Results (LATEST) - Honest Review

Virectin is a potent, natural male enhancement supplement, recommended to all those who are interested in improving their sexual performance. According to the manufacturers, it can provide a positive effect...

How to Choose the Best Lasik Surgeon?? It’s as easy as it can get!

Whether you have had a vision problem since childhood, or you have developed one recently, eye surgeries are the answer to all your problems. It can be anything, ranging from...

Laser Liposuction: The Myths and Facts

Laser liposuction is a revolutionary new way to get rid of unwanted fat without the downtime experienced with traditional liposuction. This procedure offers a number of amazing benefits and is...

How To Show Your Elderly Relatives Love

At every stage of our lives, there’s one thing we truly need above all else: love. As our elderly parents, grandparents, or other relatives we care about grow older, it...

9 Ways to Recognize the Early Signs of Dementia

Dementia is a condition that is, unfortunately, very present among our elderly population. What makes this fact even worse is that, in spite of our best intentions and will to...

Co-Occurring Disorders and Overcoming Addiction

Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis, refer to the combination of substance abuse and the presence of a mental disorder.  Many individuals who enter treatment for substance abuse are...

LIFE STYLE

Should You Repair Or Replace Your Air Conditioning Unit?

Whenever the summer arrives to the hilt and you feel that your air conditioning isn’t up to the mark, there is always one question that pops up into your mind...

6 Rug Trends That Will Boost Style and Comfort in Your Home

If you want to break up that boring and colorless look of your home, one of the easiest and quickest ways is to throw in a rug! Check out these...

Put your problems to rest with Antenna Genie

When the idea of television was first being tested, Darryl Zanuck of 20th Century Fox famously remarked that “no one would want to stare at a plywood box every night”...

Top 5 Design Trends in Commercial Interior

Commercial buildings include offices, restaurants, hotels, etc. and their design can play a crucial role in all the important aspects of a business such as brand reinforcement, customer engagement and...

Add a little colour to your move - and life!

How a little ‘colour’ and planning can take your Move, and make it a more enjoyable one Colour plays a huge role in our lives, it can take us up, or...

6 Simple Rules for Redesigning Your Kitchen

How do you feel about your kitchen? Well, if you feel like your home needs a bit of lifting up, one of the best and most effective places to start...

FOOD & DINING

Morning greens: the breakfast skincare regime

It’s safe to assume that most Aussies fail to eat enough greens. Although this was momentarily resolved with the rise and popularity of the green juice movement, the lack of...

Best Hidden Gem Hong Kong Restaurants

You finally find yourself enjoying the endless beauties of China and this fascinating city. In a place with so much variety, all your senses will be wide awake, and your...

JOHNNY DI FRANCESCO NAMED OFFICIAL AMBASSADOR OF EAT STREET MELBOURNE

Johnny Di Francesco, world champion pizzaiolo and owner of Melbourne’s Gradi Group of restaurants, is excited to announce he has been named official ambassador for Eat Street Melbourne 2018. As Ambassador...

The best Mother's Day gift EVER!

Whether it’s to celebrate a special occasion, or just wind down at the end of a long day, there’s nothing much better than pouring yourself a glass (or two…) of...

Sing for Your Supper at Chargrill Charlie’s

To celebrate the final curtain call of the Barden Bellas, Chargrill Charlie’s is giving you the chance to Sing for your Supper! Show off your best acapella vocals to win...

MAKE IT WINE TIME, ANY TIME

Whether it’s to celebrate a special occasion, or just wind down at the end of a long day, there’s nothing much better than pouring yourself a glass (or two…) of...