Lyrics Unfiltered: Spotify’s Struggle with Explicit Content on Popular Songs


Despite numerous attempts, Spotify’s content filter still fails to prevent songs with explicit and sexual lyrics from reaching young listeners. Even after users have filtered out explicit content, followers of artists like Olivia Rodrigo and Eminem continue to encounter obscene lyrics while using the streaming service.

The issue was discovered by the BBC, who found that popular songs by musicians such as Lil Nas X, Dua Lipa, Drake, and The Weeknd were still displaying explicit lyrics, including racist slurs and profanity. Spotify has not made any comments regarding the issue, but the BBC has learned that the company is aware of the problem and is working to resolve it.

In response to demands from parents, Spotify implemented a system in 2018 to manage explicit material. Tracks with explicit lyrics are tagged with an ‘E’, and clean versions are usually available as an alternative. Users can also choose to disable explicit material in their settings if they prefer not to hear profanity. However, many altered versions of songs still contain the explicit lyrics in Spotify’s database, allowing users to read the inappropriate language.

Currently, almost a third of the top 50 songs on Spotify UK include explicit lyrics. Even while the clean version is playing, half of these songs still display explicit language. Shockingly, some of the affected songs were included in child-friendly playlists or on the soundtracks of children’s films.

After being notified by the BBC about the issue, Spotify appeared to delete the explicit lyrics from several tracks. However, the BBC found that desktop and laptop users can still see the lyrics of explicit versions by clicking on the titles of the tracks in search results or artist profiles.

With over 500 million users, Spotify is the dominating force in the music streaming industry. However, this issue raises concerns about the lack of attention given to filtering explicit and inappropriate content on the platform, especially for young listeners.

James Roach, a father of two, expressed his concerns about explicit lyrics reaching his children. He writes for the parenting website Music Football Fatherhood and performs music under the name Midlo. He stated that as his child grows older and becomes interested in music, the issue of explicit lyrics has become more relevant. Kids often want to sing along and emulate their favorite artists, which can lead to them searching for the meaning of explicit phrases online. This process can be frustrating for parents who want to protect their children from inappropriate content.

Roach also suspects that some users may lazily reuse the same lyrics for both explicit and clean versions of songs. He believes that Spotify should have a better system in place to ensure the accuracy and appropriateness of the lyrics provided.

The issue of providing accurate lyrics to songs is partially outsourced to a company called Musixmatch, which claims to have the world’s largest collection of song lyrics. Musixmatch allows its members to edit, translate, or add lyrics to songs. However, the company has remained silent despite requests for comment.

Unlike movies and certain TV streaming services, there is no age rating system in place for music to flag potentially unsuitable material. This lack of regulation further highlights the need for Spotify and other music streaming services to take responsibility for ensuring that explicit content does not reach young listeners.

In conclusion, Spotify’s content filter continues to fail in stopping songs with sexual and explicit lyrics from reaching young listeners. This issue raises concerns about the platform’s ability to filter inappropriate content effectively. Spotify acknowledges the problem and is working to resolve it. However, until a solution is found, parents and users must remain cautious and vigilant to protect themselves and young listeners from explicit content. Additionally, there is a need for stricter regulation and age rating systems in the music streaming industry to safeguard young audiences.