Unfiltered Melodies: Spotify’s Struggle to Censor Explicit Lyrics Leaves Young Listeners Exposed


Despite hundreds of hits, Spotify’s content filter still doesn’t effectively stop songs with explicit and sexual lyrics. This issue is particularly concerning for young followers of popular music artists like Olivia Rodrigo, Eminem, and others, as they continue to encounter obscene lyrics on the platform, even after filtering explicit content. It has been discovered that while playing the “radio friendly” version of a song, Spotify may sometimes display the original lyrics, which can include racist slurs and profanity. The BBC found that this problem was occurring with a large number of popular songs by artists such as Lil Nas X, Dua Lipa, Drake, and The Weeknd.

Despite being aware of the issue, Spotify has not made any public remarks about the problem. However, the BBC has learned that the company is making efforts to resolve the issue. In response to parental demand in 2018, Spotify implemented a system to manage explicit material. Now, tracks with explicit lyrics are tagged with an ‘E’, and clean versions of songs are usually available as an alternative. Additionally, users have the option to disable explicit material in their settings if they prefer not to hear profanity. However, it is worth noting that many of these altered versions still have identical lyrics in Spotify’s database, making it possible for users to find and read the explicit language if they wish.

Currently, almost a third of the top 50 songs on Spotify UK contain explicit lyrics. Shockingly, even while playing the clean versions, half of these songs still display obscene lyrics. The BBC reports that some of the impacted songs were included in child-friendly playlists or featured on soundtracks of children’s films, which raises serious concerns about exposure to inappropriate content for young listeners.

The affected songs identified by the BBC include “IDGAF” by Dua Lipa, “Not a Good Choice, Is It?” by Olivia Rodrigo, “Nice for What” and “Starboy” by Drake and The Weeknd respectively,”Gold Digger” by Kanye West, “Godzilla” by Eminem ft. Juice Wrld, “Goosebumps” by Travis Scott, and “Hot Girl Summer” by Thee Stallion featuring Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign.

Upon being notified by the BBC about the issue, Spotify appeared to delete explicit lyrics from a few tracks. However, it was found that desktop and laptop users can still access explicit lyrics by clicking on the titles of the tracks in search results or artist profiles, even if the songs themselves are restricted.

With more than 500 million users, Spotify dominates the music streaming industry. This widespread platform is increasingly becoming a point of concern for parents like James Roach, who write for the parenting website Music Football Fatherhood and also perform music under the name Midlo. Roach, a father of two, has recently encountered this issue with his eight-year-old child, who has started paying attention to and reading lyrics. He believes that kids are highly influenced by the music they listen to and often try to emulate their favorite musicians, making it essential for parents to actively monitor and understand the meaning behind the lyrics.

Roach also speculates that some users may submit multiple versions of a song’s lyrics, but there is a possibility that some may be lazy and reuse the lyrics for both explicit and clean edits. He expects Spotify to have a proper process in place to ensure the accuracy of lyrics provided to users and considers it surprising that the responsibility seems to be outsourced to a company called Musixmatch.

Musixmatch claims to offer “the world’s largest collection of song lyrics used by millions of people to get instant time synced lyrics.” Spotify and other music streaming services rely on this platform, and members of Musixmatch can earn recognition for editing, translating, or adding lyrics to songs. Despite requests for comment, Musixmatch has not provided any response.

Unlike movies and certain TV streaming services, there is currently no age rating system in place for music to flag potentially unsuitable material. This lack of regulation highlights the need for increased vigilance on platforms like Spotify to protect young impressionable listeners from exposure to explicit and inappropriate content.

In conclusion, Spotify’s content filter continues to fail in preventing songs with explicit and sexual lyrics from reaching young listeners. Although efforts have been made by the company to manage explicit material, including tagging tracks with an ‘E’ and providing clean versions, the presence of explicit lyrics in almost a third of the top 50 songs on Spotify UK raises significant concerns. The issue becomes even more alarming when explicit lyrics are displayed while playing the “radio friendly” versions of songs. This problem affects not only regular listeners but also children who may encounter explicit content on child-friendly playlists or soundtracks of children’s films. As Spotify works to resolve this issue, it is crucial for parents and users to remain vigilant in monitoring the lyrics and content of the music platform. Additionally, it is imperative for platforms like Spotify to implement stricter content regulation measures to protect their vast user base, especially young listeners who are easily influenced by the music they consume.