Take R Kelly’s smug face off Spotify altogether | Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

The #MuteRKelly campaign is causing the people and companies still working with the singer to take action

I was pleased to learn that Spotify has decided to remove R Kelly from its playlists, but the question remains as to whether the music-streaming service has gone far enough. “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,” it announced, meaning that Kelly’s music will still appear on the application, presumably a search bar away.

For context, Kelly faces a host of allegations dating back to the early 90s, including of a marriage to Aaliyah when she was reportedly just 15; lawsuits alleging sex with underage girls, which were settled out of court; and a 2008 acquittal on charges of taping himself having sex with a 13-year-old. This is a remarkably lucky man who has never quite been chained, singing sweet lullabies all the while.

Most recently, Kelly has been accused of holding women against their will in a “sex cult” where he allegedly controls most aspects of their lives. A fresh allegation against Kelly emerged in April, with an unnamed woman claiming that the singer “intentionally” infected her with a sexually transmitted infection and that she was victim of “unlawful restraint” during an 11-month relationship where he tried to make her join the cult. Kelly denies the allegations, which were unsubstantiated.

A #MuteRKelly campaign, started in Atlanta by Kenyette Tisha Barnes and Oronike Odeleye, has since been supported by the celebrity-backed Time’s Up movement, causing the people and companies still working with Kelly to take action.

Although it would be more simple to agree with Spotify and say that the “censorship” of artists is not the best way forward and that its editorial policy is adequate, when your indulgence of said artist is pouring money directly into their pockets and possibly enabling them to carry out more objectionable acts, can you really stand by the idea of separating the art from the artist? Kelly is wealthy enough to self-release his music in some way or another, I’m sure, so any actions carried out by Spotify could never be complete censorship anyway.

Because of this, I would argue that in this instance, Kelly, and the many other men in the music industry like him, should be completely removed from public platforms that have a conscience. We’ve known about his alleged misdemeanours for a long time and it would be a fitting outcome to have his smug face completely removed from the platform – if slightly more difficult to contend with morally.


Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

The GuardianTramp

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