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Block explicit lyrics in music subscription services

Don't want your kids exposed to a steady stream of F-bombs or worse? Here's how to apply filters in the major music services that allow it. But be warned: a few big ones don't.


About a week ago I offered advice on choosing the best music service for your family, with an eye toward convenience, versatility and especially price.

One important consideration I completely forgot was explicit lyrics. Given that pretty much every modern song contains bad language (that's right, I said it -- get off my lawn!), parents might want the option of blocking those songs, or at least making sure clean versions are played instead.

Good news: Most major music-streaming services have an explicit-lyrics filter. Bad news: a few don't. Here's a look at the options and, where applicable, how to enable them.

Amazon Prime Music

Explicit-lyrics filter: No

Subscribers to Amazon Prime get unlimited, commercial-free access to a comparatively small library of around 1 million songs. However, that perk comes without any kind of filter for explicit lyrics.

Apple Music

Explicit-lyrics filter: Yes

Apple offers a fairly robust explicit-content filter, one that covers not only music, but also music videos, podcasts and news. If Apple Music offers a "clean" version of a particular song, it'll play that in place of the explicit version.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

How to turn it on: You'll need to do this on each individual iDevice. Tap Settings > General > Restrictions, then Enable Restrictions and create a 4-digit passcode so that only you can disable the restrictions. From there, scroll down to the Allowed Content section, tap Music, Podcasts & News, then toggle the Explicit option off.

Google Play Music

Explicit-lyrics filter: Partial

Google's music service includes the option to "block explicit songs," but only those played on its radio stations. The filter doesn't apply to the larger library of on-demand music, which is arguably the whole point of subscribing.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

How to turn it on: In the app, venture into Settings and toggle Block explicit songs in radio. In your desktop browser, open up Google Play Music, click the Menu icon, then Settings. In the General section, tick the box marked Block explicit songs in radio.


Explicit-lyrics filter: Yes

Pandora has no family plan to speak of. Although you can disable explicit content within its mobile apps, there's nothing to prevent your kids from turning it back on when you're not looking.

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

How to turn it on: In the app, tap the Menu icon, then Settings > Account. Tap Allow explicit content to toggle it off.


Explicit-lyrics filter: No

Spotify is the one that doesn't. That's especially frustrating given its recent family-plan price drop, and it'll no doubt be a dealbreaker for some potential subscribers.


Explicit-lyrics filter: No

Tidal apparently doesn't even want child subscribers, as anyone between the ages of 13 and 17 must have parental permission just to use the service. And the explicit content extends to videos as well as music.