Drowned in Sound, Google and censoring album art
WHEN an artist puts an album out, it is, of course, accompanied by album art. This art can be beautiful, it can be comical and is more than often reflective of the music you are likely to hear when you play the album or single. It makes that first impression when you spy it online or in a shop and is essential to how an album is perceived. On July 9th, the gurus at Drowned in Sound announced that Internet Gods Google have demanded they censor several album covers featured on their website. “Okay,” you might say, “These covers must be pretty bad if Google is demanding they be censored.” Below you will see two of the (uncensored) album covers that are being forced to be covered up.
How bad is that? I’ve seen Modern Art with greater sexual connotations. The two albums in question are Lambchop’s OH (Ohio) and Sigur Ros’ Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust, and are hardly the most disturbing things you’ll find on Google. What’s so surprising about this is that the album art is just that: art. OH (Ohio) is a painting entitled ‘New Orleans Police Beating’, while Sigur Ros’ is a photo by American Ryan McGinley. This isn’t smut, this isn’t porn, its expressive art. Hell, even the smallest of children wouldn’t be offended by seeing a bum. But this isn’t the first time album art many consider harmless has come under fire. Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever People Say I Am That’s What I’m Not, Green Day’s Dookie, Manic Street Preachers’ Journal for Plague Lovers, the list goes on. But this censoring of album art on Drowned in Sound represents something new.
Google have classed the art as ‘sexually explicit content’ and therefore refuse to show their advertising next to such pieces. Drowned in Sound, which relies on advertising for its profit and cannot afford to not take down the pages, have therefore censored the images. What seems so ridiculous about Google’s complaints are (aside from the fact the work is hardly offensive) is how specific the complaints are. As the DiS twitter points out, Google had no issue with the cover of Sky Ferreira’s debut album, which features the singer topless in the shower. It gets even more hypocritical when you realise that if you search for the albums on Google you are flooded with images of them. The albums are also available to listen to on YouTube, which is owned by Google. Come to think of it, while we’re on the subject, if Google don’t want their advertising alongside ‘sexual explicit content’, why the hell have they not taken the ‘Blurred Lines’ video down?
To me, Google’s demands to Drowned in Sound and other websites sit as a reassurance of their dominance of the internet. Their unnecessary bullying of independent websites will only work against them in the long run. However, it is worrying to think that this censorship will have an effect on both the musicians of the future, whose creative work risks being stifled by a controlling presence in an internet generation, and the freedom that journalists have over their own editorials. This problem stems far further than covering up some bums – it threatens to affect music and its journalism. At the end of the day though, we’re all grownups; why can’t we just accept what is natural and worry about the other problems in life, instead of recklessly censoring people’s under parts?
You Can Follow Andrew on Twitter