There is an artist coming to town soon, one that I have been wanting to see in person for over two decades. He is a well-known womanizer, immortalized in more than one song by a popular female artist. His presence in another female artist’s memoir was telling as well. He appeared manipulative and unkind. Every time his songs come on my husband reminds me of this person’s unsavory character. “He’s a jerk,” says my husband, “How can you listen to this guy when he treats women this way?”
The simple answer is I love his music. I love it in a way that I can’t quit it. This artist is a brilliant lyricist and I’m someone that loves cleverly put together words with catchy melodies. His music is the soundtrack to my young adult life.
Over the years of my musical fandom, I have learned that Michael Jackson is a child molester, R. Kelly kept a harem, and artists like Maren Morris bully people with different opinions in the name of social justice. With the age of the internet we have this phenomenon called “cancel culture.” Popularized in 2010 and acted out by boycotting or shunning those who are deemed unacceptable. So how do we decide who has demonstrated this unacceptable behavior? Does it feel like these call-outs have become more like witch hunts?
I like how Kevin Hart responded to the masses when asked about the rash of recent comedians being canceled. “When did we get to the point where life is supposed to be perfect? Where people supposed to operate perfectly all the time?”
Artists of all types are human, just like us. I have made some idiotic comments in my lifetime and count my blessings that social media was not around to document my stupidity. However, I also think it is necessary for us to draw a line. When referring to the artist with the soundtrack to my young adult life I don’t feel like he has crossed that line yet.
TickPick polled 1,001 music fans in the United States and asked them this question: “Should fans stop supporting musicians who say or do problematic things?” 51% responded with “it depends on the circumstances.” I think that’s an important distinction to make and appreciate that this was the majority answer. 42% responded “yes, absolutely.” And 7% said “no.”
This is where context comes in. If an adult is having an adult relationship and it goes poorly, or that adult is bad at relationships in general, the outcome is that adult will probably end up alone. It’s a natural consequence of being a jerk. I can still enjoy an artist that fits into this category since I believe that his behavior will lead to his loneliness. He may even write some really good music based on the pain he caused himself.
Here’s my line, if an artist is preying on a child, this has a lifetime of emotional scars for that child. That child doesn’t have a voice. That child has to find a responsible adult to believe them and stand up to the artist that usually has a lot of power and money. For years children would be brave enough to speak out against Michael Jackson and he would pay them off, leaving his adoring fans with questions in their minds…wanting to believe that this Pop Star was innocent and these families clearly wanted money. I can’t ignore this pattern, and I can’t listen to his music even though he doesn’t benefit from my patronage anymore.
Also: my mystery artist’s name rhymes with Ron Player.
One response to “The One Where I Write an Op Ed: or When it comes to art we love, where do we draw the line?”
I enjoyed the way you presented this. Very well done.
Love you, Mom