Controversial artists: where should we draw the line?

Artist Kanye West has faced backlash in recent months after making
several anti-semitic comments.


Artist Kanye West has faced backlash in recent months after making several anti-semitic comments.

Cayla Carlson

Listening to music is a simple pleasure that allows people to connect with both the lyrics and others who appreciate their favorite songs. The idea that one should not listen to certain songs because of an artist’s problematic past may seem absurd, but some artists’ actions make it complicated for listeners to enjoy their music.

There are many debates centered around the argument about whether or not music should be separated from the artist. Some people believe that if a person happens to enjoy a song written by a very problematic artist, then the listener is problematic too.

Many of today’s popular artists have been caught in some sort of controversy. The most notoriously controversial mainstream artists include Kanye West (receiving backlash for his politcal views and daring comments), Doja Cat (who has been accused of saying racist remarks) and Michael Jackson( who had multiple sexual abuse accusations).

However, there are also less popular bands like The Smiths, whose lead singer Steven Patrick Morrissey has been called out for his racist remarks. These artists, along with many others, are frequent patrons of the topic, especially on apps like TikTok where users are able to get insight from others.

While it’s one thing to enjoy a song from a controversial artist that is relateable or has great lyricism, it’s another to enjoy a song that has obviously bad lyrics or a bad message. In that case it would be impossible to separate the art from the artist, because the art in itself is just as problematic.

Junior Danielle Beattie of Wall believes separating the art from the artist is possible, since listeners are directly connecting with the song.

“If the music speaks to me, I don’t really care what the artist does because I am relating to the music and not the person,” Beattie said.

Before deciding if it is appropriate to support a controversial artist, there are many factors to consider, like the severity of their comment or action, if they apologized and how long ago the event took place. If the so-called problematic event or comment was made decades ago, it might not be fair to hold that against a person because they have most likely changed their views, unless they still stand by their actions.

Rapper and producer Kanye West is frowned-upon for his online remarks and political views. West’s most recent controversy was wearing a shirt printed with the words “White Lives Matter.” Soon after, West made an anti-Semitic post on Twitter, which caused an uproar across the internet.

Most fans agreed that he has officially taken things too far, saying that they are done siding with him. While it would be wrong to support any of Kanye’s actions, people will most likely continue to listen to his music because it speaks to them.

Another recent example is singer/songwriter Alexander O’Conner, who goes under the stage name Rex Orange County. On Oct. 10, he was charged with six different counts of sexual assault, causing fans to be outraged, shocked and devastated. Many of his fans have renounced their support or him and his music.

Listening to music regardless of the artist itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if the songs themselves aren’t openly problematic. Although it is a shame that some music artists can’t seem to stay out of trouble, their actions should not affect a person’s musical enjoyment.