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Spotlight: Can You Disassociate An Artist From The Opinions They Express?

I’m not trying to cause controversy or start an argument with this article, I’m genuinely interested in how people feel about this.

It’s been a question growing in my mind for some time now with our world seemingly becoming increasingly polarised and people heading towards taking even more extreme positions with compromise and willingness to consider other viewpoints seemingly becoming increasingly scarce.

There are some obvious examples of where people have created music which has been groundbreaking, hugely successful or critically lauded then stating opinions or acting in ways that can be abhorrent to many of their fans.

So, can you still enjoy the music while not agreeing with the artist?

Take Michael Jackson for instance, he was one of the biggest artists of the 80’s while now having a reputation, due to alleged incidents and behaviours, that would mean many people would never have listened to him in the first place had they suspected who he may have been (and I’m aware much of it remains speculation and he was never convicted of anything), yet his music is still consumed, still listened to and still streamed.

Roger Waters is another case in point, some of his comments in the last few years may have resonated badly with many of Pink Floyds fans who may not share his admiration for certain world leaders, does that mean they can no longer enjoy Dark Side Of The Moon? I saw him play Amsterdam a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, but can I ignore what he says when listening to his music?

The reason I’m asking this now is because there have been artists I’ve championed and really enjoyed who have been making some increasingly strident comments on issues such as the Israeli/Palestinian comment or Trans rights which I’m struggling to be comfortable with, to the point some of them now have merchandise that can only be described at intolerant and incendiary. I’m increasingly asking myself can I keep enjoying their music when I have diametrically opposite views to the statements they are making? Can I enjoy a song knowing they are openly advocating violence against those with different views?

I therefore want to understand what others think about this, can you make music independent of who you are and what you are? Can I listen to you as an artist without taking into consideration views I’ve seen you express on Twitter or some other social media?

So, what’s everyone’s thoughts? I’m genuinely curious. Can we have an adult conversation about this without degenerating into conflict? Or has the world changed too much, are we heading towards only engaging with, and listening to those, who think what we think or are, at the very least, roughly aligned?

Words - Iain McClay

3 comentarios

Bill Adamson
Bill Adamson
29 may

Great piece Iain. In some cases, yes I can do that separation. But with others I find that I can't. The latter group for me includes Morrissey, Ian Brown and Eric Clapton. I also think that Roger Daltrey is becoming a bit of a bellend!

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29 may

I 100% think you can separate art and artist. People have been doing it for many years in all forms of art. So I feel music is in the same vein. One of my favorite bands is Falling in Reverse and the lead singer has a very checkered past and is very outspoken on his views and the way he holds himself on social media is very against how I believe someone who holds such a large impressionable fan base should act. Doesn’t make me enjoy the music they produce any less. In part of your article you state “Can I enjoy a song knowing they are openly advocating violence against those with different views” are you able to elaborate?

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29 may
Contestando a

Thanks for responding Simon. I’m not going to name bands because that’s not what the article is intended to be about but I’ve seen artists whose music I enjoy on social media liking and sharing posts such as kill all terfs or advocating the destruction of other countries as they side with their opponents (including some who also wear and sell t-shirts with what some people could consider quite offensive slogans). Regardless of my views on the issues, which again isn’t what this is about, I wonder what people think about artists who state views that they consider go too far (or maybe some think they don’t go far enough!)

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