Separating the Art from the Artist

I’m sure there’s a few artists that pop into your head right away when thinking about separating the art from the artist. Many of us struggle with the fact that our favorite songs were made by people who did some terrible things, or acted in a controversial way. When confronting yourself and others on this topic the question is not “Is this artist a terrible person?” or “did they do some controversial things? “It’s “Does listening to their music or supporting them make me complicit in their wrong doings?”  

Let’s start off by talking about the King of Pop, the one and only, Michael Jackson. With the best selling record of all time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller (estimated to have sold 66 million copies worldwide) broke world records and forty years later is still one of the most listened to albums of all time. With that being said, many of you saw the docu-series Leaving Neverland, which dove into Jackson’s alleged sexual exploitation of young children. Regardless of his wide renowned success, many have publicly shamed him for the misconduct he’s been accused of, especially since Leaving Neverland came out, as it was a big hit and at the same time extremely controversial. Personally, I watched the whole series and I believe it, but even though I believe it I still own my mom’s vinyl copy of Thriller and sometimes I even dance to “Rock Your Body.” 

Next on my list is the widely known and widely controversial Madonna. Madonna has successfully managed to offend nearly every political party, religious group, and country under the sun. I think it’s safe to say Madonna’s whole aesthetic is shock value, which is something she succeeds at. She’s mounted herself on a Cross, rolled around seductively in a wedding dress, and kissed Britany Spears (who is also widely controversial) and Drake (two separate occasions). One of the most controversial performances in history has to be Madonna live at the 1984 VMAs. When her stiletto slipped off her foot she turned the incident into a shocking performance as she writhed on the floor in her wedding dress, leaving her audience flabbergasted to say the least. Although Madonna has been shamed for her provocative nature, it’s hard to argue against the fact that she basically set the tone for female pop stars to come. 

Lastly, and on a more modern note we have Kanye West, who’s political affiliations and remarks have put him in the hot seat in the past. As he has been spotted in a MAGA hat and even had meetings with President Trump, many disagree and shame him for siding with the man who has single handedly divided the country in two. But with that being said I think it’s safe to say that Kanye finds power in his role as a disruptor. This is something he’s been known for long before he announced his political beliefs. Let’s take a walk down memory lane and reminisce over the night when Kanye truly became divisive on an international level, which was the 2009 MTV VMAs when he stormed the stage and stole the mic from Taylor Swift, claiming that Beyonce was more deserving of the award. Now I’m not at liberty to discuss whether I believe he’s right or not, but regardless of the answer I’m sure we can all agree that Kanye went off that night and continues to do so to this day.

In the end it’s up to you whether these things are enough for you to stop supporting artists if you disagree with the things they’ve done. I’m not here to tell you to stop listening to Michael Jackson, I’m just giving the facts, which you can take however you so choose into your daily life. Bottom line though, although you may not agree with some of these artists and many more like them, we have to admit they’ve had and continue to have a major influence in pop culture and if you want that influence to stop, it’s up to you, as the people have the power to choose what’s popular and what’s not.