In my utopian view of the musical world, we would be free of overblown marketing and the TMZ culture that we have all been acclimated to. All the world is a stage and we are active in the theater of the circus like the atmosphere that comes with musical releases. Due to the surplus of social media, we are attached to the happenings of our favorite artists’ lives more than ever. We know what they eat, who they are dating, and even what pajamas they wear (crazy right?). With this, things like sexual and personal orientations come into play. As we are more active minded with the vestigial components of our artists, is that influencing how we listen to the music entirely? Well, I’m going to pose two different scenarios where this has happened.
A lot of people should be familiar with the band Lostprophets and the absolute heinous crimes done by former leader singer, Ian Watkins. This was a band that was a mainstay in my anti-shock CD player. “Shinobi vs. Dragon Ninja” used to be in my gym playlist all the time. Although they varied their sound from record to record, I was always interested to at least give it a listen — but I just can’t anymore. For some reason, I can’t bring myself to even hit play on a Lostprophets song for the time being and when I did, I cringed a little. This is not fair to any of the instrumental pieces of Lostprophets at all, but knowing the extent of the crimes that were committed in Watkins’ case, it’s extremely hard to listen to him sing about the wistful times of summer. Even watching a previous concert video is tough, especially contrasting how happy Ian seemed performing and the gruesome details of the court case that came out to the public.
I fear that this is the attitude that most fans are going to take on with the other members of Lostprophets who decided to join a new band, No Devotion. Look at this in contrast to As I Lay Dying. Former lead singer Tim Lambesis attempted to hire a hit man to kill his ex-wife. I’m not saying that either crime is worse than the other. Different people are going to have different viewpoints on this. From my observations, people are critiquing Wovenwar (the new project from former members of As I Lay Dying) based on the musical aspect and not the crime aspect of the former lead singer. Attempted murder is insanely terrible. With that being said, there’s a definite stigma associated to crimes that happen to under-aged children and teens and rightfully so. I would be hard pressed to think that the Lostprophets name would be done away completely in any new project in order to deter this.
Recently Sam Smith put out his debut album, In the Lonely Hour, in the United States. A couple of weeks prior to that, Smith had mentioned that the album was about a man that he loved and that love was never reciprocated. Many people either acclimated that to a marketing ploy or disregarded the album completely because of the same sex nature. This was shocking to me as it seemed Smith just mentioned it in passing. A similar situation happened with Frank Ocean leading up to the release of his debut album, Channel Orange. Before the release, Ocean took to his Tumblr account and addressed that some songs were indeed about a man he fell in love with. Backlash ensued for the same reasons, which is strange as the music community has always claimed to be an open and accepting community.
We are no stranger to these types of musical figures, from Boy George to the androgynous nature of early David Bowie. Music is a universal language — that’s really what is great about it. You can take lyrics and formulate them to your own situation. At least that’s how great musicians write them. Is it really fair to hold someone’s sexual orientation as the reason to why you would not listen to a potentially great album or the question the authenticity of their music? For the sake of sounding like a political channel, it’s refreshing to see that both of these albums were not only top ten on the charts, but recognized for the art that they put forth and not nit-picked for the meaning of that art.
Ultimately, you the music listener will decide about what you will listen and not listen to. It is within your right, but I give a specific caution to come to your own opinion after receiving the facts. Our musical heroes are indeed human. Some try to save the world and some do really bad things. Then again, we all are human, right?