A Listener’s Approach to Problematic Artists

Disclaimer: everything stated in this blog post reflects my personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect WKNC’s views. 

Often, I come across “problematic” artists. Today, the spread of news media is nearly instantaneous and thus as music listeners we have virtually unlimited access to information about our favorite artists. Because of this availability we are easily able to judge and analyze the actions of artists. There are so many “problematic” artists today, from misogynistic lyrics, artists who are known abusers, to musicians who are supportive of causes the general public is not, and more. 

My favorite example of an artist whose views I disagree with is Kanye West. After years of political activism I aligned with, he publicly announced his support of President Trump, who has done significant damage to the country and whose political stances I am personally opposed to. Despite the unwavering support through his other allegedly problematic actions (Taylor Swift incident, anyone?), this definitely soured my opinion of West and his music. To this day, I can’t enjoy it to the same degree as before. 

In addition, there are a ridiculous amount of artists I have completely abandoned all support of when I heard the physical or sexual assault allegations against them. Especially in my own local DIY scene, so many allegations have come out against band members that I no longer feel comfortable in those spaces. 

The reason I’m writing this blog is as a discussion of how we, as music listeners, approach this conundrum. Are we allowed to like music done by bad people? Am I okay with supporting an artist whose values are extremely skewed from my own? I have reflected on these questions for years, since I was old enough to do research about the musicians I listen to. For me, it boils down to my gut reaction. When the evidence seems sufficient and the action is unforgivable (to me, personally) I feel the need to completely let go of the artist and renounce any support I once had for them. When it’s a lesser issue, like a political difference or distasteful comment it is easier for me to separate the music from the person who created it, and thus I can still enjoy the music. 

Let me know if any of you feel similarly, or different. I am always interested in different perspectives. 

– Miranda 

By Miranda

I am a senior in Political Science at NC State and lover of R&B, rap, international, and electronic.