Separating the art from the artist


Graphic by Julianne Cruz

While some artists may say controversial things, it is important to keep politics and art as two separate entities.

Adam Yachin, Opinions Writer

While Kanye West seems to be the main face of this controversy due to recent anti-Semitic commentary, many artists have been called out for arguable deeds throughout the last few decades. This has left many people confused over whether or not to continue listening to certain artists’ music, torn between good music, their moral consciousness, and outside pressures. However, there is a solution to this problem that lies in recognizing that there is a difference between directly supporting an artist and simply listening to good music.  

 History teacher Peter Beach focused on the issue of artists, specifically Kanye West, and whether or not their music should be separated in light of controversial comments or actions. He said, “I think, when it comes to controversial statements, it’s important to separate the artist from the statement, so I think I would still listen to his [Kanye’s] music if I liked it.” This sheds light on the notion that music can be enjoyable regardless of who is singing it; people shouldn’t inherently be penalized for listening to something that brings them joy, especially if they don’t support the artists’ discriminatory actions. 

While listening to a disputed artist’s music is completely acceptable for many, people tend to draw that line at monetary support through the purchase of merchandise and concert tickets. Junior Jamie Schutz said, “I don’t really think that supporting him [Kanye West] is a good thing for me, but I’m not going to… boycott all of it and… really go against it. There are certain songs that I do like but I don’t think that I would go to his concert, buy anything that has to do with him, or give him money in general.” Schutz considers listening to the artist’s music as indirect support – separating the artists from the art allows for music to be appreciated even if the creator isn’t a good person.

Many people owned previously purchased merchandise or items from an artist’s clothing line, and feel that there is no problem with wearing these items since they were bought before the artists’ wrongdoing. Freshman Felipe Zegarra doesn’t support West as a person, but would still wear his pre-owned merchandise. Zegarra said, “I would probably still wear his shoes [Yeezy sneakers] because they’re really nice… I wouldn’t buy [a sweatshirt] now but if I already had it then yes, I would wear it.” Clearly, it’s not necessary to go to an extreme and throw out any pre-owned merchandise, but the act of providing de facto support through the purchase of new merchandise is unacceptable. 

The impacts of artists’ actions are felt more heavily by the communities they targeted. Schutz said, “… I’m Jewish, so what he says, personally, impacts me and offends me in certain ways. When he’s being anti-Semitic I think it reflects his true colors.” Schutz was also strongly against wearing his merchandise. This shows that much of the endorsement for an artist can diminish quickly if the supporter’s culture is being discriminated against. However, many people have shown significant distaste for Kanye even if their specific culture is not being oppressed, reflecting people’s readiness to demonstrate solidarity and stand up for oppressed groups. Zegarra said, “I think he’s anti-Semitic and he should be canceled.” 

This statement brings up a significant question that surrounds this controversy: should Kanye be canceled? He has already been dropped by record deals, his clothing partnership with Adidas, and the stadiums that were supposed to host his upcoming tour. These consequences are enough to demonstrate that the American public does not, and will not stand by oppressive statements made by celebrities – people don’t have to completely boycott all of his music on top of that, and they shouldn’t be condemned for not wanting to do so. 

Many moral questions can come up when deciding whether to listen to a controversial artist or not, but at the end of the day, it’s not always necessary to cut off an artist’s music. Music, a collection of sounds, beats and rhythms, does not always have to be politicized and made so controversial. Instead, people should be able to separate artists from their music and listen to what brings them joy. Simply because somebody chooses to listen to Kanye Wests’ music doesn’t inherently meant that they too are anti-Semitic – oftentimes people don’t even realize who the artist is, or don’t know anything about them. Rather than make music controversial, it should be kept positive and enjoyable.