Can we separate music from the artist?

Music is inherently subjective. For some people, rock ‘n’ roll is satanic – advocating sex, drugs, and violence. Others consider rap music to promote bad values.

Disliking an entire genre of music is, and has always been, an absurd concept to me – everyone is different and so is music. Arguing about which genre of music is better won’t get us anywhere when there isn’t a definitive right or wrong answer – but we, as a human race, will argue about it for as long as possible. Complaining is just in our nature.

Besides genres of music, there is a constant debate, most recently concerning R. Kelly and his music, on whether musicians specifically should or shouldn’t be separated from the music they create.

Many people agree that if an artist is accused or found guilty of abuse, rape, murder, or anything morally and socially unacceptable, fans of the artist should stop supporting the artist entirely. This includes deleting the artist’s music off their phones, restraining themselves from downloading new albums from the artists, unfollowing their social media pages, and calling them a scumbag on Twitter.

Yet here I am, almost three years after XXXTentacion was arrested for aggravated and domestic battery charges on his pregnant girlfriend, with all three of his albums still on my phone – one I even downloaded after his death in 2018.

After reading that, you may qualify me as a bad person – please @ me on Twitter and roast the hell out of me if you’re upset. I’m not going to lie – people have called me out on this exact notion in the past. But I will always be – no matter how many times I’m called out for it – the type of person who separates the artists from their art.

I still listen to Chris Brown, David Bowie, Kanye West, and The Beatles – and yes, John Lennon had a dark side. I do understand the motivation or the concept of boycotting your former favorite artists’ music due to their violent pasts or accusations against, but in the aftermath of it all, that won’t fix the heart of the situation. The artist will still have fans and will most likely be making more money than you ever will.

So, what is the point, other than to put your mind at ease?

The fact is, artists such as R. Kelly and Chris Brown managed to make bail even after you dropped them.

I like to think of it this way – you can choose to judge an artist based on their faults or you can choose to overlook them. The reality is, you don’t truly know that person, you don’t know how they grew up, and you don’t entirely know the whole truth behind the allegations against them.

I’m the type of person who wants to see people learn from their mistakes – not be completely exiled for them. I think it’s important to remember that everyone, not only musicians, is flawed.

I’m not saying you should idolize a murderer or a misogynist – that is the last thing you should be doing. In fact, I, too, would love to see these artists go and stay in jail for their crimes or be subjected to some form of punishment.

What I’m saying is, you don’t have to feel guilty about listening to their music. Music is an art form and up to interpretation. Music can be therapeutic and make you feel understood.

Depending on the artist, they also have the ability to separate themselves from their music – I don’t think the members of The Beatles actually lived on a yellow submarine, unless that is something I’m unaware of.

Context is key.

What I wonder is where we draw the line between an artist’s personal life and how people feel about their music.

If we ostracize every artist and their music due to horrendous crimes or nonsensical personal opinions, how many great artists will we have left to pick from?

Whatever you decide, I’ll still be here jamming to “Let It Be,” by The Beatles.