“The Music and the Person”…Should we care about the latter?
When the Mercury Music Award winners were announced my music friend and I were conflicted. We couldn’t doubt that The XX weren’t deserved winners, but we had our eyes on Foals. While my bug bearer was just a result of pure bias towards one of my favourite bands (and the fine album they made), my friend’s was of the paralinguistic level: “you can’t imagine having a drink with them, can you?” he argued in that nonchalant MSN Messenger manner. Doused in black from head to toe, avoiding the controlling gaze of long eye to eye contact, the crooked smile: charisma is found solely in their debut recording effort. We also discussed Romy Madely-Crofts apparent lesbianism to which I concluded she definitely is after a voyeuristic “romey+madely+croft+lesbian” Google search. Not that it mattered anyway.
Some people argue that their inability to work the interview is part of their allure and their sexual ambiguity adds to their new age charm. But I’m not writing to defend my TV generation. I’m arguing that personality and personal life do not matter and to be honest it really shouldn’t.
Music in its purest, most objective sense is a medium where the art comes first and everything else second. And when received in this way, the listener can forget their principles and just listen to the tunes. There seems to be a lot of people who hate the selfishness of suicide yet are a sucker for Kurt Cobain, are appalled at drug taking yet are mesmerised at Amy Winehouse’s unquestionable talent. Like writing lyrics, how many times have you heard the oft used claim that ‘poets are so much better when they are depressed?’
As much as I hate that Pete Doherty was not able to be a part of the most formative years of his son’s life this doesn’t mean that The Libertines will be vetoed from my Spotify playlist. The private life of a person shouldn’t make you do a double take on their music. I suppose the real conflict occurs when you don’t want to seem as though you are justifying the unjustifiable.
I have my limits. I’m not about to listen to some neo- Nazi band and pay special attention to the guitarists intricate strumming as the lead singer screams anti-Semitic abuse through the microphone. People shouldn’t force opinions down your throat. And though I love political music this is why I can understand if someone doesn’t.
Controversial politics and music have recently come head to head. The American Tea Party has a loyal set of ever growing followers as well as dissenters and when Maureen Tucker of The Velvet Underground lamented the right wing cry of “America’s slow and steady descending to Obama’s Socialism (or just helping poor people to maintain their health)” the largely liberal musical press, shunned her ‘ludicrous’ statements. Yet still, I get shivers listening to her understated drumming on ‘White Light/White Heat’. As long as she’s not trying to bombard my ears with a right wing rampage, I’ll forever appreciate her part in the 5 piece puzzle that made The Velvet Underground such a reputable band.
Maybe we care so much about the characters behind the music because we are a prying generation. Wikipedia, Google, Twitter, YouTube, E!, we are bombarded with news outlets that strip away the ambiguity of lyrics and tell us the clear cut “truth” of why Morrissey toyed with skinhead imagery or whether ‘Beetlebum’ was actually about Justine Frischmann’s alleged drug abuse. I don’t have a problem with the odd search as long as the music is the most important factor. For some reason, not that I know the man, I dislike Morrissey for reasons I couldn’t explain in a sentence, but The Smiths are my favourite band according to Last.fm. Wikipedia could not dissuade me from appreciating his grasp with the English language and it never will. When the best artists die, Sky News may report of their depression or their court cases, but a true music fan will remember their art first and foremost.
So this is my rallying cry addressed to all those people who may question whether they should listen to a band or artist because they take drugs or make love to groupies, or support a cause which you hate: As long they aren’t telling you to do what they do, why should you care?
From Michelle Kambasha.