Should we listen to music by artists accused of sexual abuse?
- US music artist, R. Kelly, was found guilty in September 2017 of “eight counts of sex trafficking and one of racketeering in a New York court, and on Wednesday he was sentenced to 30 years in jail.” Netflix later released in 2019 the documentary series entitled “Surviving R. Kelly” about the women who brought his sexual crimes to light and to court.
- After Chris Brown’s notorious 2009 fallout with Rihanna, he dropped “I Can Transform Ya”—the first single off his then-new album, Graffiti. Although a lot of radio stations pulled his songs following his sentencing, it still became his eighth top-20 hit on the Billboard charts. With a slew of sexual assault cases over the years, he still ranks as a Billboard chart-topper.
- The 2019 HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland” exposed America’s “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson, in his alleged pedophilia crimes against Wade Robson and James Safechuck. Both describe, in separate accounts, how Jackson sexually abused them for years, from boyhood into adolescence.
- On the first anniversary of The New York Time’s publicizing Weinstein’s sexual malfeasance, Buzzfeed reports “eight out of the ten albums on the Billboard Hot 200 chart were from hip-hop artists, including Eminem at No. 6 and the late XXXTentacion at No. 10, both of whom have a history of alleged abuse against romantic partners.”
- According to Statista, “as of June 2019, 68% of adults aged between 18 and 34 years old reported listening to music every day, and the majority of their older peers also enjoyed music with the same regularity.”
Music is the universal language that never ceases to stir conversations. Most people's music preferences cross genres and defy categorization. As a result of such differences, society has created a world for diverse musicians to thrive. However, recent news linking musicians to sexual misconduct has led many people to question: should they stop listening to the accused music completely?
No, people shouldn't stop listening to their music, because they'd be identifying the music created with the artist who may or may not have committed such crimes during the creation of the music. HBO's newest documentary “Leaving Neverland,” covers the allegations levied against Michael Jackson about how he 'used his wealth and fame to gain the trust of families of the accusers, which he exploited to allegedly commit sexual crimes.”
Though these allegations began in the 1990s, Michael Jackson began his solo career in the 1970s, where he quickly became known as a prolific songwriter and public figure. There were no allegations connected to him during these years, so it's unclear whether or not he committed such acts at those times. What is known is how many scores of artists were inspired to make music because of him. While a fan's attachment to an artist has led some to stop listening, it doesn't mean everyone has, reinforcing the relevance to the art created vs. judging the art with its creator. At the end of the day, what does music do? It moves us; we crave it.
As a society, we are misguided in our decision to support artists accused of sexual abuse.
When society supports an artist facing serious sexual abuse allegations, the alleged victim is silenced. According to the Rape Abuse National Network, only nine percent of sexual abuse allegations end up being prosecuted, with only five percent of these cases ending with a felony charge. These discouraging statistics explain why less than one-third of sexual abuse victims report their experiences. Psychiatrist R.L Binder explains that two of the leading causes for this are 'embarrassment and guilt.' Victims may feel pressured to keep quiet in these situations to protect themselves from the artist's fans and the public eye.
Unfortunately, young fans stand by their favorite artists regardless of these circumstances. In 2015, fashion model Lori Maddox revealed that at the age of 14, Grammy-winning musician David Bowie took her virginity. These allegations never caught much fire, as Bowie's image as a 'generational sex symbol' allowed him to brush them aside without taking responsibility for the incident. By continuously giving these artists their support, young fans become desensitized to a culture of sexual abuse.
We no longer live in a climate where 'separating the art from the artists' should serve as an excuse to support these musicians. There are plenty of artists releasing music who aren't facing these kinds of allegations, and those are the ones society should be supporting.