Staff Column: For Music’s Sake

Lil Wayneby Sarra Sedhgi

Aside from the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot, November 5th isn’t exactly a significant day for the masses. November 5th, 2010, however, will stand out to me for two reasons: Facebook and Lil’ Wayne. Apparently said rapper was about to be “freed” from yet another sentence, because that’s what almost everybody’s status concerned. “’It’s almost time! Two hours! Weezy is free!’ ‘THA CARTER IV!’ ‘Lil Wayne just hopped on a plane and is headed to the studio.’ ‘WEEZY IS THE GREATEST RAPPER ALIVE!’” The ferocity and frequency of these statuses can only be surpassed by those present on a Southern snow day. Now, Lil’ Wayne isn’t exactly what I’d call a model citizen – hell, he’s been to jail quite a few times – yet is somehow revered to as a saint. Is there a need to retaliate?

Let’s take a look at some tainted public figures; Michael Vick; Bill Clinton; Mel Gibson; Tiger Woods. They’ve all broken our trust, and we, in turn, have scorned them. We know how to shun them for their less than favorable moments, but what should we think about the more innocent ones? And what about their past work?

I’m not a fan of a member of a certain band I listen to. Their latest record happens to be epic, but at times I’m angry with myself for listening to this person’s work. I mean, this person really pisses me off, but how am I supposed to retaliate? I can’t punish the whole band, because all the members probably busted their asses making this record. Just because I don’t like one member doesn’t mean I should take it out on the rest of the band, especially when, as far as I know, they’re pretty likable people. Is it fair to punish the music for one person’s actions?

What about when a band sells out or releases a terrible record? Sure, we can ostracize their present decisions, but what about their past? What about all the happiness and comfort their previous records gave us? What if it’s a chunk of our history? Can we punish them without punishing them ourselves?

But to what extent does punishing musicians even work? As a rebuttal to Kanye West’s VMA stunt (which I fully support), a new army of ex-fans ostracized his music to the extent that he was forced to cancel several stops on his tour. Despite the efforts of Taylor Swift’s forces and the onslaught of negative media attention, West still doesn’t really give a damn. Sure, he lost some fans, was called a jackass by President Obama, and felt compelled to publicly apologize, but did that stop him from making music? Of course not. West still reigns as a talented artist, and his most recent album was named number one of 2010 by Spin Magazine.

I think punishing a band for releasing a bad record is justified. Criticism is necessary for development, and let’s face it; nobody aware of good music wants to listen to a bad album. But is reprimanding music a plausible retaliation for a person’s action? The music didn’t do it, and the band’s already benefited from you: you’ve bought or downloaded and listened to their music, you might have paid to see them live and obtain a t-shirt, and you’ve probably told somebody about them – economically speaking, your work for them is done.

As educated beings (we are called Homo sapiens sapiens, after all), I think we possess the ability to separate a person’s demeanor from his or her work. Just because you sing along to someone’s song doesn’t mean you have to have that person’s ideals. Now obviously, if a band I like started a musical campaign against the existence of puppies or self-reliance or Muslims – or any group of people – I would preach a completely different form of retaliation. But for those more commonplace character flaws, I think we need to grow up and focus on what these people are good at – making music.