Should You Keep Problematic Artists on Your Playlist?

Edele Deneke, staff

While the question ‘what is the role of the artist in the interpretation of art?’ may sound like an obscure Theory of Knowledge prompt, it’s one you have to answer every time you open Spotify.
“I do listen to several artists that have been called out for their actions in the past,” revealed B-CC junior Elyssa Glory. She believes that you are allowed to like the music without the artist, but stresses that it’s not like that all the time.
“I do believe it is unethical to continue listening to an artist who has been accused of serious crimes such as assault and pedophilia,” she mentioned.
B-CC junior Brithney Buenano agrees: “If I like the music an artist puts out, I will listen to it. I don’t really focus on their actions since what I am here for is the music.” Yet, if she finds out that the artist she likes has done something that “crosses the line,” she “will try to avoid it or find a way to listen that does not put money in their pockets.”
On the other hand, B-CC senior Lydia Getahun commented, “I don’t think separating the art from the artist applies to music artists… you are consuming the art of the artist.” Getahun stated that she will try to avoid problematic artists, but she also believes that problematic is “subjective” because “someone else might not be problematic to me, or vice versa.”
Referencing Chris Brown, a popular R&B singer who was sued many times for harassment and abuse, Getahun asserted, “Personally, I live in a ‘no Chris Brown household’…there are so many other artists. I could list 70 artists that sound like Chris Brown.” She doesn’t understand why people continue to listen to and support artists, such as Brown and R. Kelly, who have been accused and found guilty of mistreatment.
It’s no secret that people still listen to “problematic” artists. The conversation of separating the art from the artist isn’t new and has been discussed frequently, especially over the past couple of years. Take artist Lana Del Rey. She has become a respected artist among many. People on TikTok even collectively joined a trend to change their profiles to her face edited onto a picture of a car in flames in the background, calling it the “Lana Del Rey Cult.”

While this was going on, Del Ray faced a wave of controversy when she accused Beyonce, Doja Cat, and others of rising to fame through sex appeal alone. Some fans responded saying they are disappointed and would not wait for the next album, while others recognized her faults and agree that her actions are wrong but want to continue indulging and enjoying her music.
You are entitled to make decisions that you believe are best for you. If you want to appreciate the art for what it is without appreciating the artist, go ahead. If you think that’s not possible, then you can avoid the artist. Regardless of what you choose to do with your playlist, be respectful of others’ decisions.