The Controversial Top of the Music Game

How the worst musicians and people become the most popular

Illustrator: Aaron Musickant

Illustrator: Aaron Musickant

In today’s music world, many of the most popular musicians are surrounded by clouds of controversy. More times than often, when a popular musician commits a crime, they get away with it and continue making boatloads of money. We hear more controversy coming from Justin Bieber and Iggy Azalea than we do music, but often times, even when they get into legal trouble, their celebrity status (and money) will save them. We forget and move on.

But I start to question the fame of these artists when there is so much other beautiful music being created that most people will never hear. Hard working musicians who love what they do, are moral, passionate, have actual talent, and don’t live for the money and glamour.

Many ultra-popular musicians have shown they aren’t the best people either. Because they have such dedicated fans, some are able to get away with outrageous crimes without people knowing or caring much. Exhibit A is R. Kelly. Kelly was loved by fans, affectionately known as the “King of R&B.” He is one of the best selling artists of all time, selling over 40 million albums. In addition, Kelly attempted to marry a 15-year-old R&B songstress, Aaliyah, was arrested numerous times with child pornography, and was in an alleged sex tape with an underage girl in which he urinated on the victim. Kelly was acquitted of all charges, leading some to believe that his fame and wealth saved him from the criminal justice system.

Another controversial figure in the music industry is Chris Brown. In 2009, it was reported that he assaulted Rihanna. Justin Bieber has also seen his name cleared multiple times, including allegedly assaulting his limo driver.

Even the most popular musicians don’t deserve a free pass.

How is it that we continue to glamorize these figures who have committed such wrongs in the world? No matter how popular someone is, we must realize that they are also human and are subject to the same sanctions as any other ordinary person. In fact, they should be held even more responsible as they hold a higher and more influential position in society.

Even the most popular musicians don’t deserve a free pass. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. These people have the money to fight the law, and often times they’ll persevere. That’s the reality. Fame is privilege, not only economically but also socially. And loyal fans will give their idols the benefit of the doubt, even if what the person did is morally wrong.

When these musicians do get into legal trouble, the combination of wealth, along with a devoted fan base keeps their popularity intact.

Can art be separated from the artist? To an extent. It’s dependent on the listener and their values. Album covers don’t say outright that this artist is a registered sex offender. Neither do they say this artist has killed someone. Often times, a person has to dig to find this information, whether it be reading Wikipedia or the news. If a listener has an emotional attachment to a certain song, album, or artist, it makes sense that they could give the artist the benefit of the doubt because the music makes them feel a certain way. But if you suddenly realize that your favorite musician has done something bad, is that enough reason to stop listening to them completely?