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Pop stars do sketchy things, some to the detriment of their entire careers, some barelyfeel the heat. With music, the listener is closer to the artist than with any other medium. The lyrics and delivery directly reflect the person behind the microphone. It’s different with actors, who’s talent revolves around conveying someone else. Not that problematic behaviors from actors, models, producers, etc. are to be ignored, but their personal lives are so far removed from the end product that it makes it easier to separate the two. Music is more intimate, putting greater importance on an artist’s integrity and making it tougher for listeners to ignore their questionable actions of their faves. It should at least. Where do we draw the line? What does it take for an artist to be truly “cancelled” and which morals are fans willing to compromise?

Talent of course is a factor. Sometimes an exceptional voice and mind-blowing lyricsare enough for fans to justify forgiving an artist’s bad behavior, which is why stars like Beyoncé and J-Lo can perform for evil dictators without hostility.

An iconic video of Ariana Grande sneakily licking donuts that were meant to be (and likely were) sold to customers at a donut shop then saying “I hate Americans, I hate America” surfaced in 2015. People were mad but they still bought 113,000 copies of her single “Focus” later that year. Because Ariana is the embodiment of vocal perfection and it’s not like she beat anyone up. Her stunt was forgivable. Perhaps the level of overall shittiness wasn’t high enough. But even more heinous acts haven’t urged people to take their support elsewhere.

Angst king XXXTentation has a history of assaulting fans during his shows as well as actual allegations of him beating a pregnant woman, assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment, witness tampering, and robbery. Still, his recent album “?” dropped in March 2018 debuted at number one on the Billboard album chart and hasn’t left the top ten since. Fellow jerk Chris Brown literally beat up Rihanna in 2009 and went on to release his third album Graffiti later that year, selling 102,000 copies in its first week, which is a lot. And he’s still at it, releasing 5 albums and a buttload of singles since.

These scandals received sweeping public disapproval, none of which mattered. It’s hard to say whether these instances had any negative impact at all, or even if they benefited the artist through the publicity of the situation. Maybe their music is just that good. R. Kelly being a sad excuse for a human will never mean that “Ignition” isn’t three minutes of R&B magic. If it turned out that The Killers were actual a serial killers, would you really stop blasting “Mr. Brightside?” Perhaps a banger is undeniable. I, for one, am sick of pop stars being massive pieces of shit.


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