Separating the artist from the art

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Should an artist’s character and behavior be a factor in judging their art? Wendy Wei/Pexels

GRACE BILODEAU, staff writer

As a teenage country music lover, I was absolutely obsessed with Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous Double album that was released in early January. After its debut, this album was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for 9 consecutive weeks. 

Although I loved Wallen’s music, I never knew much about him personally. At that point in time I saw nothing wrong with listening to his album nearly every single day and supporting him and his music. 

On February 2 Wallen was recorded outside his home in Tennessee saying a racial slur. Wallen was immediately dropped from his label and by many radio stations. All forms of social media were blowing up about this incident and attempting to cancel Morgan for what he said.

Just when I thought my favorite artist could never do such a thing, it happened. As an avid Wallen listener I was utterly shocked by his words. Should I still support Morgan Wallen and his music? This question baffled me.

I questioned my role as a supporter of Morgan Wallen and found that I still could enjoy his music. I can enjoy his music for his music–it’s as simple as that. However I found then, and continue to find myself looking at Wallen differently as a person. Since the incident he has come out with apologies, cancelled his concerts this summer, and is seemingly trying to get better as a person. While I respect this, it does not excuse what he said. 

For me, I am able to enjoy his music knowing that I do not respect him as much. I recognize that he is trying and I look forward to seeing what he does with this opportunity to learn and grow. 

It might be easy for someone who doesn’t like Morgan Wallen to quickly ridicule him. But what if this happened to your favorite artist? What would you do?

The truth is that there is no correct answer. Some people might be able to withdraw their support without even questioning it; however, for others this can be a very hard decision. 

If you ever find yourself in this situation, try asking yourself these questions:

  1. Does streaming an artist’s music still mean I support them?
  2. What am I supporting by listening to this artist?
  3. Would a sincere apology change how I feel?

It can be challenging to accept actions you might not always agree with. I challenge you to look closely into your life. Make sure the things and people that you truly support line up with your values. It’s not easy but it’s work that needs to be done.