Can Ethical Music Consumption Become a Reality in an Age of Activism?
We’re living in the post-#MeToo world and thanks to the public courtroom of the internet, big names in film and television have been held accountable for their transgressions. But what about the music industry? Cancel culture claims to “end” careers, but musicians hardly face the music. It’s time they do, and fans start choosing to only support artists who do right.
Every time a celeb disgraces themselves again, we watch as the receipts pour out. Phrases like “problematic,” “toxic,” and “abuser” become the performative buzzwords thrown around for a week or so, and then the internet collectively moves on. Enough is enough, as we’ve been begging the general public to care for years now. We shouldn’t be making abusers richer in our everyday life, so we shouldn’t be empowering them further with fame. But how do we consume music ethically? It seems as though all of our favorite celebrities are linked to or work intimately with previously “canceled” musicians.
Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande recently celebrated a chart-topping Billboard hit, despite both having allegations of racism against them. Rapper Lil Twist just came out claiming he took drug charges for Bieber at the request of his team. Doja Cat is in the same boat, giving “Say So” producer Dr. Luke his first No. 1 since his ongoing legal battle with Kesha for sexual assault. Within the same week her “Say So” remix dropped, she was exposed for frequenting Tinychat, an online video chat room known for breeding racist white supremacist content, as well as an old song surfacing, named after a racist term with ties to police brutality.
Where does “cancel culture” come in? As of late, musicians are exposed frequently, yet nothing becomes of it. So do these #IsOverParty mass cancellations even work? They might even be counterintuitive, giving free publicity just when an artist needs it. Hate engagement is very real, reflecting an “all-press-is-good-press” mentality, and celebs know it. In 2020, it seems almost expected to elicit negative reactions for publicity. This makes the need for ethical pop — from artists who fight against the rampant culture of racism and misogyny in the industry — even stronger.
Past generations grew up with muted celebs with no social media to inform us of their every thought or action, very far from the IG-broadcasting stars of today. Today’s big stars are building up rap sheets of “problematic” behaviors ranging from microaggressions to violence. J. Cole was just called out for shots at female rapper Noname on the new song “Snow On Tha Bluff.” On the track, he attacks Noname for her abolitionist work, her book club and insinuates that she’s being elitist by asking men to educate themselves, shocking coming from someone branded for “smart rap.” These words are microaggressions, small instances of misogyny that show how he feels towards women. His response: he stands with everything he says. This unwavering attitude perpetuates the idea that Black women are expected to lead the battles against oppression while men shouldn’t even be expected to pick up a book. It absolves men of realizing they too have privileges, even while black.
Enough with the performative activism! We’re living in the time of action — showing, not telling. We can’t let these issues in the music industry quietly continue. No more sweeping allegations under the rug. The industry has to be exposed to the systemic violence that fuels it, excusing and lifting white artists while stealing and profiting from black creatives in the process. Public outcry seems to be the only way to make a difference, so keep talking about it. Support artists who are fighting for the changes we want to see and don’t let the fight take them down. It’s 2020, and we know more about our faves than ever, so we can choose ethical pop music.