Popular artists rise and fall in the court of public opinion. In a world of keyboard warriors and over-invested fans, is there still grace for a musician to evolve artistically and personally? Asher Bastion, Programme Director for Life FM wonders if it’s time to stand down the haters.
I’ve heard a lot about whether or not we should support certain musicians or artists lately. I’ve had a few minor queries and quibbles across my desk about whether Gungor is a real Christian because of his recent statements on faith. I’ve witnessed fans colourfully question Brooke Fraser’s intentions with her new music video. My favourite cheeky comment on her Facebook page (it’s pretty sharp in a cynical way) was along the lines of “What target demographic are you aiming for with this style of music?”
Um, as far as I’m aware, she’s not a type of cereal.
A certain dreadlocked band received a decent backlash because they put out a mainstream focused album with the F-bomb in it; their reasoning was it was honest. The Bad Christian podcast is being accused of actually being bad Christians because of their content. I haven’t seen much criticism of Lecrae yet but as he’s becoming successful in the mainstream and has talked about collaborating with Kendrick, I’m pretty sure it’s coming.
Is this all normal? What is the appropriate response for Christians when artists try to express themselves in a certain way and we disagree or don’t like the change in direction? Should we rant on the ol’ FB, or take it to the Relevant Magazine comment section? Maybe do what I’m doing right now and blog about it? In my work environment it’s a regular occurrence to yell across the open plan offices about the lack of direction in the latest gospel pop record. I don’t feel that bad about the office rants, but I do think there needs to be perspective when we criticize, especially online.
Criticism is not a bad thing, but I would question the place we do it and how much we really know about the context. It’s especially easy in the age of twitter to be like “Yo world currently hating on #this”, but does it really add anything? What do we really want out of that tweet, the artist to change their sound or perspective? I’m not sure how much it actually helps. Also general rule of thumb, as we've seen in the last couple of weeks, whether it comes from a megachurch or Hollywood, anything that goes online stays online.
Also, I would say make sure you look at the context of where an artist is coming from - is Gungor's faith position really that heretical in the context of the wider church? Do you have Christian friends who have a real and solid faith that use strong language in regular conversation? These artists are fallen humans just like us, I'm surprised there aren't more real struggles in their music - but when you look at the reaction that happens when Christian artists are honest, maybe we're not ready for that quite yet.
Remember though, we are consumers - if you don’t like the direction an artist is taking, you have the ultimate power. Don’t buy it. Instead of dissing it, move on. Vote with your feet, or ears, or mouse-clicking finger. Listen to a crazy playlist on Spotify, go exploring for new songs and new sounds. New bands always need more fans and maybe you’ll discover something better or more suited to your tastes. Then you can share that new hotness with others. You do not have a responsibility to keep a band together, if you don’t appreciate their latest album. I don’t see any reason to stay listening. We’re not in a marriage style relationship with our favourite bands or artists, you don’t have to grow with them or compromise, although sometimes you will. They may challenge with a new sound, and that could be great, or it could suck, but ultimately they are artists, it is in their nature to express themselves. Who they are will change. If that change is not for you, and you obsess about it publicly, you may just end up becoming one of “The haters”.
As Kanye knows, any good artist uses haters as motivators, so who is the hate really hurting?