Posted on: September 5, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by Pitchfork

By Omar Eloiza, Arts & Entertainment Editor

In the past two weeks, sexual misconduct allegations have been leveled against feel-good artist Win Butler of Arcade Fire. Meanwhile, the prosecution against R. Kelly has concluded its case concerning the artist’s alleged sexual abuse of underage girls.

The world of art and entertainment has seen no shortage of scandal in recent years. The endless stream of information available at our fingertips raises questions: Should we, as an engaged public, consciously acknowledge the unethical activity of talented artists? Or does this hinder our ability to see or hear art as it is, objectively?

Should there be censorship of artists on behalf of the public? Or should there be freedom to access art and music, no matter the circumstances surrounding how a piece of culture was made? 

Omar Eloiza

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Art of all kinds should be brought about in the public sphere, no matter how “offensive” it may be to certain segments of society. In a free world, we should embrace freedom of ideas, along with the freedom to criticize those ideas. It should be up to each individual to decide whether an artist meets their personal ethical standards. But this is harder in action than in theory, for these decisions can lead to real world consequences.

It is easy to criticize a performer with an already tainted image, such as R. Kelly, but what is the public to do with an act like Arcade Fire, who continuously push for social justice and progressive policies?

Even without any confirmation of Butler’s allegations, there has already been pushback from the music industry at large after the accusations revealed by four people detailed in a recent Pitchfork article. Already, Canadian radio stations are declaring that they will no longer play Arcade Fire’s music, and fellow Canadian indie star Feist has canceled the rest of her supporting tour with Arcade Fire due to the allegations.

Photo by Getty Images
Arcade Fire’s Win Butler plays onstage during a show.

These kinds of premature decisions lead not only to a fractured image, but affect the livelihoods of the artists themselves–and ultimately the art we are able to engage with as consumers.

The music industry is rife with opposing opinions on the topic of political correctness. Artists such as Nick Cave have been outspoken about modern “cancel culture” and have blasted recent efforts to censor artists, while on the other side of the spectrum, even legendary acts like The Rolling Stones and Elvis Costello have censored past lyrics in an effort to appease the new cultural shift.

Cave has described political correctness as “the unhappiest religion in the world… quite literally, bad religion run amok.” On his fan correspondence page The Red Hand Files, he states that cancel culture contains a “refusal to engage with uncomfortable ideas” and that its effects have “an asphyxiating effect on the creative soul of a society.”

These kinds of remarks about cancel culture may seem regressive to some, but the consequences that come from this new mode of thinking have had a profound effect on music today. In the case of The Rolling Stones, the song “Brown Sugar” has been removed from recent live set lists for its gruesome depiction of the slave trade.

Photo by NME
Nick Cave, an outspoken critic of political correctness in art and music, performs at Northside festival.

Guitarist Keith Richards has made it known that the purpose of the song was to “depict the horrors of slavery.” However, Richards prefers, like many other artists, to step out of the drama and give in to majority opinion.

“At the moment I don’t want to get into conflicts with all of this s—,” Richards said, referencing criticisms of the song’s depictions. “But I’m hoping that we’ll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track.” 

Maybe Nick Cave is right. Maybe we are killing music’s soul. But for now we must endure the asphyxiation of “the creative soul of society.”  It is up to every one of us to decide whether we want the “bad religion” of cancel culture to continue running amok.