Can You Separate The Art From Its Artist?

The separation of (art)ist is often a heated and difficult conversation


Celeste Umaña, Opinion Editor

Reading Time: 2 minutes

From Kanye West to R. Kelly and Tekashi69 to Rex Orange County, we find ourselves living in the era of cancel culture and controversial celebrities in today’s society. 

That being said, oftentimes we find our favorite musical artists being the ones revealed to be under fire. Sometimes it’s nothing—it passes, and we go back to comfortably listening to their music in public. Other times, it’s impossible to ignore and becomes all that surrounds the artist.

When that happens, what do you do—support them or condemn them? 

It’s hard to decide when you grow up listening to and supporting someone, then all of a sudden you’re bombarded with evidence of something negative from their past resurfacing. It could be something offensive, insensitive, or just undeniably wrong and then you’re faced with a hard choice: whether you come to their defense and risk damaging your character and morals, or stop supporting them, which can mean anything from not streaming their music to speaking out against them in public. 

For a lot of people, when their favorite artist is canceled, it’s hard to, essentially, cut ties. But if we’d never let anyone in our daily lives say or act the way they do, why should they be excused just because they’re famous? 

These celebrities become linked to racist comments, sexual allegations, and other serious matters, but often receive a slap on the wrist and then become popular and prominent once again. 

I think when a situation is very obviously serious and concerning, it can’t be ignored. For example, Kanye West’s recent harassment of his ex-wife Kim Kardashian, the antisemitic comments he’s made, and support for white supremist are impossible to ignore. But with his mental health concerns being made very publicly well known, a lot of his fans use that as an excuse for his behavior. However, instead of these instances being used to raise awareness on mental health and seeking help, they’re made into jokes and free publicity for him. 

I know for me, when Kanye’s behavior became more and more erratic, I really had to evaluate whether or not I would consider him as an artist to support. On the one hand, I consider him to be a musical genius of our time and grew up always loving his music. But on the other hand, I know that a lot of what he said and how he behaves goes against a lot of what I believe in, and has hurt many close to me. 

Even now, I struggle with my stance on Kanye because it’s easy to ignore everything he does outside of his music, but then I’m left knowing I’m contributing to him being able to maintain his platform and status while he continues to act the way he does. 

Sometimes it’s not so black and white, and when it gets into that gray area, it’s up to you to decide where you stand. But for those serious cases, the worst punishment for someone used to fame and fortune, is irrelevance.