When an artist writes and produces their music, it takes a lot of time, effort and (a lot of the time) emotions. Most artists have a large influence over the ideas and inspirations behind their music and it is fair to say that the lyrics and general style of a song or album are dependent on the state of mind or situation of the artists at the time.
With that in mind, when I heard that Ian Watkins of Lostprophets fame had been sentenced to 35 years in jail for child sex abuse, along with being disgusted and shocked at the news, I was also left confused as to whether it was still OK to listen to his music, which I had grown up with and loved for years. By continuing to listen to his music, could someone be seen as showing support and acceptance of his horrific actions (it has been predicted that Watkins is set to receive £100,000 in royalties during his time in prison)? However, should we stop listening to his music altogether? Can we still appreciate it as great music despite Watkins’ crimes?
Another example is Chris Brown, who famously attacked his girlfriend at the time, Rihanna, and has still gone on to be successful with a dedicated fan base. Things could have deservedly gone very wrong for Brown at this point, yet somehow he has gone on to become even more successful in recent years. This could be down to his fans continuing to support him for his music, or, more worryingly, they’ve forgiven him for his actions because of his ‘celebrity’ status or how devoted they are to him.
It would be a shame to completely shun some of my favourite songs, as it wasn’t just Watkins that had an influence over the composition and production of Lostprophets’ music. His band mates also had an input and it isn’t fair on them to disregard their hard work. However, it is worth considering that Watkins’ distorted mindset would have had an influence over the music that was written, so unfortunately it raises questions about whether those songs would have even come about had he not been doing what he was at the time.
Another example of a controversial music artist is everyone’s favourite person, the ever-charming Justin Bieber. From hoping that Anne Frank would be a Belieber to spitting on his fans, Justin Bieber really is a terrible person. Yet, somehow, he is still a worldwide superstar. Of course, the media’s interpretation of these events is going to be exaggerated but the concept is still valid. These actions seem to be irrelevant in terms of Bieber’s success. I think a lot of it is down to the loyalty of some of his fans, to the point where they would excuse his behaviour no matter how bad because of the love that they have for him. Either that, or his music really is that good and makes up for his behaviour. Yeah.. maybe not.
I think it is possible to separate an artist from their craft if you change the way in which you listen to the song itself. When listening to music, you can appreciate it both emotionally and technically, and a lot of Lostprophets’ discography - most notably "Rooftops", "Can’t Catch Tomorrow" and "We Bring an Arsenal" are incredible songs from a musical point of view (the powerful drop into the chorus in "We Bring an Arsenal" still gets me every time). Their music can still be enjoyed, just perhaps not at an emotional level because that is the point where the link between artist and craft becomes more prominent. My emotional connection with the music of Lostprophets has gone, but I’m still going to listen to it from a musical perspective and appreciate it as the great music which it is, if anything for the sake of the remaining band members and the hard work they put into the band for the 16 years that they were together.