There is not a large degree of observational intelligence needed to see that in the modern age, music has become a huge feature of almost everyone’s lives; teenagers especially are rarely to be found without some kind of music playing in their ears.
It is impossible for something to exist so prominently in our society without affecting the lives of those involved or causing some sort of controversy. A noticeable split has come between the genres of music deemed as ‘alternative’ and the pop music which is the most commonly heard type of music today. While this rift does not occur between each individual with a different taste in music, there is undeniable a level of unfair discrimination towards those who listen to rock music and the artists who create it. Before the extremely popular alternative rock band My Chemical Romance broke up in 2013, they were categorised by parents and non-listeners as the most dangerous band in the world. The lyrics in their songs and the band’s general appearance, which in the early years of the band was built mainly from black clothing and make-up, gave people what was believed to be a valid reason to scorn the music and define My Chemical Romance as an occult. One My Chemical Romance song titled ‘SING’ sparked a large amount of controversy when it appeared on an episode of the television programme ‘Glee’ and the band received criticism for promoting propaganda and encouraging the audience to “join us”. Lines from the song such as “cleaned-up corporation progress” were interpreted as attacks on large businesses. Gerard Way, lead singer for My Chemical Romance, said that a more correct word was ‘subversion’ and he claimed to be “shocked that no actual fact-checking was done on the lyrics.”
This was not the first time My Chemical Romance has been largely criticised, however. For example, in 2008 there were newspaper tabloids published which expressed the belief that My Chemical Romance were glamorising death and self-harm with their “emo cult”.
Despite these gruesome accusations the whole band has always been open in their comments about the ideas they truly represent. Gerard Way made a statement in an interview during the band’s promotion of their ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ album saying that the band wants to “Let these kids know that they’re not alone and they’re not that messed up and they can do whatever they want.”, a concept much more positive yet also dramatically overlooked by those who dislike the band.
Other bands face similar prejudice and still are struggling to overcome it. Hollywood rock band Black Veil Brides have had abuse launched at them from hecklers in the audience from the earliest days of their creation. After the release of their second studio album ‘Set the World on Fire’ the band toured at Download Festival, where lead singer Andy Biersack challenged those taunting him from the crowd. When interviewed backstage after the incident, Biersack said it mattered for the band “to show our fans how important it is that they stand-up for themselves and that they feel confident in themselves.”
Yet after every encouraging statement, Black Veil Brides have not overcome the barrier of haters who are rigid in their belief that the band stands for something evil rather than promoting contentment with individuality.
Year nine student Georgia, who is a fan of Black Veil Brides, admitted that “A lot of people assume that because of the music I favour something has gone wrong with my life. Even if they don’t blatantly say it, they suddenly become interested in my home life and try to figure out what’s ‘gone wrong’.”
She also went on to declare that “Some people think I might worship the Devil” and that “Even if they do try to listen to it, the negative emotions of the preconceptions which they have made beforehand block them from understanding it to its full potential.”
As the misconceptions continue, it seems that people are just too closed minded to accept that artists make music because they enjoy music not to implant satanic seeds in the minds of their listeners. The scale on which pop music is listened to ensures that is it much less open to being labelled as ‘demonic’ or a ‘cult’. There is certainly a strong sense of distaste being directed at pop music, however. Hip-hop artist Kanye West is confirmed to be headlining Glastonbury on the Saturday of the festival, but a petition has been launched by the public to get rid of Kanye West from the headline slot because his music doesn’t really go with the festival experience.
There was also a huge debate launched over pop sensation ‘Blurred Lines’ by artist Robin Thicke. The song was banned by the University College London Student Union (UCLU) as the term “rape song” caught fire. There was a possibility that the song could have escaped such dramatic controversy if the music video had not contained a party of scantily clad models, in one version they were even topless. This only added to the burning argument, soon to become an inferno. In September of 2013, a photographic project named ‘Project Unbreakable’ which was to support victims of rape, contained survivors holding up placards which compared lines from the song such as “You know you want it” to what their attackers had said to them.
Defenders of pop songs such as ‘Blurred Lines’ have collided with fans of rock music and other such genres. Many icons of these genres such as Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance, are known to be exceedingly supportive of equality and therefore their fans are ready to dislike a song which contains messages of sexism and objectification.
Way has been touring to promote his solo album lately and during his shows has addressed transgender fans in the crowd to offer support. When asked by ‘Kerrang!’ magazine why the issue had become one he was inclined to talk about, he explained how he’d been exposed to stories of transgender people “mainly just from using Twitter and social media” and he had noticed, “the really ugly side of things, like the reconditioning programs where they try to reverse the process of these kids wanting to change gender. So, I feel like they just need a lot of support.”
Personally, I believe that the music industry should not be a battleground of pointing fingers and name-calling, but it should stay as music. I think it is a brilliant thing to support self-confidence and anyone battling personal issues and to make that support public, but this side of music does not get the recognition it deserves. Rock bands tend to be demonised while people also find unjustified bias in pop music. My concern lies more in the issue of sexualising people through lyrics as I listen to rock music and have never found a message in any song which promotes self-harm. Either way, people have the right to listen to whatever they enjoy and along with that the responsibility to not base their entire life choices on the content of a song. No-one can deny the prejudice which exists against various musical styles but until everyone can learn to be open to the way others choose to express themselves, the rift will never close. Shouldn’t we all focus on enjoying what we like and not hating what we don’t? That is the only way to save your sanity and move forward, in music and life.