Michael Jackson couldn’t stop ‘til he got enough and now, ten years after his death, his radio play is suffering because of it.
Michael Jackson’s music has recently been pulled from many radio stations worldwide. After HBO aired “Leaving Neverland” at the beginning of the month, a documentary which features two men accusing Jackson of sexually abusing them as children, many have not wanted to hear his music.
One station representative, Leon Wratt of MediaWorks, said that by choosing to stop playing songs by Jackson, radio stations weren’t deciding whether or not Jackson was guilty but simply responding to listeners who said they didn’t want to hear his music anymore. In this case, the opinions of listeners was the deciding factor in whether or not the musician was played.
In 2018, Spotify stopped promoting and recommending music by R. Kelly and XXXTentacion due to content and conduct that the streaming service deemed offensive. After negative feedback from many users however, they flipped their decision and added the artists back to playlists and to their suggestion features. Time after time, listeners have had the power to decide the fate of artists who use their fame to hurt others.
Because of this power, those who condemn the actions of musicians like Michael Jackson should also stop listening to their music. By doing this, listeners can set a precedent of holding celebrities accountable for their behavior and no longer turn a blind eye to abuse.
One roadblock to keeping artists accountable is the argument that they should be separated from their art. Separating musicians from their art is problematic because art is often used as a weapon. People like Jackson are able to commit crimes like pedophilia and sexual abuse because their fame has given them power and a path to their victims. For example, Michael Jackson met both of his accusers from “Leaving Neverland,” James Safechuck and Wade Robson, through his work. Safechuck met Jackson during a Pepsi commercial at the age of 10 and said in the documentary that Jackson’s popularity and stature as an artist made him trust Jackson and believe that their relationship was okay.
Wade Robson met Jackson when he was only five after winning a dance-alike competition which awarded him the opportunity to meet his idol. The abuse started two years later and Jackson’s influence launched Robson’s fairly successful choreography career. Jackson’s work not only gave him the opportunity to meet both alleged victims, it also influenced their trust and view of the star.
While Michael Jackson is no longer alive and able to misuse his power, other artists continue to rely on their success to commit terrible acts and receive no consequences. Chris Brown saw little to no consequences for doing terrible things because his fame and wealth allowed him to escape not only jail time but also blowback from the community. Brown has pleaded guilty to multiple violent crimes, yet his fan base continues to turn a blind eye to how terrible of a person he is. This encourages him to commit more heinous acts as he knows he will still have adoring fans and a sizable paycheck either way.
Allowing entertainers like Brown to continually exploit their power with no consequences sends the message to others in the music industry that listeners will continue to buy their albums no matter what they do. On the other hand, listeners who take a stand can take away some of the power from celebrities that allows them to abuse. Separating art and artists allows abusive performers to take advantage of their power and success. Listeners can change this by not supporting the art of those who misuse the power it gives them.
Taking a stand against performers like Michael Jackson, Chris Brown and R. Kelly will set the precedent that, no matter how great their music is, fans will not support abusers. This move would hopefully discourage abuse and violence by letting future artists know that abusive behavior can and will affect their careers.
Some might argue that taking this stand would lead to throwing out a lot of influential and important music. While it might be hard to not listen to the amazing work of performers like Michael Jackson, continuing to support them puts the value of the artist’s work above ending the victim’s painful trauma. This effectively disregards the trauma of victims and gives the artists the power to do whatever they want. Supporting an abuser because their music is too good to let go is an extremely selfish act.
Showing empathy for victims of abuse means not only believing them but also making sacrifices to prevent further abuse. By not listening to or supporting singers like Chris Brown and R. Kelly, listeners can take their misused power away and instead give it to entertainers who chose to do something good with their platform.