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By Chris Peel on 29.5.2023

Does listening to controversially themed music condone it?

A lot of music contains lyrics that are challenging to a normal way of life; that’s how it’s always been and always will be. Yet many people find it uncomfortable when music starts to tackle the issues of violence towards women, rape, and paedophilia in a serious way. Does this mean the musician is condoning these acts? It sickens some people and makes them question whether they should be contributing towards the artist’s income. This, at least to me, seems to be missing the point.

Music has always been about challenging some of the ideas of the time. The Punk Rock movement of the late 70s helped to destroy the whole pre-war feeling of Britain and the worn-out hippy movement. It tackled the suffocating atmosphere that had developed around music, especially chart music, and some might even argue we need another punk movement.

It’s in music like punk rock that the industry is at its very best, no longer interested in churning out hit after hit but in contributing to the debates of the time. Artists such as Consumer Electronics, who rubs pictures of pre-pubescent girls sensuously across his body during performances, are clearly meant to cause a certain amount of revulsion. I think, however, that they may also be trying to get you to question certain aspects of society. Whilst paedophilia is a shocking crime deserving of severe punishment, some tabloids have in the past grossly misrepresented the amount of danger. I recently read an article about how a single dad couldn’t stand in a park watching his own child without arousing suspicion. I think it’s this type of mentality that Consumer Electronics is trying to challenge.

Of course, you can even find music within the charts that might be said to condone the wrong behaviour. Rihanna and Eminem’s hit “Love the Way You Lie” could be said to glorify an abusive relationship, overly romanticising it. Almost all music in the chart is about drinking and partying with a happy dose of one-night stands and promiscuity. One of the most recent examples is Connor Maynard’s horrendous hit “Can’t Say No.” It seems to imply that his sex drive is so out of control he, quite literally, can’t say no to any girl whatsoever. Does anybody say this music should be boycotted? No, because in his own small way they may just be challenging someone’s perception of society.

Let’s not forget that this type of thing has been going on for years in other art forms. Has anyone heard of Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel Lolita? It spends 320 pages narrating the paedophilic thoughts of Humbert Humbert, and his obsession with a twelve year old girl. In this instance, it is easy to argue that the novel does not condone paedophilia; why then can people not apply the same logic to the music industry?

Like I said, the music industry is at its best when it’s challenging and thought-provoking. When it makes us look at the society we live in and question some of the things we see every day. If it does this by showing a man acting like a paedophile then, whilst the activity might disgust me, the music doesn’t and I won’t stop buying his music. I wish more artists would be as thought-provoking.


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