In recent news, Doja Cat has faced scrutiny for her actions online towards her fans, critiquing her fans’ para-social relationships with her, to her current rumored relationship with Jeffery Cyrus, who according to Rolling Stone, was accused of emotional abuse from his female followers. Add the massive social reaction to her change in visual aesthetics for her “Scarlet” album rollout. Fans of heavily controversial musicians like Doja Cat are now left wondering, can we separate an artist’s actions from their music?
One can argue fans should separate a musician’s art or music from their actions, as it doesn’t influence the work they create. Kanye West is an artist who’s had this logic thrown at his creations in recent memory. Known for his extensive music catalog and production credits, he has also been known for his outlandish statements and actions in the public eye. His music can sometimes reference these actions and has been considered part of his artistic expression. While some fans of his work can sit in his art without thinking of his actions, others use his efforts to inform their opinions about his artistic career. The real question, as posed by William Hughe in his Observer article on this very argument, is, “How do we separate the art from their artist when they…are their art?”
Lizzo, a four-time Grammy award-winning artist, has come under fire in her current legal battle with her dancers as they are alleging sexual harassment, workplace harassment, and fat shaming. She’s also alluded to these situations in her 2021 song, Rumors, “Had to cut some h**s loose, yeah, NDA, no loose lips, Now them h**s tryna sue me.” Her fans and the general public were shocked by these allegations as they contrast with her usually upbeat and happy demeanor. This argument has come up on the internet multiple times within this situation, where her music is shown also to be influenced by her life journey.
These artists, as well as others like Azealia Banks, Chris Brown, and R. Kelly, are musicians who have committed actions that would come under moral scrutiny. These actions would then influence public perception and impact how people take in their art. Truthfully, there’s no natural way to separate the art from the artists that make their art. As one can detach themselves from an artist’s actions, others also take in what an artist does and evaluate their art through both lenses as an artist and a person. The best way to judge it is to let the fan decide whether the artist is also their art.