Is Your Playlist Problematic?

In 2017, Spotify reported that 100% of the top streamed songs were by male artists. This statistic got me thinking, how balanced is my playlist as a ‘feminist’ Millennial? ELLE writer, Leah Melby Clinton took the test that Spotify and Smirnoff created to see if the musicians we choose to support, reflect our personal values.

This was her result, and it’s not much different from my own:


Take the test here.

Clinton put it perfectly: “Never have I ever wavered when saying, ‘Yep, I identify as a feminist’, nor stopped believing that a female leader is the salve for so much that pains the world. But … [I realized I] might not be putting my money where my mouth ears are.”

A Musical Moral Dilemma

But your playlist could represent a moral crisis past your confusing shared taste for Simply Red and Notorious B.I.G, preceded by Ariana Grande and Katy Perry.

Over a skewed representation of gender, you could be supporting artists with problematic pasts and attitudes. This is problematic because being part of the generations that birthed the ‘wokeness’ and call out culture movements, selectiveness is not cute look on us. Never has it been more relevant to ask the question Clinton did: are you putting your money where your ears are?

Who’s to Blame?

Let’s use media manipulator and darling, Taylor Swift as an example. I am not a fan of Swift, never have been. I knew she was problematic- not only regarding her neutrality in politics and women’s rights issues- before Kim K kept the receipts. Slut-shaming, unhealthy relationship dynamics (such as glorifying victimization) and an overly innocent persona made me uncomfortable from the moment You Belong With Me took over our airwaves.

But I wasn’t surprised when her innocent facade was pierced, because public shamings like Swift’s are inevitable, and due to our own ideals and the standards we hold public figures to. Swift may be a media maven but she is only human, playing the fame game as well as she could. The responsibility to see these tactics and to question how we consume ‘celebrity’ and its many smoke screens lays on us.

Drawing the Line

But the onus is not just on women artists. XXXtentacion’s (real name Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy) history with domestic abuse was never in the dark, with the first allegation being made in 2015. However, despite facing domestic violence accusations and being on trial, as of March 2018, his album ? still topped the Billboard 200. The real public trial occurred when it came time to wish him our condolences or condemn him.

Where do we stop, if we were to address issues such as homophobia, misogyny, racism, gender-based violence to glorifying drug addiction and suicide, in pop music?

Tuning Out

The task of making your playlist politically correct would include researching the history of every artist (and remember, bands are more than one person alone) that you stream, YouTube and buy from. It’d be easier to just change genres, right? But musicians outside of popular music are… humans as well.

Woah- that’s not to say that their actions are excusable, or that being a product of our environment is an excuse not to grow and learn. But how do we choose where to allow second chances, and where to draw the line, without addressing the toxic behaviour in our society that is responsible as well?

It feels like responsibly consuming music is a constant project, and there is always a limit and element of compromise. No one wants to be called a hypocrite but hypocrisy can be unavoidable.

Art Vs. Artist

One day while chatting to a friend, Farai Engelbrecht, we got onto the topic of problematic musicians, and his response left me pondering the public’s tendency to glamorize our faves to a point where they lose some (if not all) human qualities.

What we forget is that art is a reflection of society, and wouldn’t it be naive to think that as products of our society, artists would reflect only the positive characteristics, and not the negative factors most present at any given moment?

When issues like the domestic violence accusations  against XXXtentacion become hot subjects of public contention, will it have us speaking- before and not after? Will we talk about the prevalent issue of violence against women, and how male entitlement is encouraged in pop culture and pop music everyday? Or will we simply rage on Twitter and stream the next transgressor’s latest single to number 1, until it’s time to take them off of their pedestal. 

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