It used to be easy. There was the work, and you liked it, and then years later there were the revelations and they tainted your memories of your childhood but not your actual childhood. Now, with the internet, we get to find out in real time how awful everyone is. Consuming culture has become more complicated than ever.
Which is just a fancy way of saying, ‘What about that Morrissey, eh? Blimey! Turns out he’s a massive racist.’
Only joking. Morrissey was never one of my heroes, I just liked a couple of his songs, and it has been clear for quite a while he was pretty racist. He just carried on talking. He just said more stuff. We just found out the extent of his brainlessness.
But what do you do if your hero turns out to be a dick? Ignore it? Burn all your records? Or just deal with it on a case by case basis, accepting that often the work will be forever tainted to you, or just not seem as vital to you anymore but that sometimes it is almost impossible to fully disassociate a song from the nostalgic wave of pleasure your brain experiences when hearing it?
It’s difficult, isn’t it?
Take Kelis and Nas. If what Kelis has accused Nas of is true, that won’t alter the fact that Illmatic is possibly the finest hip hop album of all time. If what Nas has accused Kelis of is true, that won’t stop Milkshake and Caught Out There being two of the best singles of the last twenty years. If I continue to listen to both of them, am I compromised? Complicit?
If you stream music, which increasingly I do, everything you listen to is monetised, and thus politicised. Separating the art from the artist has become impossible. If you listen to The Queen is Dead on Spotify, Morrissey gets paid.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve got no answers. Short of accepting that we are all compromised to some degree, and respecting everybody else’s method for navigating the labyrinth that is morality in the age of the internet, what can you do?