There is simply no denying the persuasive power of celebrity, particularly when it comes to famed musicians and the causes they support. Having the endorsement, or, conversely the denouncement of a group or artist can catapult a cause or a political, social, or economic issue into the lime light in a way that us Joe Schmoes simply cannot hope to imitate, at least until someone picks up on my charm and movie-star good looks (gross exaggeration) and whisks me away to stardom (grossly unlikely). Musicians sit at the head of loyal and dedicated fan bases, at times almost to a fault—who will undoubtedly zero in on any topic of discourse their musical hero finds interesting or worthwhile. But unfortunately, this kind of malleable mass attention open to a musician’s manipulation (somebody snap for that alliteration though) can just as easily be blown out of proportion and misconstrued as it can be understood at face value. Whether they use their musical celebrity for good, for evil, or for the forces of stupidity, artists have an unquestionable ability to take a stand and make a difference. The question is, should they?
Let’s start off on a positive note. Celebrity endorsements. I’m not talking Coca-Cola and Nike-type endorsements of course, because it’s a bit difficult to find notes of altruism buried beneath layers and layers of capitalistic materialism, but rather let us focus on charity and foundation endorsements, which have become so common in recent years you might think charity was going out of style. Every musical group or artist worth their salt has a platform, a chosen foundation or cause they either support and promote or one they themselves created. Bono and U2 famously started their own campaign for AIDS relief and awareness concentrated on the African epidemic of the disease, RED. Elton John has an AIDS foundation as well, cleverly entitled the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Lady Gaga has her Born This Way Foundation, which fuels anti-bullying campaigns across the nation, and Mother Monster didn’t stop there, also lending her voice to anti-rape campaigns with her song, “Til It Happens to You.” By attaching their names to such foundations and campaigns, these artists and others like them ensure that their chosen charitable causes receive all the attention that they deserve, and need.
Of course, musicians can also express their beliefs to their own detriment, or simply create media headaches for themselves. Celebrities musical or otherwise should always understand that anything they say will be examined, disseminated, and reiterated a thousand times over. Take Steven Tyler and his decision to send a letter to Donald Trump asking him to cease use of “Dream On” in all his campaign activities. Fans analyzing Tyler’s actions took this as tacit disapproval of Trump, in effect an Aerosmith-led boycott of his campaign. Tyler’s true motivation behind the request was to promote his own campaign, one designed to draw interest to proposed legislation which could potentially change the way artists are compensated. In seeking to promote his own campaign, Tyler may have shot himself in the foot with his own celebrity.
Other musicians clearly have no plan in mind when hawking their personal beliefs to the public, because if they did—have a plan that is—nothing so colossally stupid would have crossed their lips. Take T.I., world’s most generous first date (Really? I can have whatever I like?) and inexplicable Ant-Man crossover, who recently thought it was a good idea to say in an interview that he wouldn’t vote for Hilary Clinton because she’s a woman, women make “rash decisions,” and are, in general, too driven by their emotions. Insert cricket noise here.
So, ignoring obvious misogyny for the moment and in an answer to my earlier question, should musicians use their fame as a platform to support their chosen dogma, be it political, social, or utter nonsense, I say right on. We all promote our own agendas—what is a social media profile, a Facebook page, if not technology used to promote your own personal brand—I just happen to have, shall we say, an interested demographic far more limited in scope. My only advice to influential celebs in the industry is advice they’ve all likely heard time and time again—watch what you say or one day it might stab you in the back.
That means you T.I. Because I’m just an emotional, uterus-crazed female who can’t be trusted to make rational decisions. Like, say, whether or not to egg your private jet. My Fallopian tubes made me do it.