For an artist to be truly unique, they need to push past the temptation to create for others. This could mean writing a song to please a family member or record label; perhaps a film director doing their best to shock their friends with the craziest content they can put on camera. When art is done for any other reason than to satisfy the artist’s vision, it enters a confused area. Painting is a notable exception: consider portraits painted of the artists’ muses.
But let’s talk about the other side of that equation, the side that isn’t an exception. Many artists, today and in the past, have created solely for themselves. Notable examples include David Lynch and Neil Young, both artists who operate on their own schedules and decide (most of the time) when their art is ready to be released. Coincidentally, their output is often incredible.
There is a penchant for some artists to be more aggressive. When a person believes enough in themselves, why shouldn’t they ask other people to compromise for them? Jack White, who has grown into quite the auteur this year, is touring in support of his new album, and asking fans not to record or even take photos with their phones during shows. In Jack’s mind, a live show should be an intimate experience between artist and audience, not artist to audience’s camera. While I appreciate the noble nature of Jack’s request, it begs the question, is he in the moral right?
Yes, the answer is yes. That was a little test, a minor example of an artist asking more of his/her audience than is expected. Of course Jack can request for his audience to remove their phones before the show. A (much) less minor example is Johnny Depp, famed and recently disgraced actor who was accused (and in the court of public opinion, found guilty) of physically abusing his then wife, Amber Heard. Depp continues to act, and while his recent performances have been less than stellar, he has a back catalog not unlike that of Tom Cruise. In the late 90s and early 2000s, it was hit after hit. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Pirates of The Caribbean, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, all great films that rely heavily on the actor’s talents, but now must be reevaluated in light of Depp’s revealed character.
This is not the first time the world has been forced to examine an artist’s work after a grisly revelation, but it is one of the few cases (along with Woody Allen) where the actor’s extreme fame paints over some of the hatred. So, if there is any confusion, here is how to deal with these situations: The artist’s past work is still good, and should not be thrown out or destroyed. However, the artist should no longer be able to enjoy the same fame and reverence as in their heyday. In short, stop casting Johnny Depp and stop giving Woody Allen movie deals if you (movie execs) really think they are guilty. By appearing in or making more films, Depp and Allen ask us to move on, to accept them warts and all on the merit of their artistic talent. This is not a compromise you should accept.
Somewhere in between the Jack White’s and Johnny Depp’s falls another group of abrasive artist. Musicians like Mark Kozelek or Jeff Tweedy (Kozelek being the more abrasive) can be hard to defend, especially when one of them releases a song called “The War on Drugs: Suck My Cock”.
While Jeff Tweedy represents the lighter side of this breed of artist, his combative tendencies mostly taking the form of responding to hecklers, singers like Mark Kozelek represent a much trickier case. Listen to any of Kozelek’s material recorded in the last five years, either as Sun Kil Moon or under his own name, and you’ll hear a profound sadness. Kozelek’s work can be challenging, and that coupled with his mean spirited nature at live shows make him a difficult artist.
Not unlike Quentin Tarantino, whose films have done more for cinema than most other directors, Mark Kozelek is a brilliant songwriter whose genius is constantly threatened by his antagonistic antics. Yet, this is part of what makes each of these artists unique. Tarantino can be awkward and rude, Kozelek can be gruff and even a jerk, but I would never ask either of them to change. These traits are part of what make them interesting.
While I would never advise someone to be abrasive on purpose, it is important to take an artist for who they are. Someone like Johnny Depp, a naturally talented actor who is also an abuser, must be taken for all of his qualities. In his case, that should mean Depp’s career doesn’t go much further. There is a middle ground, though, where artists like Mark Kozelek, Quentin Tarantino, and Jack White can thrive despite their inherently intrusive qualities. This doesn’t mean their careers should be halted or cancelled indefinitely; it simply means that if you are willing to be a fan, you have to learn to take the good with the bad. That is, unless they are a rapist or something. Then you should not do that.
Heart2Art Project Contributor
In 2005, producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald convinced a 17-year old Kesha Rose Sebert to dropout of high school in Tennessee and relocate to Los Angeles to record under his label, Kemosabe Records, a branch of Sony Music. She worked with Gottwald on several projects leading up to her 2009 breakout hit, “TiK ToK,” sang under the moniker Ke$ha. “TiK ToK” became an instant party anthem and remains widely recognizable by teens and young adults alike. Between her first and second albums, Animal (2010) and Warrior (2012), the public began to take note of rising tensions between Ke$ha and Gottwald; it was alleged that Ke$ha was forced to sing graphic lines in her single “Die Young” following the Sandy Hook incident in December of 2012. In early 2014, Ke$ha was admitted to a rehab facility under the claims that Gottwald had sexually and physically abused her. Upon leaving rehab, Ke$ha returned to being Kesha, signifying a gradual departure from Gottwald and Sony Music.
In October of 2014, Kesha filed her first lawsuit against Gottwald for an abundance of charges including sexual assault and battery to which Gottwald countersued her for defamation. To make matters worse, when seeking an injunction to disconnect from Gottwald and Kemosabe Records, Kesha sought help from Sony Music but they disregarded her claims of abuse and harassment and her injunction was later denied in 2016. In April, her claims against Gottwald were dismissed by a judge and in March of 2017, when seeking to amend a case, a judge denied, claiming that she had not paid her royalties.
Finally in July of last year, Kesha released her first single in nearly 4 years, “Praying,” along with an essay about finding peace with herself and coping with the nightmares of her personal life and societal issues. In the wake of Hollywood scandals such as that of Harvey Weinstein, “Praying” has become an anthem for the #MeToo movement for those seeking to be heard- those who are not given a voice while their experiences need to be shared. And last night, January 28th, at the 2018 Grammy Awards, Kesha was joined by Camila Cabello, Andra Day, Cindy Lauper, Bebe Rexha, Julia Michaels, and the Resistance Revival Chorus in performing her single. In an empowering, emotional performance of solidarity and sisterhood, Kesha and her fellow singers and friends brought the audience together to address the unseen issues and oppression in both the music industry and in society. Gradually distancing herself from her past, Kesha’s performance was a testament to her talent and her strength even after such a crisis ridden past.
Huntington Beach, CA
Cambodia is among the many nations notable for their high numbers of sexual and domestic abuse cases, being that about one in five Cambodian women have been subjected to sexual or domestic violence. Domestic violence and gender-based abuse has become a significantly complex issue in Cambodia, as culture and a complicated national history plays a suggestive role in why women are so widely regarded as inferior to men throughout the country, leading to a broad and convoluted issue of gender-based abuse that can not be solved with a single solution.
Cambodia, categorized as a Least Developed Country (LDC) by the United Nations, had a dramatic change in social structure when the communist Khmer Rouge regime had come into power in April 1975, whose merciless and brutal leadership had garnered global attention as more than two million Cambodian citizens died as a result of the severely harsh dictatorship. During the era of Khmer Rouge rule, violence was common and perceived as a necessity. While a significant number of Cambodians had begin to murder their own parents and friends as a symbol of loyalty to the communist regime, women were forced to prostitute themselves or act as sex slaves in order to provide themselves and their families with necessities to live, such as food, water, and medicine. Additionally, as violence continued to be encouraged and even glorified by the emerging Khmer culture, a rising number of women became victims of sexual and domestic violence, illustrating the creation of a society and environment where violence against women was considered inevitable and where women were undoubtedly regarded as subordinate to men. While the regime had fallen from over 35 years ago, its effects and consequences can still be observed in modern Cambodia, as the healing nation suffers from a barely functioning judicial system and a society with lingering ideologies of those made prevalent during Khmer Rouge rule. The Khmer culture shaped the way women were raised and treated since the regime’s end, as highlighted by national traditions like the popularly taught code of conduct for women, entitled Chbab Srey, which teaches subserviency to women and the common Cambodian proverb, “Men are gold and women are cloth”.