When politics ruin music

Jun 22, 2016 at 10:55 am
When politics ruin music

Sometimes it’s best not to meet your heroes. What if you caught them on a bad day? Would their temperament turn you off to the point of not being a fan anymore? It does happen. Maybe you really dug what a musician had been putting out, and one day you got an opportunity for some face time, only to be brushed aside, or privy to some tantrum. You were never able to really listen to them ever again after that. It happens. During my teen years I had been a big fan of an alternative band that had a couple songs high on the radio charts, usually always about daddy issues, and eventually I had a chance to meet the singer backstage at an LRS Fest. He turned out to be a dick. Maybe just in that one moment, or maybe he always was. Either way, the next time I put in the band’s music was 15 years later, when I needed a nostalgic laugh. Was that fair? Maybe not, but it’s not like I had any say in the matter. It was my observation, and it changed my taste for them. Does it mean that every artist has to be in the best mood ever, just in case they’re spotted by the public? I think we’ve seen how that usually turns out with the Disney kids. Of course, there is always the argument that the music was always disposable — my tastes were maturing, and I was just subconsciously looking to move past them. Not that it matters too much. They’re still a band. They play the ’90s circuit, and still get paid. They still have a career. They didn’t need me.

Let me flip it a bit, though, and ask: Have you ever stopped liking a musician once you found out something about him or her? That seems to happen in pop music more, but again, I have to think that has at least a little to do with the music not standing on its own, so it’s easy to do away with the star. It’s not exclusive to pop, though. In fact, I’m having an issue with a decently-respected rock band right now. Why? Politics.

Honestly, it’s not something I’m use to. I’m fairly passionate about politics, but since most rock ‘n’ roll bands you come across lean to the left, there’s never really an argument about issues. Mostly just preaching to the choir. For some bands, it’s even their foundation, and in those instances, hearing our like-minded ideas may make me like the band even more than their music would qualify on its own. But when I come across a rock band on the right, it almost becomes a marker in the sand. Is that fair? Shouldn’t I just like the band based on its music?

At this point, it’s impossible for me to like a Ted Nugent song. Maybe because he writes really bad songs. Then again, I don’t mind hearing Foghat’s classics, and I don’t think they’re too far removed from one another musically. As it stands though, I don’t know Foghat’s political stances, and I hope to keep it that way. But what about The Beach Boys? Mike Love and Bruce Johnston have said some pretty insane things about Obama, and, for all I know, are big Trump supporters. Luckily, Brian Wilson preaches peace and love. Is that why they’re not as tainted for me? I’ll never put out the money to see the current lineup on tour, but I’ll definitely rock some Pet Sounds on the hi-fi.

Here’s an even trickier one, and the root of this article. Eagles of Death Metal. They’ve been this super-fun band that Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age occasionally moonlights in. They were also the band playing that night in Paris when the attacks happened. The way the music community came to their aid was a thing of beauty, and the band, too, made it their mission to help rebuild the families who lost loved one’s lives by donating proceeds of one of their singles to charity. All good things. But when lead singer, Jesse Hughes, starting talking about arming everyone with guns, calling the entire horrific moment an inside-job conspiracy, and then coming out as a Donald Trump supporter, I quickly found myself pushing their music further and further away from me. And that sucks because I really like their music. Is that fair?

Kyle Meredith is the music director of WFPK and host of the nationally syndicated “The Speed of Sound.” Hunting bears was never his strong point.