Controversial Musicians: Separating the art from the artist in the modern age

On Oct. 10, musician Rex Orange County was charged with several counts of sexual assault, causing a wave of reaction from the public.

Many fans of the popular alternative indie artist, who was formally known as Alex O’Connor, were devastated when the news aired. This situation represents a commonly found trend in the music industry regarding artists who have acted or said something controversial.

Some students, much like sophomore Taylor Devanney, belive Rex Orange County’s music should not be listened to.

“I think it’s disgusting,” Devanney said. “Honestly, I never really listen to Rex that much, but a few of my friends did. Finding out everything is so gross.”

Others don’t feel as strongly.

“I would not go out of my way to listen to his music,” junior Mishti Chowbey said, “but if it came on, I don’t care enough to play another song.”

News like O’Connor’s charges have caused fans to question whether there is truly a separation between a musician and their music.

“I think it depends on what the artist did, especially when they made it,” senior Haley Spoden said.

Many students approached by the Rank&File were able to recall an artist they had listened to in the past that had done something problematic. Some referenced R&B artist R. Kelly and the charges against him.

“I used to think that R. Kelly was alright,” Devanney said, “and then I heard about some of the stuff he was doing to girls. It’s disgusting, I immediately stopped. You can’t listen to their music when they’re doing all that stuff; it’s just not the same. They’re just not good.”

Junior Nathan Estep agreed.

“Whenever I listen to art, I think deeply about what inspired that art,” Estep said. “A lot of times it comes from the artist’s history and what that artist does as a person.”

O’Connor is scheduled to go on trial for the charges in Jan. 2023. Meanwhile, fans of O’Connor continue to debate the relevancy of an artist’s actions or opinions in the value of their music.