Should you still listen to the music of disgraced artists? [ft. R Kelly and Lostprophets]

Back when I was a sixth form student (or “college” in other words), I didn’t have much money at all and I wasn’t clued-up on the dark arts of ‘acquiring’ music for zero outlay so I used to listen to the same handful of CDs – ripped to my MP3 player – over and over. Liberation Transmission by Lostprophets was the soundtrack of my sixth form days and the singles released from the album (Rooftops, A Town Called Hypocrisy and Can’t Catch Tomorrow) were still being played over and over on Kerrang Radio so there was no escaping the Welsh band’s sound…not that I wanted to anyway.

I left education behind in 2008, just as the job market was at a seriously bad point. The recession (sparked by the banking crisis) had hit and jobs were thin on the ground. CV’s went ignored and countless applications for basic office roles were turned down again and again. Eventually, the Job Centre (a government-run set-up here in the UK that is supposed to help you find employment and also ensure that you ARE properly looking for work if you want to keep your unemployment benefit money) sent me on an ’employability’ course which was probably one of the most miserable, demeaning experiences of my life. That’s a story for another day though. Why I mention it at all is because Lostprophets’ music (still on that ancient MP3 player!) got me through those dark days.

So to say I liked their music would be an understatement.

LP1
[image: NME.com]
But then, in December 2012, front man Ian Watkins was arrested and charged with thirteen counts of sexual offences against children including the attempted rape of a one-year-old girl. To say that the news came as a shock was as much an understatement as me saying that I thought his band’s music was just “all right”. It was the sort of headline that you hope isn’t true but unfortunately, Watkins later pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 29 years in prison.

After that, I was left with a moral dilemma: do I still listen to Lostprophets as I had done before Watkins’ terrible crimes came to light? All around me, others had made up their minds. The band’s music vanished from the airwaves, Music Magpie (a company that buys unwanted CDs/DVDs/Games) wouldn’t accept my Lostprophets albums when I was having a clear-out and people were saying that they felt dirty themselves if they listened to the band.

I’ve even been told that listening to Lostprophets means that YOU are also a paedophile which is utterly ridiculous and a fucking stupid thing to say.

In the end, I decided that I WOULD continue to listen to Lostprophets for several reasons.

  1. I’ve never been the kind of person to ‘follow’ bands/artists closely beyond enjoying their music so in many cases, I don’t even know what they look like in real life. Ian Watkins was one such case so I didn’t have that problem of seeing and hearing ‘him’ when listening to the music, something that others have cited as their reason(s) for no longer being able to listen to Lostprophets.
  2. I remembered that Lostprophets was more than just Watkins. Yes, he sang the songs but they were the work of a group and the rest of the guys weren’t to blame for what had happened.
  3. Because fuck everybody else and what they thought. I liked Lostprophets’ music and their songs meant something to me, taking my head back to the times (for better or worse…) where I hammered the Liberation Transmission and Start Something albums.

I can see why people chose to sever ties completely though. After all, buying and playing their music is kind of supporting a convicted sex criminal in a way. You also can’t cruise around with their tunes belting from your car either because the majority of people simply don’t see it as the done thing.

The uncomfortable truth however is that good music doesn’t stop sounding good just because the singer got banged up for heinous crimes. I genuinely believe that overly vocal former Lostprophets fans who loudly reject the music they once adored still like what they hear but refuse to admit it. Because doing so is seen as taking the side of criminal or even condoning his despicable actions. Bullshit in my opinion. Does a beautiful woman look any less sexy for being a murderer? Is vast wealth and power any less appealing despite being the cause of devastating wars and the oppression of the less fortunate? Do fast cars become any less desirable even though they pollute the atmosphere more than sensible vehicles?

Me, I prefer to just be honest and simplify the whole thing. After all, you can say the ‘correct’ thing in public but lying to yourself is foolish and impossible to boot. So…

I like Lostprophets’ music.

I don’t like Ian Watkins. What he did is fucking disgusting and (by all accounts) utterly predatory. I don’t give a fuck what happens to him in prison.

But now it is happening again, this time with R&B singer R Kelly who turned himself into the police last week. Kelly is accused of multiple sexual assaults, several of the alleged victims being minors at the time. Now this isn’t such a big deal for me personally as I’ve never been a massive R Kelly fan beyond a few songs (a quick look at the bloated music library on my phone revealed that I only have She’s Got That Vibe and Bump N’ Grind) but even so, if Kelly is convicted, will we have to ask ourselves the same questions again? Will his songs be removed from existence as if they never happened?

FILE PHOTO: Singer R. Kelly arrives at the 41st American Music Awards in Los Angeles
[image: tekportal.net]
In the case of R Kelly I can take it or leave it. I like the couple of tracks I have but I’m not bothered either way. They certainly don’t feature in my “Most Played” playlist.

Real fans will have a decision to make however and it will be interesting to see the outcome although I’m already made up on how I think it will go down based on the fallout of Ian Watkins’ crimes.

What would you do?

Music Talk: CD Pick-Ups #1 (Trance, Dance, Electronic)

While I download most of my music these days, I still enjoy hunting out and collecting physical media for my favourite artists. After all, it’s nice to have something to actually hold for your money and more importantly, singles and EP’s tend to contain exclusive mixes or B-Sides that aren’t always available on places like Youtube. I still haven’t seen the Talvin Singh mix of Blondie’s ‘Maria’ on Youtube for example.

Anyway, I’ve recently been getting into old-school 90’s Trance, Dance and Electronic music and discovering more types of sounds in general that I absolutely cannot get enough of. The added bonus of buying used CD’s in 2018 is that nobody wants them and so there are some scandalous bargains to be had that represent insane value for money. My recent pick-ups for instance.

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Chicane – Saltwater    CD Single (1999)   |   Price Paid: £3.99

Tracklist (* = standout track):

  1. Original Radio Edit
  2. Original Mix*
  3. Mothership Mix

Maire Brennan (of Clannad) really makes this track with her beautiful, haunting vocals but it’s also an outstanding Trance track in general, the kind that takes you on a bit of a journey.

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Chicane – Offshore     CD Single (1996)   |   Price Paid: £1.69

Tracklist (* = standout track):

  1. Disco Citizens Edit
  2. Original Version
  3. Disco Citizens Remix*

Another classic, old-school Trance anthem. The Disco Citizens Remix is fantastic.

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Way Out West – Ajare   |   CD Single (1997)   |   Price Paid: £2-3

Track List (* = standout track):

  1. Radio Edit
  2. Way Out West remix
  3. Brothers in Rhythm club mix
  4. Original Version*
  5. Matthew Roberts Cloud 10 mix

Sometimes you find or re-discover old tracks through the strangest means. For example, I was watching some old ITV Formula 1 highlights videos on Youtube and they’d used ‘Ajare’ as the backing track for the end-of-season footage montage back in the day. The ‘original’ version is my pick but all of the mixes are worth sampling. Also, a reminder of the fantastic value we used to get back in 90’s with CD singles such as this that have five tracks. 99p for a single track today is still nothing to complain about but we certainly were spoilt with singles, especially factoring in manufacturing/distribution costs.

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Apollo Four Forty – Gettin’ High On Your Own Supply   |   CD Album (1999)   | Price Paid: £2.50

Track List (* = standout track):

  1. Are we a rock band or what?
  2. Stop the Rock
  3. Crazee Horse
  4. Cold Rock the Mic
  5. Lost in Space (Theme)
  6. For Forty Days
  7. Heart Go Boom
  8. The Machine in the Ghost
  9. Blackbeat*
  10. Stadium Parking Lot
  11. Yo! Future
  12. High on Your Own Supply
  13. The Perfect Crime

Electronic music is another genre I have been getting into recently and Apollo Four Forty is one of those seemingly forgotten groups that produced some great stuff in the 90’s. £2.49 for this thirteen-track album was a steal and there is quite a lot of variety in the ‘sound’ of Gettin’ High On Your Own Supply. ‘Blackbeat’ is my favourite track from the album but there are several big hitters on here such as ‘Stop the Rock’ and the theme from the movie, Lost in Space. I will definitely be looking out for more Apollo Four Forty albums.

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Mortal Kombat Original Motion Picture Soundtrack   |   CD Album (1995)   |   Price Paid: £2-3

Track List (* = standout track):

  1. A Taste of things to come
  2. Goodbye (by Gravity Kills)
  3. Juke-Joint Jezebel [Giorgio Moroder Metropolis Mix] (by KMFDM)
  4. Unlearn [Josh Wink’s Live Mix] (by Psykosonic)
  5. Control [Juno Reactor Instrumental] (by Traci Lords)
  6. Halcyon + On + On (by Orbital)*
  7. Utah Saints Take On The Theme From Mortal Kombat (by Utah Saints)
  8. The Invisible (by G//Z/R)
  9. Zero Signal (by Fear Factory)
  10. Burn (by Sister Machine Gun)
  11. Blood & Fire [Out of the Ashes Mix] (by Type O Negative)
  12. I Reject (by Bile)
  13. Twist the Knife [Slowly] (by Napalm Death)
  14. What U See/We All Bleed Red (by Mutha’s Day Out)
  15. Techno Syndrome [7″ Mix] (by The Immortals)
  16. Goro VS Art
  17. Demon Warriors/Final Kombat

I have to admit that I bought this CD purely for Orbital’s ‘Halcyon + On +On’ which is an amazing track that takes you on a journey and is very absorbing. I haven’t listened to the rest of the album yet but I have been assured that there is some “heavy shit” in there. For the price I paid for a seventeen-track CD, I had to buy it rather than just download Orbital’s track.

Christmas song promotes rape

It’s been a few days since I posted anything here on this fledgling blog but life has happened and work has been extra tiring. The diarrhoea-like river of excrement that is the news continues to flow in the meantime however and the number of “stories” (let’s not give them too much credibility) that I’d like to analyse has began to back up like a blocked toilet clogged with an ever-increasing volume of the nasty brown stuff.

Unsavoury metaphors aside, one of the more dumb stories that cropped up on my radar was that of an American radio station electing to pull the Christmas song “Baby it’s Cold Outside” from their playlist due to an apparent unsuitability in today’s hyper-sensitive #metoo landscape. Other Christmas songs that were written/performed in the past have now been put under the microscope and over-analysed by those who are determined to play dot-to-dot and create those tenuous links and daft interpretations from songs that are products of their time.

I do want to quickly point out that this is another of those stories that the media love to publish in order to wind up a certain demographic and get them to keep clicking away or buying newspapers. I know this and I suppose that giving this shit even more exposure by talking about it is a bit hypocritical but I feel like looking at the facts and quotes from these headlines and applying some proper logic to them.

bico-1

Let’s start with the Christmas song that has stirred up the keyboard warriors and Twitter superstars the most shall we? For decades, there was nothing and suddenly “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” is one of the great evils of the music world; a song that apparently tells the story of a man pressuring a woman into sex. As quoted from the BBC’s website:

In particular, the line “Say what’s in this drink?/No cabs to be had out there” has led people to make a link with date rape.

So this is also (apparently) a song about date rape and drugged alcoholic drinks. The problem with this above quote is that phrase “led people to make a link”. We can make links between anything and everything if we wanted to. This is a simple case of people taking a product of the past out of its time and complaining that it doesn’t conform to modern expectations which – honestly – can be done with anything at all from history. What next? Does “Driving Home for Christmas” suggest an irresponsible decision to drive in dangerous, wintry conditions? Does any Christmas song to do with Santa condone lying to your children? Loose comparisons I know but seriously.

How about this: listen to a classic Christmas song and just take it for what it is. When did every single thing need to be looked at it minute detail and constantly reviewed every few years to see if it remains “acceptable”? Any such analysis that includes phrases such as “seems to suggest…” or “could be interpreted as…” is automatically bullshit of the highest order in my book. Far-fetched conclusions being conjured up in the minds of those who simply MUST find something to be offended about. Unless of course I’m talking out of my ass and hearing a song like Baby, it’s Cold Outside IS slowly warping my brain and installing a subconscious instruction to lure females in from the cold so that I can rape them. See how stupid it sounds? I believe that there are three reasons why a story like this even becomes a (undeserving) ‘thing’ in the first place:

  1. The fear of offending people. Weak, easily bowed people decide that it is safer to remove material deemed potentially offensive before anybody can make some crazy links and bring negative press down on the organisation.
  2. Virtue signalling. Loudly and proudly condemning something that COULD be deemed offensive in the minds of a small minority in order to become the white knight and latest champion of the #metoo or similar movements.
  3. The social media echo chamber. A few people think that they are hot shit for ‘discovering’ something they believe could possibly be offensive or disempowering. Others re-tweet and show their support (from the safe anonymity of their keyboard/smartphone screen) subsconsciously feeling that they are being fashionable by doing so.

I am always open to be proven wrong or have my view changed by solid facts. Not interpretations, not theories and not suggestions. Just concrete facts, figures and evidence. That said, I feel extremely confident when I say that I do not, for a second, believe that when Frank Loesser wrote the song in 1944, there was the intention to promote rape. There is nothing to say that the male in the song intends to force himself on the female if she continues to refuse his advances. There is nothing wrong with suggestion or displaying amorous feelings to somebody of the opposite sex in a private situation if the other party seems like they could be up for it. That’s how we actually get somewhere in our love/sex lives. Of course, should Person B firmly refuse then Person A must repect their decision.

Pouring red wine

If this song is guilty of anything then maybe – at a push – it is a guy ignoring a girl’s soft rejections and continuing to try his luck, edging closer and closer to that grey area where natural, lusty advances become coercion and potentially rape. But I don’t hear that. I hear a playful, slightly sexy song that is probably just being a bit naughty. You aren’t supposed to rip it apart and publish an enormous thesis on how it condones this and that. Perhaps the critics ought to take a look a little closer to home because modern lyrics have been glorifying far worse in a much bolder manner for some time now. If anything is going to be a threat to an easily impressionable younger generation then it might be the stuff that they – y’know – actually listen to?

I was shocked to read (when doing a quick bit of research) that this song has been the subject of much debate and criticism for more than a decade. Conveniently in the month(s) of December of course because it’s such an issue that nobody cares once it’s no longer Christmas and the song doesn’t have to be aired anyway. My point being that there have been many, many other analysis’ and discussions about Baby, it’s Cold Outside and the perceived implications of its lyrics written with greater finesse than mine. These are just my rough and raw thoughts on the subject. I listen to the song and don’t hear what some people are condemning. Maybe that makes me a lesser person for not trying to hear beyond the surface but guess what? I don’t really give a fuck.

Another song that was criticised (amongst several) was Band Aid’s “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” for apparently enforcing an image that Africa is a needy continent reliant on the handouts of more developed Western states in order to survive. Bob Geldof’s answer to the critics was “It’s a pop song, not a doctoral thesis”. Well said, Bob. We are constantly made to feel guilty by charity ad campaigns and asked to donate money to causes in third-world countries where people are legitimately dying from poor sanitation and the wars of others but it seems that doing the decent thing and helping is also allegedly demeaning. Putting aside the fact that terrible sanitation, terrorism and constant uncivilised warring ARE factual blights on many innocent Africans, this bizarre logic of being incorrect whatever we do/think can fuck right off. Another prime example of desperately looking for offence where there isn’t any and keyboard warriors eager to seek out a vaporous injustice.

In summary: stop fucking reading too much into songs and presuming that your personal interpretations are the correct interpretations of everybody because they aren’t.