Don't Blame it On Yokey: Double Standards in the Music Industry

We've got a problem in music, and the problem is the seeming attempt by the shadowy masses to ignore half the population's musical opinions and outputs.

A while ago, dream-electro-pop goddess Grimes caught a bunch of flack online from fans when she deejayed an online set that included songs by Taylor Swift. These indie snobs sent a whole whack of disparaging tweets to Grimes because they thought that Taylor Swift didn't have the necessary musical talent to be on Grimes' playlist, or some other reason.  I think the assumption was that because Taylor Swift makes pop music about her ex boyfriends and her friendships, it is somehow less valid and less deserving of an audience. I bet any of you fifty bucks that if Dan Auerbach or Jack White had put Taylor Swift on a playlist, Rolling Stone would have been awash with articles about how sensitive they were, and how they were mature enough to recognize the songwriting skills of my girl T-Sweezy. Instead, Grimes did it, and fans somehow took this to mean that her taste was silly and invalid. (Never mind the stupid and pretentious habit of kneejerkily shitting on someone's music because they've reached a certain level of popularity, but that's an argument for another day). Because the topics of Taylor Swift's songs are less "serious" than some, Grimes' taste was deemed less than if she had played Queens of The Stone Age.

On the other hand, we have the respective cases of Yoko Ono and Courtney Love. Yoko Ono is an incredibly talented artist and musician. Her new album, TAKE ME TO THE LAND OF HELL, is weird and innovative and funky and still challenging all sorts of musical conventions. Her gallery work is consistently provocative, and her twitter account is all sorts of deep and crazy. But 44 years later, we're still bitching about the Beatles, and the hand she apparently had in breaking them up. Courtney Love, lead singer of Hole and continual force of nature, exists and says whacky stuff. Despite putting out excellent rock songs and being a cultural force of nature, internet conspiracy theorists are still maintaining that she murdered her husband Kurt Cobain (the guy from that little band, Nirvana). R. Kelly gets to ("allegedly", check this article for some context) rape teenage girls and he is still allowed to make hit singles with Lady Gaga, and magazines describe his making new music as though he was some sort of glorious phoenix rising from the ashes. Cee-Lo Green date-raped a woman, Jimmy Page kidnapped a 15 year old girl, Chris Brown beat the living crap out of Rihanna, Vince Neil killed someone while drunk driving, and Eric Clapton is a tremendous racist. These guys all still get to enjoy successful careers. Their music and work get to be at the forefront of the conversation surrounding them, instead of their terrible crimes. But never mind: Courtney Love was understandably a mess after the suicide of her husband, so let's shit on her for the rest of her life and ignore her musical output. Lana Del Ray had one lousy performance on SNL, and bad lip injections, so we should discount her talent. Miley Cyrus likes making out with people and shaking her butt, so Dolly Parton's musical love of her is somehow moot. It's quite the double standard: male musicians get to commit crimes and be seen as legitimate rock stars, and when female musicians look slobby, they're seen as out of control subhumans.

This Adam and Eve and the apple situation has been going back for a long time. It's probably a lot easier for music fans to assume that one bad lady came in and brainwashed John Lennon away from his band, or that some peroxided grunge wench murdered her husband with a shotgun. It's a comforting lie, it assumes that had it not been for those meddling women The Beatles and Nirvana would have gone on making music forever. Had it not been for their respective harpies of undoing, The Beatles and Nirvana would have continued on in KISS and Rolling Stone-esque fashion, touring forever and putting out umpteen albums. It's comforting, for sure, but it ignores the complexity of human relationships. Pinning it all on Yoko and her magnificent 70's hair discounts the differences in personality of the four Beatles, and their gradually differing musical evolutions. Pinning the death of Kurt Cobain on Courtney Love completely disregards the horror hell trap that is addiction, the seemingly bottomless pit of depression, and the fucking tragedy of his suicide.

Not only does is this sort of thinking unfair to the musician who wants to be recognized for her work, it also ensures that casual music fans may be put off of a whole range of musicians because of reputation. Because of a stupid fairy tale told since 1994, a kid in Manitoba may be put off of the raw awesome that is Hole. Because John Lennon fell in love, Yoko Ono will be left off of "Best Of" lists by people who wanted a happy ending for their favourite band. Because Taylor Swift writes about stuff that matters to her, she and Grimes are told they are not serious artists and music fans, and a girl writing a song will hear again that her feelings are not important. It just sucks like hell because it means that we're missing out on so much good music. If we're discounting T Sweezy because she writes about her feelings, suddenly that's half the range of human emotion that's deemed too feminine to be taken seriously musically or otherwise. Everyone deserves to hear the greatness of The Julie Ruin, or Neko Case, or Fiona Apple, or Kate Nash, or Amanda Palmer, etcetera. This doesn't just hurt women, it hurts men too.

This doesn't mean that female artists should be immune to criticism. Heck no. It means that a new standard should be figured out: maybe, if you're raping and murdering, you should go to jail, regardless of gender or musical talent. If the Red Hot Chilli Peppers get to wear socks on their dongs, maybe we should give Miley Cyrus a pass on her twerking. Just focus on the music, people. Give musicians of all genders the chance to stun you with the honesty of their lyrics and emotions, feminine or masculine. Let it challenge you, let it wash over you, let it change you, no matter who's making it.