Censorship and politics of musicians
Michelle Shnayder – Contributor
Music is a powerful and influential art form ever since the dawn of media, and there has been a debate about whether or not popular music should be censored, and if so, what kinds of words and topics should be off limits in popular music.
At last year’s BET music awards, rapper Eminem called President Trump everything from “Donald the b—-” to a “racist grandpa” in a freestyle rap that caused controversy. In his song, Eminem said that his fans had to choose between him and the Trump administration.
“And any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his,” he said, “I’m drawing in the sand a line/ You’re either for or against/ And if you can’t decide who you like more and you’re split.”
Students and professors at Southern were asked if they believe popular music, or music that is intended for a mass audience, should be censored. Students and professors were also asked if it is appropriate to speak out against politicians and other powerful figures in popular music.
“It depends,” said Micheal Rusack, a junior, and philosophy major, “I don’t think music should be censored while it’s being made, but for radio stations and tv, there should be some sort of monitoring.”
Rusack, a junior, and philosophy major added that no one should be preventend from making songs but that it is up to parents to monitor their kids and for stations to monitor the songs they are playing.
“I listen to music a lot, and sometimes the curses help convey the message of the song,” said Zach Nunnink, a sophomore. “Some rappers now go too hard though, because I don’t think that it’s cool to talk about hurting women or killing people, even in rap.”
According to Walter Stutzman an adjunct professor in the Music Department, this complicated issue that is not black and white.
“This is something I ask my Music 110 students when I teach the course,” said Stutzman. “It is a difficult question for me, because I am a free speech person, but some things should not be promoted in popular music.”
Stutzman said that the derogatory slurs used towards women in some popular music should not be considered acceptable. According to Stutzman, the hip hop industry is most guilty of using this derogatory slang.
“One of the things that I don’t understand is why all the terms that demean women are popular in rap music, said Stutzman, “I don’t understand why that is acceptable entertainment, and I don’t understand why people ignore it.”
As for political motives, Stutzman said that this is well withing the rights of artists.
“I think that is perfectly acceptable, because that is the free expression we all cherish here,” said Stutzman. “Celebrities just have a bigger audience, so they are targeted when they speak out against people in power.”
Jonathan Irving, music professor and chairperson of the music department, said that he believes musicians should have freedom to create and sell what they want, unless it involves hate speech.
“I believe that you should not censor art,” Irving said. “Artists should be allowed to express themselves. For musicians that is important, and it is how we do good work.
However, I never endorse hate speech. Things like racism and fascism have no place in music intended for a mass audience.”
Irving’s MUS 110 class was surveyed about the topic of censorship in music. When asked if they believe music should be censored, 28 out of 35 students voted against censorship in music. 7 students voted that censorship, to some degree, should be implemented in popular music.
Irving’s class was asked if they think it is appropriate to criticize or insult politicians in popular music. 33 out of 35 students voted that it is appropriate to speak out against politicians, and 2 students voted that it was inappropriate.
Irving agreed with the majority of his class. He said that he has no qualms with popular music speaking out against any political administration, both past and current.
“Especially now, it is important for artists to have a voice ,” said Irving, “This is still American, and everyone has the right to free speech.”
Photo Credit: Michelle Shnayder