Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Music Fans Love Their A-Holes
Sting. He's the artist we love to hate. From The Atlantic:
You rotten flexible bastard.
Sting, everyone's favorite somnambulant acoustic pop star, has developed a somewhat checkered experience in Central Asia. In 2009, Gulnara Karimova - herself a fledgling pop singer under the name GooGooSha and daughter of Uzbek president-for-life Islom Karimov - paid him $1.6 million to perform at a government-sponsored arts festival in Tashkent. Tickets to the concert were priced above $1,000 in the impoverished Central Asian country, and Sting later claimed, falsely, that the concert was co-sponsored by UNICEF.
One reason for the controversy is Sting's position as a spokesman for Amnesty International, contrasted with Uzbekistan's position as one of the world's worst human rights abusers. The clear hypocrisy of speaking for a human rights organization while performing under contract for a human rights abuser was, apparently not an issue for Sting, who declared that "cultural boycotts are not only pointless gestures, they are counter-productive.
This was all offered, of course, in contrast to current events:
Sting has thrown his support behind striking oil workers in Kazakhstan, abruptly canceling his concert that was scheduled for July 4 in the capital, Astana, after he learned of a government crackdown on the strikers.
"Hunger strikes, imprisoned workers and tens of thousands on strike represents a virtual picket line which I have no intention of crossing."
Taking his marching orders from Amnesty International is just one of the reasons people like to pile on the former Gordon Sumner, the others being his audacity to mouth occasionally ill-informed opinions and have sex for eight hours straight. I'm not going to make this an arena for debate over why I still enjoy the "somnambulant" singer's music - masochistic as that would be - but rather open a forum to discuss what sort of behaviors we consider nonstarters when it comes to our musical entertainers.
Chances are your favorite singers suffer from a variety of what we could charitably call "character flaws." Some are merely immature assholes, which often results from heaping huge amounts of wealth on undereducated post-adolescents. But let's face it, if we avoided every musician that behaved like a shithead, our CD shelves would be stocked with nothing but Amy Grant and Moby.
Besides, in many cases it's the very asshole-ness of musicians that makes them interesting. Plenty of people first became aware of Oasis after reading about the antics of Liam Gallagher, and only checked out their music afterwards. They certainly weren't drawn in by the band's lyrics: "Walking slowly down the hall/ Faster than a cannonball?" Noel needs a better rhyming dictionary.
Gallagher's behavior, like countless of his predecessors and contemporaries, was probably only a dealbreaker to those unaware the Beatles wannabes were a bunch of drunken yobs.
This "surprise" aspect of finding out an artist you previously enjoyed may not be what you expected is probably best demonstrated by the Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, who famously told a London audience on the eve of the Iraq War they were ashamed President George W. Bush was from Texas. Their career has never recovered, demonstrating that certain audiences definitely prefer their artists to "shut up and sing."