CAPITALISM / COMMENTARY / CULTURE / FEMINISM / MASS MEDIA / MUSIC

Guest Post: A One-sided Discussion Regarding the Privilege of Male Performers in the Music Industry: starring Justin Bieber and R. Kelly

By Michele Pierini

Tommy Fischer, 19, finished high school last year by taking classes electronically over the Internet. Born to a single teen mother, Fischer has no plans for further education due to disinterest. He has had several legal troubles including traffic violations, alleged underage drinking, and even seizure of his pet monkey. Recently while on vacation in Brazil, he stopped by a local brothel. Tommy appears to be on a trajectory towards a life of crime and potentially faces jail time in the near future. Now replace Tommy’s first name with Justin and last name with Bieber. If the young pop star was a less privileged youth this surely would be the start of a sad, self-destructive period in Bieber’s life. What does Justin have to do before his fans will turn their back on him? Is it up to individual fans to be informed?

 

In the case of R. Kelly, apparently an artist can get away with a lot. It’s pretty easy to ignore or overlook what happens off stage. Especially with eccentric public personas it can be difficult to reconcile a larger than life personality with very real and harmful crimes. The fact that in 1998 Kelly was initially charged with a misdemeanor for an ego-centric act of playing and singing his own music so loudly from his car that it violated city noise ordinances is a joke. A light-hearted naughty thing this humorous man did. It’s totally believable. But then he reportedly forces himself on underage women and this is not funny at all. Can this be the same man that is so interesting, weird, hilarious, and captures our imagination with smooth vocals, creative story-telling, and corn-rows for days? Who do we believe? Who should we believe?

 

For Kelly, more allegations were found in 2002 due to the surfacing of a sex tape featuring himself as well as yet again a woman who happened to be a minor. During the footage of the tape, special significance was given to the part in which he urinated on her body. In 2008, this man who was shown on tape in the middle of an illicit sex act was acquitted by a Chicago jury. Four years later, there is a highly publicized crime called the Steubenville High School rape case in which a young woman who is incapacitated from alcohol is sexually assaulted by two juvenile football players. The teenage men were found guilty in part because of how cavalierly they and their classmates spread information about the rape across social networks. Amongst the messages passed back and forth were some that can be thought of as allusions to R. Kelly’s infamous golden shower: “Some people deserve to be peed on” and “They peed on her. That’s how you know she’s dead, because someone pissed on her.” These teenagers were charged for their brazen documentation of their misdeed. Why not R. Kelly?

 

Justin Bieber might as well have been groomed to enjoy the same treatment of avoiding to face the consequences of his actions. This is dangerous. The kid has real power. He can choose to act however he wants, to whoever he wants to act upon. The general assumption is that Bieber’s fanbase, called Beliebers, is overwhelmingly young and female. What is he saying when he visits a brothel, where a woman’s worth is based on her looks and sexual prowess is to be traded for money? Much like Beatlemania, Justin has been known to reduce his teen fans to tears. Twitter user @JustBrandee36 has experienced that firsthand. Reading her tweets from December 22, 2013 makes it clear that she found a phone call from Bieber, which was a gift from her music industry connected brother, life-affirming. The Biebs even tweeted about the event himself which made it legitimately blessed by the golden prince of R&B tinged pop. Beliebers want Justin’s attention. They want to be noticed and become “One Less Lonely Girl” as the title of his hit single implies. These are impressionable youth. They want to believe that Bieber is perfect in every way and would likely turn a blind eye to any discretions he may engage in, no matter how terrible allegations could become.

 

Fans of Bieber have been very excited about Music Mondays which is a weekly release of a new track from his upcoming album. One single from the series worth noting is “PYD,” a questionable ballad resulting from a collaboration of the young star with an old one, R. Kelly. “PYD” stands for “put you down” as in putting a female in a sexual situation. The lyrics make the song seem like Bieber wants to be seen as some sort of sex panther. He will sex you in every room of the house or in any transportation device that you prefer. Meanwhile, Kelly has been watching you in the club and now thinks he knows exactly what will please you from this extremely limited perspective. Of course he also throws in this odd line “it seems your man been treating you like a step child.” Does that mean your man should be treating you like his own daughter? Why does this song need such creepy undertones? Is it not enough to insinuate that the man just wants to have intercourse on every surface possible?

 

How do we as music fans and loyal listeners hold our favorite artists accountable? Or any artist for that matter. Should they be held accountable? Do people need to be tortured and weird and therefore do tortured and weird things in order to be capable of creating art? Entertainment for entertainment’s sake is great. It will always be a part of society. But how should we punish our entertainers when they cross the line? What types of violence and criminal activity do we find acceptable? Let’s ask Gucci Mane.

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