Unsolicited Advice: How some of music’s biggest stars can curb recent controversies

In the past couple of weeks, several artists have found themselves in hot water – from Taylor Swift’s recorded approval of “Famous” to A$AP Rocky doubling down on his “All Lives Matter” and “Bill Cosby is innocent” claims to Father John Misty’s implosion during a festival performance organized by WXPN – and I have some ideas on where each should go from here.

Josh Tillman

Father John Misty

The Incident: During a performance in Camden, New Jersey, FJM led things off with a rant on the evils of the entertainment industry – spurred on by the horrific gloom that was Donald Trump’s acceptance speech of the Republic nomination for president – before performing a 10-minute improvised song and a Leonard Cohen cover. Afterwards, he bolted the stage, forgoing any performances from his great LPs Fear Fun or I Love You, Honeybear.

Fall-out: Twitter users – including a member of NJ’s own Strand of Oaks – lambasted Father John Misty for his condensed set, while FJM responded in a fashion only he could design: “Entertainment is context. History is full of disgusting forms of entertainment justified by cultural bias and passivity … Draping yourself in local boy righteousness is an easy sell. No matter where I was, what I saw the night before fucked me up … The future is going to have a hay day with us and our reality tv Mussolini … but at least you’ll be able to say you did your best to tweet at the dissenters.”

Next step: Father John Misty has never shied away from pushing the boundaries of audiences; it can be difficult to separate the man from the act, where Father John Misty ends and Josh Tillman begins. That being said, performing as Father John Misty has allowed Tillman to express himself in ways ‘Josh Tillman’ wouldn’t be able to. It’s hard for me to be too upset with Tillman over his performance this weekend – in some ways I commend him for not putting on a strong face, for acknowledging that yes, things are fucked up and will only get worse if we allow this charade to continue. I’d love to see him go around the country, playing pop-up shows unannounced, mixing the dry wit of his recorded material with the obvious passion he feels in regards to current events. Of all of the past week’s controversies, FJM is least likely to be greatly affected, as his latest push into the news cycle doesn’t necessarily go against the persona he’s established.


A$AP Rocky

The Incident: In an interview with The Breakfast Club, A$AP Rocky took controversial stances on the Black Lives Matter movement and Bill Cosby, declaring “all lives matter” and that Cosby is “innocent.”

Fall-out: Outrage, some appropriate, some not. On Black Lives Matter, the full context of his quote seems to suggest he’s only arguing that we need to say Black Lives Matter all the time, not just when a black person is murdered by police. His Cosby defense is indefensible, as he suggests Cosby’s good deeds make up for the sexual abuse allegations against him.

Next step: Stay out of the public eye. Unless he’s speaking out to apologize or redact his statements on Cosby, he’d be much better off keeping those opinions to himself. Then, come back in 12-18 months with a Clams Casino-executive produced LP, and hopefully people will forget about this episode.


Taylor Swift

The Incident: I won’t spend too much time hashing out the details, because you probably already know them. For the uninitiated, Taylor Swift claimed to have no knowledge of Kanye West’s “Famous” lyric referencing her, only for Kim Kardashian to leak a video of the conversation between West and Swift where she approves of the lyrics.

Fall-out: The biggest dent in Taylor Swift’s armor, yet. The video exposed Swift’s ability to control the narrative, despite how much of it is based on truth or not. People threw a party on Twitter for her, and a funeral for Selena Gomez.

Next step: Take a cue from Rihanna and go bad. The tide is turning against Swift’s favor. She’s no longer the underdog, wide-eyed and eager to take on the big city. She is the big city, steely-eyed and ready to make her next (calculated) move. She should embrace this new role – after all, going after Kimye isn’t that controversial – and release her angriest, hardened record yet. Call up friends like Jim Adkins to bolster your sound, proving in the process that you’re as big a fan of “Blister” as “The Middle.” “The rumors are terrible and cruel / But, honey most of them are true,” she coyly sang on 1989. It’s time for her to lift the curtain.


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