The Morrissey Factor: The songwriter may have divisive political views but should that cloud his music?
British singer-songwriter, Morrissey will be releasing his thirteenth studio album 'I Am Not a Dog on a Chain' on March 20. In light of recent news with Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong being caught unawares of Morrissey's controversial views, Armstrong may not be the only one. With all the black and white (and grey) areas that surround the British singer, should we let this affect our interest in listening to 'I Am Not a Dog on a Chain'? Should an artist's views have anything at all to do with our desire to listen to their music, or do the controversies spark an encroaching intrigue to take a listen? Well, let's discuss some of the Morrissey controversies, including his success, and see how that affects our opinions of the art itself.
Morrissey's rise to fame began through his musical journey with rock band The Smiths, for which he was the frontman. At the time and through the years, Morrissey amassed much attention for his sardonic and witty lyrics and he is not a new contender to controversial matters by any means. He is known as an outspoken seminal figure, especially with the evolution of indie rock and Britpop, and his lyrics have been studied closely by academics and he has gained recognition as a British cultural icon.
One of Morrissey's earliest headlines was when he draped himself in a Union Jack in the '90s, flirting with skinhead imagery, famously singing 'National Front Disco' at a Finsbury Park festival. Morrissey is a supporter of the UK's Brexit movement, and according to NME, has described it as "magnificent".
In 2011, Morrissey had filed a lawsuit against the NME, according to BBC reports, four years after the magazine published an article which, he claimed, called him racist. NME later apologized to the singer in 2012, according to Pitchfork. In 2018, he took to his own Morrissey Central website where he defended himself against racist accusations, saying, "I despise racism. I despise fascism. I would do anything for my Muslim friends, and I know they would do anything for me", which followed with: "In view of this, there is only one British political party that can safeguard our security. That party is For Britain". He adds, "Please give them a chance. Listen to them. Do not be influenced by the tyrannies of the MSM who will tell you that For Britain are racist or fascist - please believe me, they are the very opposite!!! Please do not close your mind. (sic)"
Despite being a supporter of far-right political party For Britain, Morrissey has been an avid supporter of veganism, even sharing his hostility toward renowned British chef Jamie Oliver in 2014, saying, “It would be a great help if Princess Anne gassed Jamie Oliver,” according to Independent. “He's killed more animals than McDonald's.” Earlier, in January that year, Morrissey claimed, “If Jamie ‘Orrible is so certain that flesh-food is tasty then why doesn’t she stick one of his children in a microwave?”
In recent news last year, the singer was seen sporting a For Britain badge while performing on 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' and received praise from the anti-Islam far-right political party, according to Independent.
The list of 'offenses' can go on, and to some, it is very easy to slip into the cesspit of hate, especially when one is offended and seeks to bite back in some way in order to feel justice has been served. Some would argue that Morrissey may very well be retaliating in his own right, but that is a story left for another day.
How long does the back-and-forth cycle of personal vendettas cease before one understands that there has to be a mutual shaking-of-hands over each other's opinions before a resolution can be sought? Do we want a resolution to offenses or do we want something else altogether? There are many questions around the topic of offenses and controversies, and damage can be done, surely, but who gets to draw the line between freedom of speech, hate speech, poor choice of words in the emotion/atmosphere of a dialog, and whether an offense is deliberate or not? We only have the law, but this is not about diving into the law, but about an outspoken artist with strong views. If we see it fit to jump on the wagon of Morrissey-hate, then that is our choice, but it is essential to divide the realm of art (particularly in music here) from the political/social issues when judging an artist's work, as it is their expression as well as their bread and butter. You can either love or hate the man, but music should be left safe in its own world.