You’re My Idol, But You Probably Shouldn’t Be
Words By Jimmy King
Photo by Sarah Waxberg
Jake McElfresh (Front Porch Step), Jonny Craig, and Ronnie Radke. By now, these are all names most of us are familiar with, and for more reasons than just being an icon in the music scene. Each one of these individuals serves as a prime, although extreme, example of a previously highly respected performer who ended up partaking in some questionable (or downright disgusting) behavior to damage their reputation. I’m not here to discuss or debate whether what these people did was right or wrong. I’m not here to tell you why you should stop supporting these musicians or why you should or should not learn to separate bad behavior from the art that they create. I’m certainly not here to criticize, degrade, put down, or humiliate one of these or any other performers or those that support them in the slightest. Here’s what I do want to discuss: Why idolizing musicians needs to be looked at differently.
Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately, I’m not saying by any means that you can’t have a favorite drummer or hold a strong love for a particular vocalist or draw influence from a great guitarist. Those things are great; even I do that. What I’m speaking of is the unwarranted, gratuitous, excessive borderline obsessive sense of appreciation we spew onto the musicians of our music scene. We develop a healthy dosage of admiration deriving from the appreciation of the music they’ve created and we don’t let it stop growing in our minds until we’re fixated on these people we don’t even know. But really, have you ever even met that person you effortlessly speak so highly of? “Yes! I met them at Warped Tour! They were so nice and signed all of my stuff. They even took a picture with me!”
We take the very few interactions we have with these individuals or allow their online presence to create this notion in our heads that these people are God’s gift without truly knowing them. We manipulate ourselves into think that the surface behavior of a musician who is constantly in a spotlight ready to be exposed is who they wholeheartedly are. We know close to nothing about an individual who often times writes self-degrading songs about themselves and somehow we’re surprised when they do something bad. Not only are we shocked and discouraged that someone we thought was perfect turned out to be much less than that, but we’re disappointed in ourselves for putting faith in someone we trusted, looked up to, loved and idolized and now we feel bad for supporting a band we like. But again, we really never knew them. Why do we do this?
I think it all stems from a false perception that a musician is “above” any other person involved. We put them on a raised stage; add a few feet of distance, a barricade and some macho-man security guards to keep us (the fans) away from them (the musicians) and you’ve got a perfect equation for a distorted sense of hierarchy. From day 1, we’re taught that musicians are of higher importance than ourselves. We continue to entertain this skewed idea by paying to meet the band, wanting pictures to prove we’ve actually met the band, and needing a signature from the band, as if these people are royalty in comparison to us. While most bands don’t mind doing any of these things and some of them actually enjoy it, there’s something that a majority of them really, really love and that’s being treated like a normal person, because that’s all they really are. Musicians are just regular people on the street who happen to be pretty damn good at what they do. Somewhere along the way, hard work mixed with a bit of luck propelled them over all the other ordinary musicians trying to fight their way to the top of the scene.
Trust me, I get it. Musicians are cool. They live a lifestyle many of us wish we could have and we’re envious of that. But we need to stop putting them on a pedestal. Not only is it harmful to us, but it can be to them as well. We need to start treating them like normal people. As long as we keep giving them this false sense of superiority, they will never truly be held accountable for their actions.
Once you start treating musicians like normal people, they start to treat you like normal people. Only then will you be granted an opportunity to examine a musician for what they’re really worth and for them to do the same with you. My friend Aidan once gave me this piece of advice that sums this up quite perfectly. He said to treat everyone in the industry like someone you’re meeting at a party for the first time. Treat them as if you were meeting a new friend. Don’t treat them like they’re above you, don’t be intimidated by them or praise them or show your gratitude towards them, just treat them like you would anyone else. It makes for a greater outcome in the long run.
Last modified: July 14, 2016