Liking the Art But Not What the Artist Did: Stereogum Reconciles Liking Chris Brown and Surfer Blood

There’s an interesting debate that Stereogum opened up on its site today — at face value, and based on the splashy photo, it looks like it’s going to be another “Chris Brown is bad” article, but it also brings up the domestic violence charges to which that Surfer Blood singer John Paul Pitts plead no contest — and the interesting question of when do we or do we not stick up for our favorite musicians and artists, even when they do loathsome things. Of course, the degree to which Chris Brown is awful, highlighted by one of The Onion’s finest moments in recent memory, overshadows what limited pop appeal he has, whereas the implication of the Stereogum article is while Pitts’ episode isn’t as egregious as Brown’s dubious rap sheet and accompanying bad-boy antics, Surfer Blood’s level of indie success is relatively low-watt.

(Where it gets interesting and gets to be a really tense, telling debate is where it got with Michael Jackson. First, he was an extremely rare artist in that he had extraordinary commercial and artistic success, crossing over globally like no one since the Beatles — or, perhaps, even more so, who was then accused of unspeakable crimes and succumbed to increasing aberrant behavior, and then died dramatically, creating a pandemic of mourning — and, as I’ll never forget, the first time I’d ever seen a single event wash over my Twitter feed into The Only Thing Everyone Was Talking About in a matter of minutes. Nothing had hit home before or since as to how connected music makes us and how technology allows us to do that, cutting across geography and caste and culture, in the moment.)

Also, Stereogum brings this up because the first glimpse of Surfer Blood’s new album, a catchy, off-kilter pop song with screaming and one-note piano worked into the hooky chorus, called “Weird Shapes,” just got released a few weeks ago. Stereogum calls it “Weezerly.” Even if it is, please, please never use that as an adjective in any scenario. The debate it opens up is perhaps too important to neglect or dismiss — even though the converge of Chris Brown and Surfer Blood news might be a slightly forced landscape in which to start it.

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