Controversy has been a popular theme in music for a very long time, whether it is revealed through vaguely racist themes in music videos or sexism in the music industry. This week, however, two specific instances stood out.
Tyler Glenn, front man of alternative indie-rock band Neon Trees, came out as gay. Though this is not generally looked down upon in the music industry, Glenn was raised Mormon, which puts a twist on the issue. According to him this was not supposed to be big news and was actually to find peace within himself.
Glenn reported that he doesn’t think he’s special because he’s gay and simply realized that he was incredibly fed up with hiding. In an effort to deal with his sexuality, he poured even more effort into his music, calling it his first love. He follows a long list of gay musicians such as Elton John, Frank Ocean and Josephine Baker.
Another controversy revealed itself when post-hardcore band Touché Amoré released a shirt they previously designed and sold several years ago depicting Fred Phelps’ face following the death of the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church. While the shirts were originally released with the caption “We’d love to see you in the ground,” (lyrics from one of the band’s original songs), these reprinted versions say “Good Riddance.”
The logic behind the act of reprinting was essentially supply and demand. Following his death, the band received messages requesting that they release the shirt again. They decided to reprint it with the new caption and send the proceeds to the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group.
While some might consider it to be in poor taste, others may see that Touché Amoré is essentially using what could be considered an extremely bigoted man’s death in order to profit the people he discriminated against while he was alive.
Despite the air of dissension surrounding both of these occurrences, controversy in music has always had both a negative and positive affect on the musicians involved. While you might not agree with what Touché Amoré did, you certainly know about them now. The same goes for Tyler Glenn. Controversy has always resulted in publicity. If that isn’t good for a band, what is?