Yesterday's Observer newspaper presented its pick of 2014's arts releases. One they deemed exciting enough to go on the front page header was Azealia Banks' debut studio album.
During the past year, Banks had a number of highly-publicised Twitter feuds (noted by The Observer) where she used homophobic insults. When challenged, she was indignant about her intention and interpretation of the terms and her right to use them. I agree with her, she absolutely has a right to use any language she deems fit to express the things she wants to say, freedom of expression is paramount. If she wants to come across as an unthinking, inarticulate, hard-faced bigot that's totally her choice and we all have a choice of whether we want to invest in her recording career or not, it's a fair game.
A huge amount of albums are scheduled for release in the next twelve months including many alternatives The Observer could have chosen for their list, even some from Banks' peers should they wish to appear a bit edgy in their recommendations. Choosing an artist or band who doesn't have a propensity for hate language would have been easy which makes it all the more confusing why a mainstream media outlet like The Observer would choose to actively promote a hate-spreading artist like Banks.
In the past, performers have paid the price for using offensive language aimed at minority groups. Live Nation pulled Buju Banton's US Tour due to the homophobic content of his lyrics. Elephant Man and Vybz Kartel had their Mobo nominations withdrawn for the same reason. This action hit them where it hurt by restricting their exposure and as a consequence many Dancehall artists started to renounce homophobia and swore to stop making tunes with homophobic content. Result.
These days, Tyler, the Creator can fill an album with no less than 213 homophobic slurs and still be awarded MTVs New Artist of the Year. The Independent's review of his new album, Wolf, points out that he gleefully sings 'I think you are a f**king f*g' in the first verse yet still bestows it four stars.
Eminem recently dropped his new album showing how little he has matured since his debut 15 years ago by continuing with his predictable gay bashing. However, The Guardian considers it a 'virtuoso' whilst actually acknowledging Eminem's 'casual homophobia' and give it five stars.
By awarding these glowing reviews and running pre-release hype, these papers are saying these artists come highly recommended, these are the artists you should be listening to. The Guardian, The Independent, The Observer and MTV are effectively endorsing anti-gay rhetoric.
Homophobic language is hurtful and damaging, it has an undeniable impact on the wellbeing and self-esteem of a large number of young people. Mainstream media outlets help artists like Eminem and Azealia Banks reach millions of young ears which compounds and normalises the hate language they use. There are many more artists who use their voices to make positive and inclusive comments, can't we save the front page headers and glowing reviews for them instead?