I’ve never been to the Glastonbury Festival. I’ve never really had much desire to, truth be told. As a music enthusiast, I would be going for the music, rather than “the experience,” and in my own lifetime I’ve never seen a lineup that’s made me think, actually, I’d want to see that. As such, when they announced that this year’s headline act would be Kanye West, I took a second to laugh cynically and thought no more of it.
I’m not a fan of Mr West’s music, though the odds were always stacked against him in that respect, as hip-hop stands alongside smooth jazz and ska in my list of “Genres I Just Don’t Get.” To be honest, I only really became aware of his existence after that infamous night at the VMA awards (https://youtu.be/oFSY4Mda_18), where he felt it was necessary to interrupt Taylor Swift’s acceptance of her award to tell us all that he thought Beyoncé’s effort was better. I’m sure I was not the only one who watched that sorry incident and just thought, you prat.
He’s continued in that vein, pretty much, making headlines for coming out with such bizarre things as declarations of his own genius, his rather peculiar stance on literacy, and some things that are just, frankly, bewildering. Oh, and of course he interrupted another awards ceremony, this time to tell Beck that Beyoncé deserved the award that he had just won. (It’s not just me that’s spotting a pattern here, is it?)
Yes, he’s a strange character. No two ways about it, the man knows how to generate a headline about himself, albeit with the distinct drawback that people who don’t like his music find it impossible to take him seriously. But all things considered, he’s fairly harmless. He has a track record of behaving like a bit of a prat, but he’d hardly be the first, and being a bit of a prat isn’t actually illegal, or immoral.
Nevertheless, there is now a petition calling for him to be pulled from the Glastonbury headline slot. Really, guys? Is this necessary? Nobody’s forgotten that there was an outcry when Metallica were given this coveted slot, or Jay-Z, or even Beyoncé (though I’m sure Mr West would have been the first to leap to her defence): according to Emily Eavis, the festival organisers are accustomed to getting a truckload of ballache whoever they put on. (Eavis also points out that the man who started the petition has not, to their knowledge, been to the festival before, and that many of the signatories are not booked to attend it this year either.)
I can see why he offends people. I can see that he’s a pretty lousy role model. Eavis is right to remind people that the acts are chosen by their music, not their morality. It’s not as if all the previous acts, such as Metallica, are exactly great role models themselves. (Rock stars – let’s be honest – don’t have a track record of being “good role models.”) Yes, he says stupid and insensitive things, but Morissey’s been doing that for years, and doesn’t meet the same level of resistance when given high-profile festival slots. West is full himself, possibly deluded, and a bit of a gobshite, but he’s just a gobshite. I apologise for the rather extreme comparison, but if the headline slot were being given to someone like Gary Glitter, then I’d understand this level of outrage. But it’s not; it’s just been given to some plonker who talks a lot of complete bollocks.
Here’s another thing: Glastonbury is huge. In terms of sheer surface area, and number of acts, it is surely possible that you could find several corners of the site in which you wouldn’t have to watch Kanye’s set. Or, you could pack up your tent during his set and piss off home a bit early to avoid the inevitable crush at the very end. I understand – to a point – the significance of being given the headline slot, but if he really offends you that much then the best thing you can do is ignore him. In fact, the best way to take the wind out of any artist’s sails is to ignore them, not by running petitions to have them removed from something. Mr West is quite adept at generating his own publicity, and petitions and online hate campaigns simply add to that. If, like me, you wouldn’t give the man the time of day, the best thing you can do is look the other way. Find a different station, change the channel, or just go and listen to some music you actually enjoy.