How Much Influence an Artist's Politics Really Have on Their Fans
Taylor Swift, Stormzy and Kanye fans on what it's like when your favourite musician takes a political stand – and what it means for you.
When artists get political, do fans always follow? (Taylor Swift by Mert & Marcus; Stormzy; Lana Del Rey by Neil Krug. All photos via PR)
It feels like about 80 years, and not 21, since Noel Gallagher sipped some bubbly and smiled with Tony Blair at the then-Prime Minister’s home. Back then, besides very public and PR-orchestrated moments like Gallagher’s 10 Downing Street visit, you wouldn’t have known anything about your favourite musician’s political views. Now, celebrity political statements are pretty common.
That’s why Taylor Swift’s Instagram post last week – where the notoriously apolitical pop star broke her career-long silence, telling fans she’d be voting Democrat in this year’s mid-term elections, while urging her followers to register to on site Vote.org – raised eyebrows. As per a statement given to Buzzfeed Vote.org, more than 60,000 new voter registrations came in during the 24 hours after Swift’s post. How much of this you can directly attribute to her is up for debate but registrations among 18- to 29-year-olds surged in the first nine days of October in any case.
Obviously Swift isn’t the only artist to throw their hat into the political ring. This year alone, we’ve seen Stormzy come out with his pro-black Merky Scholarship at Cambridge University, and watched Kanye surprise Trump with a hug. But how does this sort of behaviour affect fans, whatever their political stances may be? We spoke to a few to find out.
Louise, 20, a Taylor Swift fan from Colorado, currently living in Brazil
As an American citizen, I can still register and vote from abroad. And honestly I hadn’t really thought much of it, but Taylor inspired me to help not only the current country I live in but democracy and society worldwide. So, yeah, I signed up last night! I have always grown up with her and, as she developed her ideals, so have I. I was really inspired by how she used her platform to stand up for minorities and if she had the courage to ignore the haters to help her country, why shouldn’t I? I thought there would be a lot of annoying stuff in registering to be an absentee voter but it’s easier than I imagined.
Tommy, a Lana Del Rey fan from Texas
When Lana commented what she did on Kanye West’s Instagram post, I was very proud. She addressed him very politely and maturely without involving any violent words. I myself agree with Lana, always, and her political views are definitely a major thing I love about her. I’ve always sort of been on the side of the left, but I can definitely say Lana has helped me embrace that. Her morals are part of her appeal to me because they align closely with my own. I think everyone should think about the influence that artists have on their fans and political statistics.
Eric, 22, a Kanye West fan from California
I’ve learned to separate politics from the music. You can’t always agree with your favorite artist. 90 percent of my followers say they are hurt by Kanye supporting Trump so I highly doubt Kanye’s support for Trump rubbed off on his fans; he has not influenced me or my vote at all. His fans still love him, just not at the moment. He wants a positive change and what he’s been saying is we need to come together. But nobody is going to listen because they just rely on the media, which will only show you the worst part.
Aaron, 20, a Kanye West fan from London
I agree with Kanye’s social values and attitudes, but totally disagree with a lot of his political views and affiliations. However, I definitely feel that even if he made an outlandish Pro-Republican/Pro-Trump track about how amazing those individuals are, I would vibe to the creative beats and instrumentation, just not the lyrical content. A person’s views can be used as a source for your own: that doesn’t make me a blind follower or sheep. But he could never make me favour Trump as a good human being, let alone as a good president.
Ioan, a Kanye West fan
I think that some things he says can be over-the-top, but most of the time people don’t understand what he’s saying. He’s trying to help us. Not many people realise but everything he says and does is for us. His opinions and points of view are to make us think and expand our minds.
Sophie, 21, a Stormzy fan from Peterborough
I think the Merky Scholarship is fantastic. Rather than wasting money on things like music videos and designer garments. he’s actually investing in young people and what they’ve worked so hard to achieve. He’s helping change other people’s lives, he is exactly what our generation needs as a role model – and it’s ridiculous that anyone would have a negative opinion on it. It has made a difference in the way race in the education system is thought about, but there’s definitely more than needs to be done so it’s all equal.
Joshua, 27, a Stormzy fan from Lancashire
He’s a hero: he's stepped out of his culture and entered somewhere that's full of rich white people and is putting his all into making sure equality is everywhere.
Arnaud, 20, a Stormzy fan from Harpenden
It's a quick fix for a bigger, wider issue in the black community. The fan base or demographics associated with Stormzy might not understand yet because, unless you’ve been in the environments that the scholarship targets, you wouldn't really know. There is still a long way to go for people to realise the glaring inequalities in education because, fundamentally, the top academic institutions are built and designed to accept a specific demographic of students while making exceptions for superbly incredibly genius black students. Sending two black students to an elite white university doesn't do shit to solve the wider problem. It might feel like a catalyst, it might feel game-changing to a lot of people (especially in the social media echo chamber) but, in the wider picture, it won't result in a change in thought for young people. If our generation were engaged actively and consistently in politics on the wider scale, every single university in the country would be in trouble.
You can find Georgia on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.