When your fanbase isn't happy, they'll let you know it. Thanks to social media, it happens quickly, loudly and clearly. A trio of popular artists - Beyoncé, Toby Keith and Ani DiFranco - drew anger from their individual fanbases over the weekend thanks to a couple of public missteps.
Beyoncé has been slammed for including a brief audio sample from the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster on her song "XO."
The six-second clip at the beginning of her song includes the voice of retired NASA public affairs officer Steve Nesbitt saying the words, "Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction."
Beyoncé responded to ABC News by saying, "My heart goes out to the families of those lost in the Challenger disaster. The song 'XO' was recorded with the sincerest intention to help heal those who have lost loved ones and to remind us that unexpected things happen, so love and appreciate every minute that you have with those who mean the most to you. The songwriters included the audio in tribute to the unselfish work of the Challenger crew with hope that they will never be forgotten."
Toby Keith's new restaurant, Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, in Virginia has a sign posted out front that reads "No guns permitted," but that doesn't sit well with the gun-friendly residents of the state. Virginians are allowed to carry a weapon into a bar or restaurant as long as it is not concealed.
The restaurant responded by saying:
While we understand and respect every person's right to own and bear arms, we at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill, with guidance from the State of Virginia and based on insurance regulations, have adopted a no weapons policy. It is our desire to provided a safe, enjoyable and entertaining experience for our patrons and staff.
Meanwhile, Ani DiFranco canceled a Louisiana songwriters' retreat after fans complained about the location where it was to be held - a former slave plantation outside of New Orleans. The singer had planned a four-night event at the Nottoway Plantation and Resort.
She announced the cancellation on Sunday night with a response posted on her Righteous Babe Records website and at her Facebook page, which has drawn thousands of comments. The lengthy blog post included the following:
i have heard you: all who have voiced opposition to my conducting a writing and performing seminar at the nottoway plantation. i have decided to cancel the retreat.
when i agreed to do a retreat (with a promoter who has organized such things before with other artists and who approached me about being the next curator/host/teacher), i did not know the exact location it was to be held. i knew only that it would be "not too far outside of new orleans" so that i could potentially come home to my own bed each night. and i knew that one of the days of the retreat was slated as a field trip wherein everyone would come to new orleans together. later, when i found out it was to be held at a resort on a former plantation, I thought to myself, "whoa", but i did not imagine or understand that the setting of a plantation would trigger such collective outrage or result in so much high velocity bitterness. i imagined instead that the setting would become a participant in the event. this was doubtless to be a gathering of progressive and engaged people, so i imagined a dialogue would emerge organically over the four days about the issue of where we were. i have heard the feedback that it is not my place to go to former plantations and initiate such a dialogue.
tragedies on a massive scale are not easily dealt with or recovered from. i certainly in no way expect or want to be immune from that pain or that process of recovery. i welcome (and in fact have always pursued) constructive dialogue about these and all political/social issues. my intention of going ahead with the conference at the nottoway plantation was not to be a part of a great forgetting but its opposite. i know that pain is stored in places where great social ills have occurred. i believe that people must go to those places with awareness and with compassionate energy and meditate on what has happened and absorb some of the reverberating pain with their attention and their awareness. i believe that compassionate energy is transformative and necessary for healing the wounds of history.
for myself, i believe that one cannot draw a line around the nottoway plantation and say "racism reached its depths of wrongness here" and then point to the other side of that line and say "but not here". i know that any building built before 1860 in the South and many after, were built on the backs of slaves. i know that in new orleans, the city i live in, most buildings have slave quarters out back, and to not use any buildings that speak to our country's history of slavery would necessitate moving far far away.
i believe that we need every ounce of energy that we have to try to create a positive change in this world. and to work together. that energy is precious.
In these days of powerful social media, people have to be aware that everything they say and do is scrutinized by a world population in an instant. Can you imagine the firestorm if Facebook was around during the Dixie Chicks scandal?