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Best of 2017: Mat’s Pick for Album of the Year

Guess what I picked for album of the year. Come on. I bet you can't.

There were a lot of albums that came out over the past year. I wrote about some of them. In addition to shooting more shows in 2017 than over the last couple of years, I have also taken in more new music than I have in a long time. A large part of that was access to a never ending supply of music that working for a site like this allows. It’s a good a thing. However, there was one record that I was going to hear regardless of my station in life. One album that I had no reason to expect to be released this year, but now the world is a better place as a result of it. That album is Rainbow by Kesha.

Given the staggering wave of shit that has engulfed her life and prevented her from releasing music ever since she accused her former producer of sexual abuse and understandably refused to work with him, one could expect this record to be a dark and bitter picture of the world. But, it isn’t. Rainbow is a powerfully uplifting album that promotes positivity, self-love, and forgiveness over both anger and resentment. The lead single, “Praying”, painted a picture of newfound strength in moving on. I wasn’t initially a fan of the religious invocation because it seemed odd and out of place for Kesha, but I listened to it more and came to appreciate the gravity of the metaphor against the subject matter. Now I’m of the mindset that if the next Grammys don’t feature Kesha accepting an award for this song and a big fat apology from the people who turned their backs on her over the years, nothing really matters anymore.

Kesha’s story of abuse is far from unique in the music industry. As we have seen a flux in recent months, even more of our favorite musicians and celebrities are turning out to be creeps and predators than we had originally thought. This is also nothing new. But, the fact that most of these dipshits are stupid enough to leave a litany of evidence behind combined with the widespread reaches of social media are making it harder and harder to ignore the elephant in the room. We as a fan-base are making some pretty serious behavioral exceptions for the sake of “art”. The difference being that 2017 seems to be the turning point where enough is enough.

I have a real hard time being one of those people who can separate the art from the artist. When I think of Louis CK, I think, “OH. That wasn’t really a joke as much as you trying to normalize your own terrible behavior.” Brand New’s Deja Entendu has shifted from a quintessential framing of the painful emotions associated with youth to a very attractive bait designed to lure in new victims because that’s what predators do. This is a personal decision and obviously your ability to disconnect may allow you to carry on. When I hear account after account of seemingly endless victims coming forward in droves lately, I can’t seem to reconcile not being able to enjoy a song anymore when the artist is using their position to forward their disgusting agenda to bang underage fans.

What gives an extra dose of wonderful to Rainbow is that most of the material predates 2017. This album should have been out years ago, but Kesha was a little busy sobbing in court at the news of not being released from her record contract binding her to a monster to really focus on anything else. For her to come out of this whole ordeal with her head held high and more radiant than ever is truly inspiring. To be able to stand up and say that in order to move on, you gotta learn to let go, be proud of who you are, and find your rainbow is a hell of a thing to suggest and wonderfully inspiring.

Over the course of the 2017, as I digested everything that Rainbow has to offer, I found myself looking inward and asking if I was doing everything I could to facilitate the kind of environment where those looking to exploit their audience felt unsafe rather than vice versa. The answer kept coming up ‘no’. It’s a damn shame, but rather than wallow in self-pity and make this about me feeling bad for myself for not doing enough, I want to take that energy and put a positive spin on it, Kesha style. I’m not all together sure of what I can do in order to promote the most good and am very open to suggestions. I do know that this is a subject that needs to be talked about more. So, here I go.

I originally was planning to put out a list of some of the more notable shitheads to be outed for their vile behavior this year, but someone else on Reddit did that already. It’s by no means definitive, but serves as a fantastic outline to the kind of behavior we as a supposedly progressive scene should find inexcusable. As both a person who has had their trust violated by those I thought cared about me and a human whose heart aches every time for the latest victim brave enough to declare to the world that *insert beloved musician* took advantage of them. No emotion elicited by any piece of art is worth giving its creator a pass to exploit their position. Think of all that we are missing being put out by people who aren’t scum. You can take tortured artist argument and walk it right out the door. Sure, suffering connects people on a profound level, but when that suffering revolves around a need for someone to look at your dick so bad that consequences be damned, you are garbage. Human garbage.

I have no delusions that creeps will never stop being creepy or that they won’t find new and better ways of not getting caught. What I do have faith in is the willingness of good people to step up make sure these bozos are no longer given a platform to be embraced for being terrible. I used to think that it was so easy not to be awful; you just don’t do the terrible things you read about all the time. 2017 has given me a lot to think on and from what I can tell, the absence of shitty behavior doesn’t always beget good behavior. If that were the case, the problem would have been fixed long ago. Plenty of good people have come forward in the face of public scrutiny to share their stories and helped shed more light on this problem than we have seen in some time. With everything they’ve put at risk, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to not shit on someone who says that they’ve ever felt uncomfortable in any way when interacting with someone you admire.

I don’t know the whole story, but I don’t think I would be too far off suggesting that Kesha’s success in dealing with her nightmare was due to a strong support network. When I find myself overwhelmed with life’s nonsense, I find solace in those closest to me. I’m very fortunate. But, not everyone is. So, let’s be that for each other. Listening to someone is literally the least you can do for them. I’m sad that I wasn’t able to catch her latest tour, but when I think back to the last time I saw Kesha, I remember how much better it was that the room was filled with people who just wanted to celebrate life.

That’s what Rainbow is. A celebration of life and all that it brings. It’s the kind of album that makes me want to be a better person and do better by those who need it most. One of the more important things I think I can do with myself in 2018 will be to make sure that those who need to be heard and are listened to. It’s a bummer we have to go to such great lengths to maintain a sense of order, but dems the breaks. So, buckle up shitheads. It’s gonna be rough this year.

You Oughta Know is a collection of recommendations and picks from the Bad Copy staff.

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