Celebrity musicians gain a lot of things that seem intangible to the rest of us when they reach a certain apex of fame—money obviously, worldwide creative recognition, and adoration from thousands, if not millions, of strangers. But with great fame comes great expectations, more specifically, what are you going to do with it all?
There is a certain level of implied disdain we are compelled to feel for artists who achieve superstar status and use it only for selfish, self-serving means. What the public wants, even demands, from celebrity musicians is to use their newfound power garnered by international fame as a platform to enact positive social or humanitarian change.
You’ll see this type of philanthropy adopted by most big-name artists—they all have a cause, an underlying message that goes beyond their professional pursuits. For Lady Gaga it’s anti-bullying and LGBTQ+ advocacy, for Bono it’s AIDS prevention and treatment, for Rihanna it’s social change in the Caribbean, focusing on education and healthcare specifically. In fact, all of Rihanna’s charitable work (work, work, work, work) has paid off big time; the singer was just recently nominated as Humanitarian of the Year for 2017 by Harvard University.
Famed musicians have channeled their wealth and influence to fantastic effect, arguably, at times, even more successfully than public or private charities, which are subject to regulations and ordinances that individuals can more easily circumvent. So if all of the above is true and musicians are genuine harbingers of positive social change, why do we constantly question their legitimacy as charitable beings?
For many, there is a perception that rich celebrities in the music world and otherwise are out of touch with the common man—that their “charity” ultimately amounts to an expensive vanity project designed to make them look good on social media. Often, artists are accused of blindly throwing money at large, wide-reaching problems without fully understanding how to properly allocate funds and volunteerism to achieve the most beneficial result. In some cases this may be true—certainly there are artists out there who might throw a couple million towards a deserving cause for the publicity, not fully understanding or caring how their money is being used and to what end.
But on the other hand, a person’s celebrity should in no way disqualify them from being considered as an effective, impactful, and genuine philanthropist. The mindset of, “Oh, he/she is just some pop star, what do they care about animal rights, or human trafficking, or access to clean water, or environmentalism, or any of the other umpteen problems that plague our world today?” is an incredibly dismissive and even destructive one, as it effectively casts doubt on the legitimacy of the celebrity musician as a voice capable of bringing about real and lasting positive change. And trust me, they absolutely have that power. If you don’t trust me, trust at least in the following: they have the eyes and ears of the public, as well as insanely deep pockets—let them try to change the world; they may get closer than you or I ever could individually, and that’s the truth.