Adelen, a 16 year old singer who was a finalist to represent Norway at the ESC, recently complained about the online bullying she has been subjected to over her singing. Online bullying is a very serious problem. At the same time, we cannot discuss music without criticizing that which we find sub-par. So where do you draw the line?
Part of the problem in Adelen’s case is that she was suddenly thrust into the spotlight at age 16. That’s rough at any age and really rough for a teen. Most people want to be liked and human nature is to focus on the negative comments instead of the positive ones. Anyone who chooses to enter the public arena does so with the constant—sometimes brutal—feedback about their work. The flip side of lots of people telling you they love your work are the others who don’t like it.
And no matter what you sing, no matter how good you are, no matter how amazing your presentation is, most people won’t like it. And the more popular you become, the more people you are exposed to. And the more people you are exposed to, for each person who likes your music, several will listen and dislike it. There is no song that will be appealing to the majority of people. Justin Bieber is a prime example of this conundrum.
Adelen sings live during Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix 2013
So how to draw the line between valid critiques and bullying? First off is writing that “I think this song sucks” as opposed to “the singer has no talent.” The first is saying the song does not appeal to you while the second denigrates the individual. That underlying focus is a giant difference.
Second, if someone is poor at singing, presenting, etc., it is valid to say so. But this skirts a lot closer to bullying and I think people need to ask themselves first if it is valid or their dislike of the song is influencing their view of the performer. All too often dislike of a song translates into personal attacks and that is unequivocally bullying. Same when the criticism turns to aspects that have nothing to do with an artist’s singing, then you’ve again crossed into bullying.
As to those posting, if you are focusing on the negatives, with most of your posts tearing others down, then yes – you’re a bully. And more to the point, you should probably look in the mirror because the big problem is you are not accomplishing anything and you’re trying to just pull those that have put in the effort to be successful back down to your level. You’re a crab.
As to Adelen and all of the others out there facing this, it’s a fact of life. By all means call it out but there are a lot of crabs out there. Don’t let that stop you from reaching for the stars.
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat. I didn’t say that. Theodore Roosevelt did.