by Emily Scott and Sarah Beckford
Twitter is a breeding ground for many things, whether it’s a meme or the next social movement. It is also a breeding ground for misconceptions and a public platform that amplifies those misconceptions, which, in some cases, leads to a mass deleting of accounts.
Matty Healy, the frontman for the English rock group The 1975, is no stranger to deleting his Twitter account; half the time before beginning a new “era” for the band, Healy and his fellow bandmates will delete their accounts for a handful of days before coming back with cryptic tweets giving clues to the newest “era.” But when Healy deleted his Twitter back in May, there was no new album. Instead, Healy put his foot in his mouth — again.
Healy has a history of problematic tweets, including but not limited to Islamophobia and referring to himself as a “transvestite.” And who could forget the Instagram live where Healy appears to be singing along to “Caroline” by Amine, including the racial slur in the lyrics? Usually, Healy would give a half-assed apology, and the 1975 stans would forgive and move on.
In May, however, that was not the case.
Following the death of George Floyd, Healy, like most celebrities, took to Twitter to support the BLM movement. But unlike most celebrities, in a now-deleted tweet, Healy linked to one of his own music videos. While yes, the song does discuss political issues, including the death of innocent Black people, a tweet in support of a huge political and social movement is neither the time nor the place to link said song.
One fan, @blossomingbecca, tweeted “matty healy stop promoting your own songs in a response to the black lives matter movement. now’s not the time mate.” Another fan, @glosscanyons, posted a screenshot of the tweet, captioned “matty healy promoting his song rn… this just gets worse please.” Another fan even quoted @glosscanyons’s tweet with “one of the most tone deaf tweets i’ve ever seen but am i surprised.” While Healy has had problematic tweets in the past, these most recent tweets have seen the most upset. For many fans, this was seen as a way for the group (or Healy specifically) to try and profit off of a serious social issue. Personally, I was disgusted when I saw the notification for that tweet pop up on my phone (yes, I have their Twitter notifications on, you can bully me). Prior to the now-deleted tweet, the band had been silent on the issue, but had no issue singing about it in their music. It came across as disingenuous — unless the group could make money off of it, they had no interest in discussing the topic. You can’t bring up the topic when it isn’t seen as a “hot button issue,” but when it is all over the news and social media, you remain silent. It doesn’t work like that.
Out of all of Healy’s missteps on social media, this last one received the most backlash. Could that be the reason why Healy deleted his Twitter account indefinitely? Did years of problematic tweets and a so-so album hammer the final nail into the coffin holding the love of most of the band’s fans? Or did Matty’s ego get too big, and turn fans off?
Healy’s large ego isn’t anything new — for years he’s had a God complex, calling himself a Messiah figure. In 2016, Healy himself told The Guardian “there is an element of feeling a bit like the Messiah. Well, not somebody who’s here to save humanity, but somebody for whom the world does truly revolve around them.”
Maybe the God complex was too much for longtime fans to handle, which, when coupled with any of the previously mentioned factors, could concoct the perfect career-ending storm.
Kanye West, like Healy, is no stranger to the spotlight. Having carved out a career filled with memorable music, meme–able moments and his well-known fashion brand, Kanye is a very vocal artist with a considerable platform. Kanye and Matty both have a god complex of sorts, but as opposed to being quiet on social media, Kanye celebrates himself and shares cryptic messages on his profile. The idea of Kanye being the most important, and reminding the world of it is not a new concept, or critique. Kanye famously declared that he is a god in one of his songs off of 2013’s Yeezus. The song also talks about Kanye’s apparent desire for people to stop playing with him, to give him the trappings of being rich as he deserves. So, seemingly, he desires to be worshipped, heard and acknowledged. But, when he shares these musings, do they deserve as much attention as he demands?
In any discussion of Kanye, it’s important to note that it is public knowledge he has bipolar disorder, which should be taken seriously, as it affects his interactions with the media, as well as his daily life. However, it is hard to strike a balance and understand Kanye when his commentary — take his Twitter as an example — goes farther than expected. Kanye’s made headlines over the past few years mostly because of his politics — notably when he seemed to be buddy-buddy with former President Donald Trump while sporting a MAGA hat. The announcement of his presidential candidacy, and the fallout from a South Carolina campaign stop also raised eyebrows as well. During his since terminated presidential campaign, Kanye made a stop in South Carolina for a rally. At that rally, he mentioned a number of his opinions, including support for illegal immigrants, and most notably, his stance on abortion. He grew visibly emotional as he recounted that he was almost aborted, as well as his daughter, North. “I almost killed my daughter,” he said, sobbing. It’s hard to pick apart the nuances that affect Kanye — his uncomfortable comments about slavery and Harriet Tubman, his acknowledgement of his reluctancy to seek medical help for his illness and more.
Most recently, Kanye has been vocal about the music industry, and his issues with how artists are treated. In any other situation, an artist may pen a Twitter thread, a short statement or publish a song discussing their concerns or grievances.
Kanye, however, did not- instead he took to Twitter to voice his complaints and laud himself. He bared himself for 30.7 million followers, with much of the tweets being stream-of-consciousness rants that exposed his opinions and the music industry.
Kanye tweeted about label executives (including contact information and text messages), the need for more transparency in the industry and for the industry’s current business model to better benefit artists — rather than just the record labels. On Sept 16, he posted, in a series of approximately 116 tweets, what is allegedly the entirety of his own contract with Island Def Jam Recordings (owned by Universal Music Group, who he has ten contracts with). Earlier that day, he said the following — “When you sign a music deal you sign away your rights. Without the masters you can’t do anything with your own music. Someone else controls where it’s played and when it’s played. Artists have nothing accept [sic] the fame, touring and merch.” He alleged Universal wouldn’t allow him to own his masters because they know he could afford to buy them back, and also emphasized how he wants his children and their children to ultimately own them — part of a larger point he was trying to make that money made by Black stars is not just for them, but to support their families.
It’s not just a monetary fight for him — for Kanye, it’s a spiritual fight as well. He quotes scripture, and tweets small prayers: “I KNOW MY LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST WILL MAKE FOOLS OF AND PUNISH ALL WHO HAVE PARTICIPATED IN UNFAIR CONTRACTS.” And so Kanye turns from being divine to being a soldier fighting for artists.
Both Healy and Kanye West have used their Twitter accounts to share personal beliefs, which, as celebrities, are always going to be in the limelight. Both musicians use their platforms personally and professionally, which can come back to haunt them. The God complexes that both stars have, coupled with public backlash, could very easily lead to their downfalls. Both Healy and West have shown that though having a platform is good, it can be hard to balance if that platform is used to trumpet opinions in a way that only boosts the self.