By Jason Herring, July 27 2015 —
The 2015 Pan American Games finished on Sunday with closing ceremonies capping off the two-week Toronto sporting event. The ceremony featured music from Canadian rocker Serena Ryder, Cuban-American rapper Pitbull and the ever-controversial Kanye West.
After the musical acts for the closing ceremonies were announced, an immediate backlash surrounded the inclusion of Kanye. A Change.org petition quickly began to circulate, asking that Kanye be removed from the event and replaced by a different musician. At the time of his performance, it had accumulated over 54,000 signatures.
Those who objected to Kanye’s presence had three main concerns. He has a supposedly arrogant attitude that goes against the spirit of the Pan Am Games, he isn’t a Canadian musician and he doesn’t make good music.
The first concern is the most valid. In the past, Kanye has stirred up attention for outbursts at award shows, but that shouldn’t be enough to keep him from performing.
It’s true that Kanye isn’t Canadian — but he doesn’t need to be. The Pan Am Games are meant for athletes from all of the Americas, and the musicians performing should be as diverse as the athletes competing. There’s already one Canadian musician representing our athletes. It would be selfish not to include performers of other nationalities as well.
It’s nearly impossible to back up the assertion that Kanye is a poor musician. Though taste in music is always subjective, it’s hard to overlook his legacy. Each of his albums have received widespread critical acclaim, he’s produced hundreds of tracks and he’s one of the best-selling artists of all-time despite releasing music in an age where overall music sales have plummeted. Even if you don’t like his music, we shouldn’t deny others the chance to see a world-class musician in his prime.
But most of the people signing the Change.org petition don’t hate Kanye for any of these reasons. They hate Kanye because they need something to hate. If it wasn’t him, someone else would be under attack.
Having things to hate makes the things we love feel more special. All of us are guilty of this to some extent — making fun of things we don’t like reaffirms that our tastes are correct. When I go to the theatre and make fun of the cardboard Minions cutouts, it makes me feel better about my choice of movie.
Another reason people disparage Kanye is one they’re less enthusiastic to acknowledge. Kanye is an outspoken, intelligent and left-leaning black man, and this makes people uncomfortable. Like it or not, racism is a large part of criticism of the Kanye.
And even if you do want to vilify Kanye, asking that he doesn’t perform because of your personal preferences is ridiculous. Popular music is popular because it resonates with a lot of people. It doesn’t matter how you feel about Kanye — just don’t let your disdain take away from other people’s joy.