Another one, one more and who will be next? Drugs and mental health struggles in the music industry

When I checked my instagram feed this morning, I saw all the well wishes and prayers that Jessie J, Ruby Rose and others posted for Demi Lovato. I really don’t know much about her, but even I am aware that she has been struggling with addiction and health problems for a while now. However, Demi Lovato is ‘just’ another one. One more. One too many. And I ask myself who will be next in the long line of artists who suffer from psychological problems that result in whatever kind of problems and addictions.

As a music fan I find it scary and worrisome and I wonder what has to happen for the industry (and fans) to change so that this horrible cycle stops?!

I won’t be able to fit every artist with problems in here, but allow me to write a bit about those I particularly like or those who shocked me the most.

The two most famous deaths are these two:

  1. Michael Jackson

Everything has been written about this tragic death. But to be honest, I was surprised how many people were surprised about his struggles. Did anyone really think he looked healthy? And how can you be healthy and happy, when you have to live in a bubble and hide your children behind masks to give them the semblance of a normal life?

2. Whitney Houston

I saw her live on stage shortly before she died. She was on tour with her freshly released album and the critics were harsh. Everybody expected her to sound the way she had sounded in ‘Bodyguard’ and before. Officially she was sober and drug free at the time. When she came on stage, sang the first song and spoke the first words to the audience, I remember turning to my friend and saying ‘There is no way she is not under the influence of something, whether it is drugs or alcohol’. I was unbelievably sad when I heard a couple of weeks later that she had died and I still am today. But was I surprised or shocked about the drugs? I can’t say I was. Seeing her on stage it was obvious to me and many around me, complete strangers. I liked the concert, but when we left we all agreed that she should have never gone on tour again, maybe she would have stayed sober.

Then there are those who had to take a ‘time out’ from the public, as best as possible to prevent worse.

The Time out bunch

3. Ed Sheeran 

He took some time off, because he was going down the wrong path with his lifestyle. Luckily, he apparently had people in his life who were able to point that out and he listened. Does he still drink too much? I don’t know. But I hope he found a good way to deal with all the madness.

4. Lady Gaga

She cancelled a tour. Well, parts of a tour. And if you don’t understand why and sit at home complaining about the fact that she dared to cancel the concert you had tickets for, then watch the Netflix documentary about her. I watched it and was shocked. While watching I kept wondering why no one was telling her to ‘just stop’ at times. It might not be what she wants to hear, but I was basically yelling at the screen at times.

5. Jessie J

I am not a psychologist or therapist, but was I really the only one who desperately felt the need that someone should just take her phone away and stop her from what she was doing before she vanished? Reading her tweets and her reactions on her instagram page or in interviews, the total unpredictability of what would come out of her mouth, combined with the ‘I am SO happy’ and ‘I am SO mad’ and the level of attention seeking, worried me. Of course, back then she hadn’t spoken out about her health struggles, but her unhappiness with what she was doing was palpable. During some of her video rants I wanted to give her a hug or take her phone away myself. (If only I could 😉 ). So her vanishing and then reappearing with the admission that she had wanted to quit music, that she is struggling with her health, that she had been unhappy… again, no surprise.

I think I wrote it before, but I think she seems more stable (for a lack of a better word) these days. I still get worried though reading about her constant insomnia and exhaustion. Is it really a good idea to have her touring again without days off and jetting back and forth between Europe, LA and Asia? Time will tell, but I hope she finds the strength to take care of herself first and foremost.

All in the lyrics

6. Florence Welsh

Are there any interviews out there where she talks about the new album in depth? I have to check later. Considering she writes the songs about herself, then my questions are: What was she taking? Is she sober now? How bad was it? The issues on the album range from an eating disorder to hinted alcohol and drug (?) abuse, feelings of loneliness… you name it.

7. Demi Lovato

People are surprised right now. Really? Again? Listen to ‘Sober’ and tell me she didn’t see it coming herself!

Sick on stage

And then there are those who go go go, randomly mentioning having throat infections, fevers and other illnesses that would cause each and everyone of us to just take a sick day or two. Anne-Marie, Rihanna and Rita Ora would be three to mention…

The system

While I don’t think the psychological breakdowns of singers are a new development, I think that maybe their constant presence on social media might be an issue. There have always been paparazzi, but it has never been as easy to upload a picture in second and say ‘hey, xy is leaving the gym looking horrible right now’. The sheer pressure that must bring, I can’t even fathom.

On top of it, they are forced in a way to reveal private things about themselves that some might like to keep closer to the vest. And then they get judged and labeled for what they say or have said in the past. My favourite example would be the recent increase of bisexual singers. Like Demi Lovato, Jessie J and more recently Anne-Marie were/are labeled as bisexual. Anne-Marie hasn’t dated a women publicly (at least not that I know of), but Jessie J was labelled as bisexual back when she had her first hits. Then however she proceeded to date only guys (again only media coverage), which resulted in her saying that for her it was a phase and she doesn’t want to be labeled. Did she say she was a lesbian? No. Did she say she would never date a women again? Reading the interview, I didn’t think so. But boy, did they drag her through the tabloids because of it. Her songs now are all about guys, but I am curious what would happen, if one day, hypothetically, she would date a woman again?!

And when Rita Ora recently released ‘Girls’ shit hit the fan once again, because it was perceived as making fun of bisexual/ lesbian women. Has she dated a women? No idea. Does she have a boyfriend? Yes. But whatever her reasons are for releasing that song with these lyrics, it doesn’t give anyone the right to judge her sexuality.

Looking for the cracks

At the end of the day we see what they show us, or are forced to show us. In some cases it’s all very professional, in others more personal at times. Does my instagram account reflect my every day life? Not at all, and I don’t even have many followers. I am free to upload whatever I want without any care, as long as it doesn’t cause problems for my professional life.

However, when I see the ‘stars’ in interviews or on stage I can’t help but see the cracks in the perfect pictures. Oh, she’s sick again? Wait, isn’t this the third insomnia post in a week? Oh hey, another drunk picture. Yup, she’s ranting again about how she doesn’t care what the media says and that it’s all lies. Did she just sway on stage and seems off somehow? Slurred speech and forgetting your own lyrics during the 35th show is not really normal, is it?… I try and see the human being behind it, not the star/ icon they want to be. It helps me to cut them some slack, but also to be empathetic and worry when something is off. At the end of the day what would be ‘off’ for all of us, is ‘off’ for them, too.

What I want to say with this post? Something seems wrong in the system. I wish that each and everyone of the afore mentioned has people around them to help them stay healthy and happy and also say “no” firmly when needed. Maybe artists should have counsellors with them, who acts independently from labels? Then again, who would pay them? I don’t know. It’s just that the news about Demi Lovato are so NOT surprising that I think that’s the real scandal we should talk about, while she hopefully takes the time to recover away from the public eye.

 

 

Akarana84

For the last ten years I have regularly been to concerts at least two or three times a year. At the end of 2016 I decided that 2017 would be my concert year. The experience of witnessing so many great concerts in one year inspired me to start this blog. It also serves as I diary for myself to help and remember the small things that happened during the shows, on and off stage. Please keep in mind that I am not a critic nor do I know a lot about music. This is just my opinion, nothing more and nothing less.

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