Amid the coronavirus pandemic, musical artists are questioning whether or not to release new music. With all the chaos, sadness and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, two schools of thought are forming surrounding releasing new music — some artists are pushing back release dates to when putting out music feels more appropriate. Others are choosing to continue releasing their works of art.
Among the artists who have postponed the release of their music is Lady Gaga. Gaga’s sixth studio album,“Chromatica,” was due out April 10, but will have a new release date sometime in 2020. In an Instagram post, she wrote of the postponement, "While I believe art is one of the strongest things we have to provide joy and healing to each other during times like this, it just doesn't feel right to me to release this album with all that is going on with this global pandemic."
She continued to say, "It's important to me that the attention is on getting essential medical equipment to healthcare professionals, making sure kids who depend on public schools for meals get the assistance they need, and that we help those who will be financially impacted by this pandemic."
Sam Smith followed Gaga’s suit and postponed the release of their third album “To Die For.” The singer-songwriter went as far as to change the title of the album, claiming it “doesn’t feel right.” This may come as a surprise to fans considering less than three weeks earlier Smith released an acoustic version of the title track. Smith has not announced what their album will be called when it is released.
However, some artists have chosen to continue releasing music — including Dua Lipa, Selena Gomez and Hayley Williams. Dua Lipa released her much-anticipated album “Future Nostalgia” March 27 — one week before the album was originally slated for release — after the project was leaked online.
Gomez put out a performance video for her song “Dance Again” and announced that proceeds from her new merchandise will go towards MusiCares, a nonprofit organizational arm of the Recording Academy which has started a COVID-19 relief fund. Finally, Williams, who intended to release her second solo EP, now plans to release the songs individually as she feels anxiety for those around her during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite differing perspectives on releasing music, the question is not if it is appropriate for artists to put out music right now. The real question is, what is the role of artists and music in such dire times? What role do celebrities and musicians play? Many artists tend to appear out of touch — see Sam Smith’s since deleted “stages of a quarantine meltdown” Instagram post, where they seemed to complain about having to stay home at their multi-million dollar mansion — and possess the wealth and resources to protect themselves against a pandemic like COVID-19, at least compared to those who are less fortunate.
The answer is balance. There is a fine line between gratuitous money-making during a crisis and deprivation of the arts. Take, for example, Dua Lipa and her early release of “Future Nostalgia.” Pushing up the release date of an album under the guise of the hopes that it brings people happiness with no public effort to support the aforementioned crisis of the time feels somewhat self-serving, especially given the album leak online.
That being said, of course, the world does not want to go without art. Art may be the thing that can bring people together or provide a sense of solace. But it is important when releasing art in times of crisis that the art itself serves a purpose.
Elton John had the right idea when he hosted his iHeart Living Room Concert for America. Stars live-streamed themselves in their homes sending messages of support or singing their songs. The concert raised almost eight million dollars for COVID-19 relief.
Being an artist of national significance comes with social responsibility. When artists have such large platforms and influences on the world, it would be irresponsible for them to not use it to make a change for the better.