On the music star Richter scale of gaffes, just how bad are Justin Bieber’s comments that he hopes Anne Frank would have been a “Belieber?”
As you know, he created a tsunami of a backlash this weekend when he visited The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and left the following message in the guest book: “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a Belieber.” Oh, Biebs, why couldn’t you have stopped after the first sentence?
In the pantheon of controversial comments made by musicians, on a scale of 1-10, I’m giving this a 1, and it's barely that. He didn't say anything negative, he just inserted himself a little too much into the story. The AP story does not mention it, but a story in British newspaper The Independent cites a source saying the Bieber was told that Frank was a big fan of culture (if I remember correctly, she had photos of movie stars on her wall) and that she probably would have liked Bieber. If the source’s comment is true, then Bieber’s message needs to be taken in that context.
We now live in an era when any comment— written, said or sung— immediately gets put under the worldwide microscope for dissecting, parsing, and blame assigning. I’m sure there are more pieces coming about Bieber’s mental state and his narcissism. (What? Accusing an artist of being a narcissist? Are you kidding me? Good grief, being a narcissist is a job requirement!). He will now be required to apologize and explain over and over for years...or until he does something more boneheaded.
Next thing you know, some “enterprising” reporter will be asking Elie Weisel to comment. Please, please, please don’t let it come to that. (If you don’t know who Eli Weisel or Anne Frank are, please look them both up immediately before reading further. According to the AP story, many of his young fans tweeted that they didn’t know who Anne Frank was so he may be educating some folks).
Here are just a few randomly-selected scandals and gaffes by artists that we consider worse than Bieber’s most recent goof. We are only talking about something the artists wrote or said, not actions (yes, we’re talking to you, Chris Brown). We also left out perpetual offenders, who just tend to insert their foot into their mouth regularly, like Kanye West.
*John Lennon: He, of course, said the mother of all gaffes, when he said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus in 1966. Even though the comment was said to a British reporter for the London Evening Standard in March, it didn’t so much as cause a blip in the U.K. No, that happened when a teen magazine, Datebook, picked it up in the U.S. and more than two dozen stations in the south temporarily banned the Beatles music and burned their records. Rating on the Richter scale: 10
*Dixie Chicks: Natalie Maines’ comment before a London audience that she was “ashamed” to be from the same state as President George Bush on the eve of the Iraqi war 10 years ago still resonates. Maines herself tweeted about it on the 10th year anniversary last month, and the trio never recovered at country music radio. I’m hard pressed to come up with an example where someone’s words (not actions) hurt them so severely. Rating: 12
*Ted Nugent: Oh, where to even begin? He's a one-man flamethrower on his comments about President Obama alone, whether it's calling him evil or comparing him to Hitler... there's really no end to it. Last April, didn't he say that if Obama got re-elected, he'd either "be dead or in jail by this time next year?" The clock is ticking. His comments are get a 10 for their offensiveness, but he gets a 0 for his relevance, so we're averaging. Rating: 5
*Hank Williams Jr: Like Nugent, he also likes to compare Obama to Hitler. The instance that got him in trouble was when he told "Fox & Friends" that House speaker John Boehner golfing with Obama was like "Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu." He then followed with some tirades about Obama in concert. The little stunt got his "Are You Ready for Some Football" opening yanked from Monday Night Football by ESPN: Rating: 6
*Rick Ross: Yes, his rape comment was spoken in a song, but it counts. After rapping, “Put Molly all up in her champagne, she ain't even know it, I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain't even know it,” in the song “U.O.E.N.O,” Reebok dropped its endorsement deal with Ross this month. And for good reason. Rating: 7
*Eminem: His violent homophobic comments from early in his career, most notably in songs like “Criminal.” He’s apologized or explained a number of times and seems to have learned his lesson: either he’s become more enlightened or simply learned to keep his mouth shut: Rating: 7
*Blake Shelton: It’s a miracle Shelton doesn’t find himself in more trouble given how much he tweets, but earlier this year he found himself having to mightily backpedal after telling GAC that “Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music.” Apparently, country legend Ray Price took that remark personally even though Shelton named no names and Shelton had to apologize in one of the biggest faux scandals of the year. Rating: 2
*Brad Paisley and LL Cool J: The fact that two of my examples are from the last two weeks alone shows what a glaring spotlight every artist’s actions fall under. Paisley and LL Cool J released a song called “Accidental Racist,” a well-meaning but incredibly naive and clumsy dialog about race relations. They talked about it in the press and presented their case tremendously well. Paisley wanted to start a dialogue with the song and he certainly did. Rating: 1
Which scandals would you add?