Between 1978 and 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer committed horrific murders for which he was imprisoned in 1992.
Dahmer achieved enough notoriety to be mentioned in the lyrics of popular music from the likes of Kesha, Katy Perry, and Eminem. These songs referenced Dahmer for the sake of a metaphor or rhyme and nobody seemed to care at the time. But boy do they care now.
In 2022, Dahmer was brought to the forefront of people’s minds thanks to Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story on Netflix. The 10-part series was watched by 56 million households who learned the gruesome details of Dahmer’s killings.
In the aftermath of the Netflix show, those pop stars are now facing backlash for making light of Dahmer’s actions and appearing insensitive to the victims and their families.
Some commenters are particularly vocal on social media that Kesha and Katy Perry should be “canceled”, but let’s not let social justice warriors dictate what can and can’t be said by today’s artists.
The songwriter for Kesha’s Cannibal, who happens to be Kesha’s mother, swiftly apologized for the insensitive lyric, saying they had no malicious intent back when they wrote the song in 2010. What more do people expect? We got a sincere apology and a lesson was learned so let’s move on – we don’t need anyone’s head on a spike or for Kesha’s career to be canceled for one misjudged lyric.
Then there’s Katy Perry, whose song Dark Horse features a rap verse by Juicy J with the line “She eat your heart out like Jeffrey Dahmer”. It feels unfair and downright misogynistic that Katy Perry would take the heat for a line by Juicy J. Yes, the song is ultimately owned by Katy Perry as the lead artist but it’s ridiculous to cancel the career of someone who has delivered nothing but fun, mostly harmless hits for more than 10 years. Again, just apologize and move on.
That brings us to Eminem, who mentions Dahmer in at least three songs: Brainless, Bagpipes From Baghdad, and Must Be The Ganja. Eminem has had a long career of misogyny, homophobia, and political controversies. While Eminem’s career is not what it used to be, he’s far from being canceled and I don’t think he’ll be phased by people upset about a Dahmer reference. I don’t think the people who want an apology are going to get one either.
In all these cases, and the other artists in this playlist like Black Eyed Peas, Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim, and Mac Miller, we can’t hold musicians to such a high standard that they become too afraid to say anything. When these songs were written, not much was known about Dahmer. I think these pop stars and rappers didn’t properly think about what Dahmer did. That doesn’t excuse an insensitive lyric, but let’s not let cancel culture limit our artists to such a degree. Let them acknowledge, apologize, and consider more carefully the lyrics they write and record.
Interestingly, in my research for this playlist, a lot of the songs weren’t appearing on Spotify at the time of publishing, making me think they were removed.
What about you? Do you care if a song mentions an evil person like Dahmer? Does it make you like a great song less?
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