Does an artist’s personal life matter?

If you have followed any kind of entertainment news, you probably know what Chris Brown did to his ex-girlfriend, Rihanna. Even though the domestic abuse occurred three years ago and Brown apologized and did community service, the incident still plagues his music and public reception. When asked about the incident on Good Morning America, he broke a window out of rage, and many reviews for his most recent album, Fortune, have either discussed the incident in detail, or critics, such as Chris Havercroft, who gave the album zero stars, shaped their opinion around the review because of the incident. While there is no denying many of Chris Brown’s actions are wrong, at what point do music listeners have to separate the art someone makes and the artist who made it?
The answer has to come out of what the artist is trying to say in their music and how that relates to their actions. Kanye West, for example, is no stranger to controversy in his personal life. Between accusing former president George Bush of racism on public television and interrupting Taylor Swift’s award speech while intoxicated, West’s personal life is certainly on the minds of anyone who listens to his music. The thing that keeps his music from being overshadowed, however, is the way West owns up to his behavior in his music.  This happens especially on his last LP My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, where he looks back and realizes his fault. In doing so, West is able to make his music more honest, and his personal life—while not justified—understandable. This is unlike a lot of Brown’s music in which he tries to put on an image of being a loving, sweet-hearted man.
Would I give Brown’s music a zero-star review just for his actions? No. However, I would view it more negatively because time and time again, Brown has proved to be a violent, short-tempered man, while his music tries to pretend like he’s good person. For music to be genuine, the message has to reflect artist’s actions.