All fans face a time when they must say goodbye to a celebrity that they admire. However,these supporters also hope that such a time is far down the road. When artists die young, their fans often take it hard.
Some artists that usually come to mind in a discussion such as this one are Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Tupac, Kurt Cobain, and more recently, Mac Miller, Avicii, and XXXTentacion. This leads many listeners to wonder why such popular faces are being lost in Hollywood, speculating whether it is simple coincidence and circumstance or something more explainable.
According to some studies, reasons why artists seem to die young can be understood on a statistical level. An Australian study at Sydney University analyzed around 13,000 rock and pop stars and found that, musicians, on average, die 25 years earlier than a regular person would. This was due to an increase in the likelihood of dying in numerous ways. For example, both suicide and homicide rates are much higher for musicians than the average citizen.
The music industry can be a dangerous place for young people. Between the immense stress caused by living in the spotlight and temptations of drugs and alcohol, it’s easy for these stars to turn self-destructive and attract enemies. It’s far too easy for people in these situations to slip into depression or a downward spiral. Extensive research has also been conducted studying the mental patterns of stars, and how the things they value, like fame and wealth, negatively affect their moods and thought processes. This topic also raises the question of where creative genius and mental illness overlap and intersect, and how, if not dealt with correctly, can be combustive.
Once the reasons behind an artist’s death can be understood, it’s important to examine the effects felt by fans. It’s no secret that the age of social media has allowed everyone to be closer to each other and that includes the relationship between fan and star. In the past, fan mail or meet-and-greets were the only ways to get in touch with a celebrity who one admired. Today, it’s as simple as an Instagram tag or Twitter hashtag. While forming a closer connection with a beloved artist can be great, it has some drawbacks that are especially pronounced when a celebrity passes away.
A benefit to this close connection is the ability to mourn with others that are near or far away. Hashtags like #RIPAvicii will trend for hours if not days after one’s death and they allow for fans to share what they loved most about their favorite celebrities and how their lives were changed by them.
On the other hand, Hollywood stars being so accessible to their fans can become destructive. In the case of Mac Miller, who was found dead in his home in early September, fans searched desperately for someone to blame once it was released that the rapper had been struggling with substance abuse for some time. Some supporters turned the blame on his former girlfriend Ariana Grande, claiming that she shouldn’t have left him during such a difficult time in his life, that she should’ve seen what a bad place he was in, and done more to help him.
So when an artist dies some fans turn to anger and hatred. Others however, can become profoundly upset. Obsessing over a celebrity can be fun and exciting for a listener while they’re alive, rejoicing over every new album and constantly checking their social media pages for new posts.
However, when the object of their obsession is taken from them, especially at such a young age in unfortunate, avoidable situations, many fans take it personally. To them, it’s like they’ve lost a friend, someone that expected to always be around to make them smile. Herein lies the issue with attaching happiness to one person and what they can provide. When that person leaves or is taken, fans must find a way to be satisfied without them.
Above all, they should find a way to still appreciate the accomplishments that these stars achieved while they lived, rather than fixating on the tragedy of their death. No matter how important a musician may have been it is at least equally important to recognize that many people are taken from society far too soon. In the limelight, however, the situation is amplified, and fans should be careful how they handle these saddening events.
Jordyn Dees // Opinion Editor