Azealia Banks Has A Point And We Need To Accept It

Written By Sam Murphy on 07/31/2015


Earlier this week we praised Splendour In The Grass crowds for being generally great. Those of you who sung beautifully to Florence and The Machine, packed out SAFIA'S tent for a career-highlight performance or danced manically for Tkay Maidza's superstar turn - you were brilliant, energetic and, best of all, excited about live music in this country.

Unfortunately there's always going to be a select handful of people who ruin it for everyone else. Festivals are never going to go perfectly - a bit of pushing and shoving is to be expected but some things should not be tolerated. These include turning your back on the stage and talking through the performance, violence of any form, chanting derogatory things or letting off flares. I witnessed all of these things this year, perhaps more than any other year.

The last time Azealia Banks was here for Listen Out, she had bottles thrown at her on two separate occasions. She walked off stage and it was reported that she spat the dummy. Once again this time she had a water bottle thrown at her on stage at Splendour (she narrowly avoided it) and lost it on Twitter calling Australian crowds "belligerent" and "violent". This is a generalisation but unfortunately bad behaviour sticks out more than good behaviour and I would agree with this on a general level.

There were comments that followed that perhaps could've been more eloquently expressed but the core of her argument was that she'd flown a damn long way to get here and basically landed in a shit storm.

I must preface the rest of this opinion with the fact that I'm a big fan of Banks. Her debut album Broke With Expensive Taste was a brilliant, twisted hip-hop record that fused genres and set itself apart from most records released last year. Furthermore, I saw her at Coachella early this year where she debuted a new live show. She ran through the album with professionalism and, more importantly, flair and thought. The American crowd gave space to dance and offered Banks the admiration she deserved based off that sole performance. It felt like redemption and critics and punters alike left with that set as a highlight.

Banks basically committed career suicide after the release of 212, feuding with everyone in aim and eventually leaving a major record label. Based on her debut and resurgence in the live arena, the latter was a good move. She was 20 years-old when that track was released. Artists from Sky Ferreira to Miley Cyrus have made very public mistakes and screwed around with record labels.

From the start of Banks' set at Splendour, people chanted 212. It happens to most who have a standout set but it was particularly relentless for Banks. As an artist who probably feels they've just released an album full of great stuff, that's gotta be disheartening. And then to have objects pelted at you has got to be even more frustrating.

The minute Banks took to Twitter, seemingly the whole of Australia took it personally as if this is a surprise that our audiences can be like this. Sure, Banks could've toned her comments down and the use of homophobic attacks is not condoned by us but maybe it's time we considered how we act in the live arena. As an off-the-cuff example my Splendour companion had her foot stomped on by a punter. That's fine, it happens. But when she said "ahh," the person called her "precious". I also saw another punter elbow the person next to them in the face only to give them a cold stare and turn around.

Banks tweeted a few days ago:

Maybe that's all she had to say in the beginning. If you feel that you've been offended by Banks' behaviour in the past which you have every right to be, the best way you can act on it is don't attend her shows. Don't fuel the fire on Twitter in the hope that she'll snap back at you and you'll bag a few retweets. 

I've watched and read reviews of Banks' comeback around the world this year purely because I love an underdog story. She's been on fire and I was genuinely excited to see her down here. The chances of her coming back are small now and all because she pointed out a flaw in our crowds and attacked a smart arse radio announcer.

The way she's conducted herself on Twitter this week has not been exemplary but nor was the behaviour of those select few idiots at her shows. Let's not wash our hands of this and then point the blame at her as if her attack came out of nowhere. 

You can strongly dislike Banks and take offense at what she's said this week. That's your prerogative but don't pretend you didn't complain even once about shitty crowd behaviour at Splendour In The Grass.

If you have no idea what this is about read the Twitter timeline below: