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Why Is Everyone Mad at Morrissey Again?

"Heaven knows, I'm miserable now."

Classic black and white headshot of the singer Morrissey.

You might have seen Morrissey’s name in the news lately. The former frontman of the Smiths apparently had a “hidden album” in the works that Miley Cyrus collaborated on, but as of this week, she’s taken her name off of it and wiped her hands clean of it. This decision seems to coalesce with Moz’s choice to distance himself from Capitol Records—fairly cut and dry, not entirely notable.

But with this news comes a long string of similar stories, varying in intensity, which are said to have occurred over the past few decades of Moz’s career. It’s apparently got people wondering not just who the hell Morrissey is, but what exactly his problem is. It’s a question I asked myself years ago, when I was a kid getting into the Smiths (as kids do), and I remember being surprised when I saw an r/indieheads post (typical, I know) talking smack about the guy. Hearing people call Morrissey a prick was surprisingly common, which seemed to contradict the articulate, flowery lyrics of his songs. Or, you know, so I thought at the time.

There’s a lot to Moz that explains the vitriol—on both sides—but if you couldn’t care less, this Mike Judge animation kind of summarizes the sort of person he is:

In other words, Moz is that middle-aged white moderate who cares more about poodles being allegedly bred for meat in Asia (he called my people “sub-species,” which pretty much dissolved any hope I had for the man) than he does about more pressing political issues. This alone is annoying, but people like this are everywhere and they’re usually easy to ignore. The thing about Moz is that he makes it hard to ignore what he says and does, because the guy doesn’t shut up, and enough people are still willing to hear him out even though they should probably pack it in at this point.

We’ve accumulated a list of some of Morrissey’s more notable and offensive statements, which I’ll just summarize here:

The weird thing about Moz is that he was supposed to, you know, belong to “us”—the soft-hearted weenies of the indie and alternative rock world. We all listened to him croon about how miserable he was and how he’d love to die by your side, and at such tender young ages, we figured he was one of those iconic figures we could really stand by. Like Belle and Sebastian, or David Byrne.

Instead, as fellow disappointed writer Jack Whatley said, the man’s become something of a Tucker Carlson for the alternative music world. Whereas he once championed animal rights and the abolishment of capitalism, now he’s got the Tory sneer down pat. And the thing is, he’s got an audience for it, too—a positively modern audience of down and out young men in the UK who, like Moz, are content to blame “wokeness” for their woes. I’d link some socials but I generally feel uncomfortable dragging ordinary people into my articles when they haven’t technically done anything, so just trust that if you’re on social media, you’ll come across these lads at some point.

Ultimately, my summary of the Morrissey bullshit is that he’s one of those guys who was revolutionary for his time, but then time moved on and he couldn’t find a way to move along with it. Like many men with more privilege than they’ll ever know they have, he stuck his feet in the ground and stood firm in his convictions, both for the sake of irony and for getting a rise out of people, as well as for his own insecurities about his place in the world. Does he really mean everything he’s said? It doesn’t matter, because he bothered to say it—deliberately and with a smirk. Plenty of people his age have said stupid or ignorant things, but they apologized when corrected, and I feel like I can give them a pass. But I don’t think Morrissey feels particularly bad about any of it, especially not when he’s got his gents backing him up.

It’s a shame because his music is still beautiful and relevant in many ways. But ain’t that the way of it? Ah well, at least we’ve still got David Byrne.

(From the film, “Stop Making Sense”)

(featured image: Kerstin Rodgers, Redferns)

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Madeline (she/her) is a writer, dog mom, and casual insomniac. She aims to use her writing to positively represent mixed-race people like herself. Niche interests include folk music, elves/wizards, and why horses are cool actually.