Banished from the art world, adored by the public

Two years after the wave of denunciations that swept through Quebec, the personalities who were the subject of complaints are still mostly excluded from the Quebec art industry. But the general public seems to have an easier time forgetting his escapades. Proof of this are the crowds that flock to Éric Lapointe’s shows this summer, or the popular support that Maripier Morin enjoys these days, with the premiere of the long-awaited Arlette.

The Lac-au-Saumon Guitar Festival, in Bas-Saint-Laurent, was a clear example of this last month: Éric Lapointe and Kevin Parent were the headliners. The former pleaded guilty in the fall of 2020 to the charge of assaulting a woman; the second was dropped by his agency two years ago after being denounced on social networks for some of his actions. Results ? “We had our best year in terms of attendance in 15 years of existence,” says festival president Michel Chevarie.

Should we see this unexpected success as a snub to exile culture? Against censorship? Against an essentially Montreal art community that we would find too virtuous? Michel Chevarie carefully avoids answering this delicate question.

“There are so many stories that come out… Perhaps in the regions we are a little less sensitive to all that,” Jean-François Côté, general director of the Plessisville Maple Festival, ventures to advance. Last March, the young people of this community in Centre-du-Québec raised against the arrival of Éric Lapointe. However, the Festival had decided to keep the rocker in its programming, indicating that in any case he was linked to the singer by a contract signed before his arrest.

In the end, their show at the Maple Festival turned out to be a real success, despite dissenting voices. “There were a lot of people! To be honest, maybe a little less than when he arrived in 2016, before all the controversy. But Éric Lapointe is still one of the Quebec artists who attracts the most people to festivals, along with 2Frères and the Cowboys Fringants”, continues Mr. Côté.

Community-public dichotomy

In short, some artists who have been at the center of controversy in recent years continue to make their way. The fact is that their careers were affected by this bad press. Promoters still refuse to display them, even though the public demands them.

Under cover of anonymity, the owner of a major theater told the To have to having had the opportunity to hire Kevin Parent and Yann Perreau this summer, but choosing not to take this opportunity “out of benevolence”. “However, there would surely be a lot of people. These artists keep doing shows, that means there is still an audience following them. I don’t think the people who loved them stopped loving them because they were reported,” he takes the trouble to add anyway.

Kevin Parent and Yann Perreau have played a few concerts here and there in the last few months. Others, however, never returned to the scene after the wave of complaints in the summer of 2020. Singer-songwriter Bernard Adamus has hardly shown any signs of life for two years. The singer has no manager or record label. He is extremely discreet on his social media, and even his official website has been removed.

And yet, he is one of the most listened to Quebec artists in the province on streaming platforms. According to data collected between October 15 and December 30, 2021 by the Observatory of Culture and Communications, with its 42me rank, surpasses Fred Pellerin, Vincent Vallières and even Leonard Cohen. Éric Lapointe rises for his part to 22nd placeme position, managing to attract a larger audience than many artists of the moment, such as Émile Bilodeau or Koriass.

It’s also worth noting that the most popular Quebecois artist on the platforms remains rapper Enima, who, with his long criminal record, takes pleasure in glorifying crime and pimping in his songs.

“That these artists are in this ranking even if they don’t play on the radio, that says a lot. It shows the gap between the industry and what people are really listening to. It also shows that the dust always settles. This is the conclusion reached by Pierre “Bill” St-Georges, a consultant in the music industry.

What culture of exile?

Mélanie Lemay, co-founder of the Quebec collective against sexual violence, sees it more as the consequences of “people saying that you have to separate the artist from his work.” A widely publicized speech in the media, which resulted in the discredit of the #MeToo movement, she laments.

“The artist cannot be dissociated from the work, but it can be contextualized. The idea is not to banish what has been done before as a creation. It’s not about deleting anything. But we have to question ourselves about the new possibilities that we grant to these artists”, she replies.

She also has it against those who continue to yell at the “ cancel culture — the culture of exile — whenever a personality has to withdraw from the public sphere following accusations against him. A chimera, according to her, in view of the relatively prolific careers they have followed at the head of the Maripier Morin and Éric Lapointe of this world.

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