An opinion piece by Fiona Dodwell.
Morrissey has made headlines and has been trending across social media sites over the last 24 hours, and as usual, it is not about anything he himself has said or done. Indeed, the drama is yet again the outcome of a bored, frenzied online mob and the indecorous mainstream media who enjoy raking his name over the coals whenever the slightest opportunity presents itself.
So, what is it this time? Singer Rick Astley recently announced that he would be teaming up with the Blossoms to perform a show of Smiths covers. Cue the press who jumped in with headlines like, “Morrissey Mocked” (no one is mocking), and a hoard of social media users who chose to take a moment out of their day to try to discredit Morrissey as an artist. Obviously, it is only those negative voices that certain publications chose to emphasise.
With several online users praising Astley and claiming they’d rather “have Astley than Morrissey” and numerous (almost always) anonymous accounts chiming in with “The Smiths were much more than Morrissey” it is perhaps time to revisit the music legend’s immense impact on the world of pop — and to recognise that he was, will always be, the heart of The Smiths.
The truth is, whether the online army and media critics like it or not, without Morrissey, The Smiths would not have become the band that the world so clearly adores. There would be no This Charming Man, no Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now or The Queen is Dead. The two — Morrissey and the band — are irrevocably twinned, and it is futile to attempt to separate them.
There are few (at least amongst those who aren’t biased) who would dare to contend that another voice, another lyricist, could have brought to life some of the more miraculous moments in The Smiths active years. Whether it’s the aching melancholy of his delivery in Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want, or the hypnotic mood he rouses in Meat Is Murder, Morrissey brought something so unique and distinct to the music world that no other artist could have ever replicated it. Maybe Rick Astley will perform well in the upcoming shows, and perhaps they will be successful and enjoyed by fans — but make no mistake, no other artist can bring to the table what Morrissey can. (Let’s face it, there is a reason why artists today like Astley still cover and perform songs written by Morrissey).
It is utterly undeniable that it was Morrissey who gave The Smiths their edge. If the band had not had such an intelligent, opinionated and charismatic frontman, there would have been great music from the band, but the group would not have become the adored icons of their generation in the ways in which they have. It was Morrissey’s mind and soul that conjured the beauty of morality in Meat Is Murder, and created the poetical landscapes glimpsed in the words of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. It was Morrissey who pushed the boundaries, who stood firm as an anti- establishment figure, penning politically charged tracks at a time when — much like now — to be outspoken and controversial was a huge risk. He gave the Smith that extra something.
The truth is, if you listen to The Smiths, you are listening to Morrissey, for how can any listener divide the genius of the artist’s latter day work and refuse to see its embryonic reflections in his earlier releases with the band? Morrissey is the magnet that brings it all together.
A number of critics and detractors may try to steal or edit Morrissey’s accomplishments because they do not agree with his views. This is clearly nothing to do with the music, and more to do with their own mindset and cognitive limitations.
Whilst the media may buzz with their usual echoes of criticism and delight in only reporting those who have yet again taken to the internet to discredit Morrissey, he himself is, as usual, standing back in quiet dignity. He is perhaps enjoying the glow of his recent, immensely successful, record breaking Las Vegas residency and making his plans for the upcoming festival in which he is serving as the headline act. Soon to come, too, is new music.