Why An Unsigned Morrissey Proves A Lack Of True Diversity In Music
It was in May 2021 that artist Morrissey announced via his website Central that the recording of his new album, Bonfire Of Teenagers, had been completed. “The worst year of my life,” the singer said, “concludes with the best album of my life.”
Fans were immediately consumed by the news, flooding social media and Morrissey’s online fan pages with discussions about what they expected and hoped from the project. Little was known then, apart from the confirmation that the album had 11 tracks, including I Am Veronica, Sure Enough, The Telephone Rings, and I Live In Oblivion.
Much like with his releases before it, Morrissey’s announcement of a brand new album was met with great anticipation across the globe.
Morrissey has a career spanning over four decades, with several albums across the 80s with The Smiths and 13 solo releases in the ensuing years. With global chart success and sales of over 13 million, one might think that signing and releasing a new album for an artist of Morrissey’s calibre might be plain sailing, but this isn’t the case.
Despite eventual confirmation that record label Capitol Records had signed Bonfire Of Teenagers, a later announcement via Central stated simply that ‘Bonfire of Teenagers is no longer scheduled for a February 2023 release. Its fate is exclusively in the hands of Capitol Records.’ In December of 2022, Morrissey then announced his departure from Capital Records and his management at that time (Quest/Maverick).
What was to become of the unreleased 14th solo album? Fans desperately wanted the songs then, as they do now. Morrissey evidently remains committed to releasing them. So, why is there still a barrier, even today, preventing the release of this much sought-after project? Who or what stands between the fans and the songs? Why has Bonfire Of Teenagers not been signed, sealed, and distributed worldwide? The answer might be more unsettling than we like to think.
In my interview with Morrissey in October 2022, he said:
“The music industry doesn’t particularly like people like me, and the music press don’t like people like me. They know I’m of the people, they know ‘money hasn’t been injected into this person’… They don’t know what to do with people like me… it’s odd. They understand manufactured artists - they can just get rid of them when the industry is bored, but you can’t do that with people like me…”
It seems that Morrissey has always had a keen understanding of the state of the music industry, especially as it stands today. A world that was (at least once upon a time) filled with creative, dynamic, and unique voices seems ever increasingly stagnant.
It would appear that the music press and - even more depressingly - the record labels themselves are becoming warier of supporting artists who have something new, significant, or interesting to say — if it doesn’t toe the line following current trends, fashions or dominant popular opinions.
Today, the media is flooded with the idea of diversity. We are bombarded daily by a proclamation of a “new diverse world” — a world in which we (apparently) want to hear from a wide range of voices. Society hungers to shake things up by opening the doors to all, no longer a select few. We slap the “diversity” label upon everything in sight in the hope we can feel better about ourselves, hoping that we can pat ourselves on the back for breaking down racial, sexual, and gender barriers to hear all voices. No one must be disregarded; there is a place for all, the media screams — even in the entertainment field.
Yet it is evident that Morrissey has faced obstacle after obstacle and barrier after barrier throughout his career — for not blending in, for refusing to be “boxed” into stereotypes, for continually speaking uncomfortable truths in the face of backlash, and for tackling difficult issues through his art.
He has been continuously criticised and crucified in the press for being frank and outspoken. Seen in this light, it seems being “diverse” nowadays really means to conform — or face being rejected. “You can be diverse, but only this way, not that way,” the small print seems to say.
In reality, Morrissey has been about true diversity from the beginning, using his platform and art to express things his peers had not tackled. Yet this was not for an image or to pander to audiences or media. This was his truth; this was real.
In a world today which congratulates itself on being “woke” and more diverse than ever, it seems somewhat ironic that Morrissey has faced endless criticisms for living out what the press claims they love.
It was Morrissey who, in the 80s, was one of the first public figures to bring animal rights and the meat industry to the forefront; it was Morrissey who fought against gender stereotyping through his lyrical examination of gender and what it means to be a man. Even on the issue of standing up to bullies, Morrissey has been outspoken. In his book, Autobiography, he explored and expressed his hellish years at school at the hands of certain teachers and was comfortable with being honest about how bullying at school affected him.
He even went on to pen a song rumoured to be about these experiences: You Have Killed Me.
That Morrissey has been — and continues to be — an original voice in a bland world of pop puppets seems evident. Morrissey is art, and his art has been refreshing, original, and experimental from the outset, and this is obvious from the back catalogue of albums he has written and released. Yet he receives no mainstream media support (in fact, quite the opposite), suffers a constant lack of music promotion, and now a lack of a record label for his album Bonfire Of Teenagers.
To many, this screams a truth far more apparent and worrying: true diversity in art is dying, and it’s the easily moulded conformists, not the misfits and rebels, who are getting rewarded with huge deals, airplay, and label support. One only has to take a look at what makes up the top 40 charts to see that it’s the easily maintained, manufactured artists that are reaping the rewards, not the authentic artists who actually have something of worth to say.
It was in 2021 that Morrissey announced Bonfire Of Teenagers had been completed; in 2023, it has still not seen the light of day.
No label has signed and released new tracks from one of the biggest legends of the music world - for most people, this does not make sense. If the entertainment world was (as it claims to be) about truth, originality, and the value of art, then the album would have been released, reviewed, played, promoted, and enjoyed by his audience long ago.
Instead, this (as yet) unreleased Morrissey album reminds his fans that true diversity in the art world is dying, and we are the ones paying the price of its death.