Music Is My Oxygen: Godsmack

Aaahhhhhh, Sully.

For a very, very, long time, Godsmack was a one-hit-wonder band for me. That hit was Voodoo, which was released in 1999, and was absolutely everywhere for months. It got constant radio play, could be heard booming out of bars and university dorm rooms in equal measure, and became a standard part of muzak rotations in malls everywhere. Most days, you couldn’t even walk across a parking lot without hearing it blaring out of a car stereo.

Personally, I’ve always found the song sexy as hell. The beat, the bass, and Sully Erna’s vocals all combine to make me go a bit wobbly at the knees. If I was ever to put together a Music To Fuck To playlist, Voodoo would definitely be on it, and I’m certain it’s at the root of the crush I’ve had on Sully for some time now.

All that being said, I’m not what I’d consider to be a big Godsmack fan. For years, I was sort of aware of them on the periphery of things. I kind of remember hearing other songs of theirs on the radio, back in the days when I still listened to radio. A friend loaned me their acoustic album, The Other Side, and I enjoyed it. I liked their song, I Stand Alone, which appeared on the soundtrack for The Scorpion King movie, well enough to check out the music video in the DVD special features.

But outside of Voodoo, they were never much more than background music to me.

And then I saw them live.

They put on a fantastic show, much of which is down to Sully. He’s got a great stage presence with intensity to spare, and is among the best I’ve seen at engaging the audience. Plus he’s got the cutest smile. He’s one of those people who smiles with their whole face – all dimples and puffy cheeks and squinty eyes. By the end of the show, my little crush had bloomed into a much bigger one.

If it had all stopped there, everything would have been fine. But in these days of social media, I started following the band on Facebook. (One of the primary reasons I even have a Facebook profile is to follow bands. It’s a great way to find out about tours and album releases in one central location.) And some time later, the band page linked to Sully’s own page, which I, all awash with fangirly glee, also followed.

Y’know how they say you shouldn’t meet your heroes? Well, first let’s firmly establish that Sully is not my hero. He’s an artist whose work I enjoy, and I have some fun being silly about thinking he’s cute. But the principle behind the old adage still applies to this experience, as the more I saw of Sully’s posts, the more I realized he buys into all kinds of woo and conspiracy theories. And when all he was doing was sharing documentaries about UFOs and other paranormal stuff, it didn’t bother me. I am, after all, only paying him to entertain me, and if he wants to believe in UFOs on the side, it’s no skin off my nose.

But then he got into pandemic denial.

UFOs don’t matter. The pandemic, on the other hand? Saying that COVID, “is not a global killer,” insisting that the vaccine was held back until Biden became president – as it turns out (surprise, surprise) that Sully’s also a Trump supporter – and claiming the number of COVID-related deaths has been inflated? Well, that does matter.

Which leads to a conundrum that many people are facing in this day and age, when our entertainers are no longer just abstract, mostly unknowable, figures on a stage or screen, but real people whose flaws are on ready display through social media, just like the rest of us: At what point do those flaws become too much to continue supporting their art?

That’s a question everybody has to answer for themselves. I get the people who say the art is completely separate from the artist, that all that matters is the product, not the producer, and continue to enjoy those things as they always have. I also get the people whose sense of betrayal is so strong that they can no longer enjoy that song or book or movie they used to love when they find out the artist that created it has said or done something they find objectionable.

Myself, I tend to take a more middle-ground approach. It’s important to me to live an ethical life. But it’s also important to me that I not punish myself for things that have had meaning to me simply because the context has now changed.

So I’m not going to disavow Godsmack. It’s too much a part of my personal history. Voodoo‘s been giving me the whim-wham’s for over 20 years. The first time I ever moshed was at a Godsmack show. The only time that Ron’s ever hoisted me onto his shoulders was at a Godsmack show. And wearing the panties with “Smack This” printed across the ass in the band font brings me too much giggly joy to stop.

Plus, for whatever reason, I’ve always managed to get way better concert pics of Sully than I do of any other singer, and there’s no way I’m deleting those captured moments.

What it does mean, though, is that I won’t be building any new memories with the band. I’ve unfollowed both Sully and Godsmack on social media. I won’t be buying any new albums. Their t-shirts have migrated to the Working Around the House section of the dresser. And I highly doubt I’ll ever see them perform live again.

I say “highly doubt” because Godsmack often tours with co-headliners, and I won’t pass up the opportunity to see a band on my bucket list just because Godsmack is the other half of the bill. What I will do, however, is sink my entire merchandise budget into the band that I’m really there to see.

Because the merch table is, after all, where bands make their money. And, much as people might romanticize art, it is, at its core, a transaction – one that I can choose to pay into.

Or not.

To read more posts in the “Music Is My Oxygen” series, click here.

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