From Britney Spears sporting a shaved head to Kanye West’s mental breakdowns on the web, the headlines regularly keep space for overworked musicians.
Doja Cat is just the most recent example of a musician going public with their burnout. Before now, she seemed invincible: her moves have been impossible to predict, bobbing and weaving from viral hit to viral hit, wearing bizarre outfits, and feeding goofy one-liners to her TikTok followers.
Her weirdness and her undeniable musical talent have proved hypnotic to fans. But even though she’s made a career out of toeing the line between conventional American beauty and weird sexy alien, with a recent Instagram live, some were concerned for her wellbeing.
A couple of weeks ago, with hundreds of fans watching, a gleeful Doja Cat shaved her head and eyebrows, joking that she “was never meant to have hair.” The Internet responded to this move with an eerie echo of the discourse surrounding Britney Spears shaving her head in 2007.
A mix of support and disgust poured onto Doja’s social media: some complimented her new look, and some called it ugly. Others suggested that we shouldn’t focus on her appearance and look into her mental state instead.
But there’s no need to speculate considering Doja has already addressed the state of her mental health in a series of now-deleted Tweets. “I’m just tired, and I don’t want to do anything,” she said. “I’m not happy. I’m done saying yes to motherfuckers cuz I can’t even have a week to just chill. I’m never not working. I’m fucking tired.”
Instead of pinning it on managers, a label, or the industry, she blamed the overworking on herself. “I just keep agreeing to shit I don’t wanna do in the future,” she said. “It’s my own dumb ass fault, and then I’m too tired to put any effort into this shit cuz I’m so run down from everything else.”
High expectations from labels mixed with overworked musicians is a recipe for burnout. But musicians rarely talk about it. They want to avoid damaging their brand or backlash: much of the public has no sympathy for the struggles of the rich and famous.
In some people’s eyes, the preconditions to fame are signing away free time and privacy in exchange for riches and popularity. But there are always exceptions.
Looking deeper into Doja Cat’s situation, she signed a joint contract with RCA Records and Kemosabe Records when she was only 17.
Regardless of how an artist came into the spotlight, fans might feel guilty for enjoying their work when they mention their unhappiness or feelings of stress.
So, what can we do about these concerns around our favorite overworked musicians? As fans, there are some ways that we can help support.
1. Don’t engage with rumors.
This is a simple request since it doesn’t require any action on your part. Some well-meaning fans will pick through interview footage, paparazzi shots, and social media posts, looking for clues about their favorite musician’s mental health.
Try to avoid doing this. Even public figures who’ve chosen the spotlight deserve to have their health remain private and not used as a subject for debate.
If they choose to go public about their mental health to raise awareness or to connect with fans, that’s a different story. But until then, stop coming to conclusions based on what little information has been revealed to the public.
You will never know the whole story; these rumors often hurt more than they help.
2. Boost positivity on social media
If your favorite artists post something concerning, try to offer positivity instead of trying to diagnose or interrogate them.
Not like this…
Unfortunately, fans cannot offer the kind of support that a close friend or family might be able to, but reminding the musician that their work is valued and appreciated can help combat feelings of burnout and remind them why they love making music in the first place.
3. Continue to support their music
This step applies more to independent artists or smaller, upcoming artists who might be balancing their music career between another job to pay the bills.
Streaming platforms garner the most listeners but pay peanuts to the artists, who might find it difficult to continue producing art under these conditions.
Try buying their songs on Bandcamp, buying their merch, or, best of all, buying tickets to see their live shows.
Money can’t buy happiness, but for these smaller artists, some financial support from fans can go a long way in lifting their music career to new heights, allowing these artists to focus on creating what they love.
4. Give music artists breathing room in digital and physical spaces
We’ve all seen it before: pop stars flanked by black-suited bodyguards, who have to fend back the pressing mobs of fans trying to touch their favorite musician.
The same thing happens online when die-hard fans overanalyze every action of their favorite overworked musicians, everything they say, every picture they post.
This hyper-visibility reminds musicians they’re always in the public eye and can never slip up unless they want to be Twitter’s punching bag of the week.
Giving celebrities, especially overworked artists, a little breathing room would be healthy for both parties. The stars can reclaim a bit of privacy, and the fans will remember that musicians are just people, not gods.
5. Overworked musicians are human too
Imagine something embarrassing you’ve done. Whether you like it or not, I’m sure these moments resurface occasionally. Everyone has slip-ups and bad hair days, moments they regret, and things they wish they hadn’t said.
But for someone in the public eye, these mistakes are discussed by the entire country. Embarrassing moments become permanent, humiliating on an unimaginable scale, and often career-ruining.
Instead of using a musician’s slip-ups to rip them apart, try to exercise some empathy in this regard. If you disagree with them or their actions, it’s much easier to quietly stop supporting them.
Don’t add to the stressful day of an overworked musician, artist, or celebrity.