Former Smiths frontman Morrissey and his record label BMG have parted company, it was revealed today. The iconic and problematic lyrical agitator reacted angrily to the news, describing the development – in typically melodramatic terms – as “perfectly in keeping with the relentless galvanic horror of 2020.”
BMG had been Morrissey’s home for the last three years, covering a trio of studio albums: 2017’s Low In High School, 2019 covers compilation California Son, and this year’s I Am Not A Dog On A Chain. In a statement issued to Pitchfork today, BMG played down suggestions that they had ditched the singer, highlighting that he had in fact reached the end of a contractual agreement. They stated: “BMG has released three exceptional Top 10 albums from Morrissey over the past three years, including some of the best work of his career. That three album deal has now come to an end. We wish him well in the next chapter of his career.”
Morrissey took a starkly different view of the split in a statement released via Morrissey Central, which is accompanied by a cartoon likening the controversial star to Joan of Arc on a burning pyre (a reference to the lyrics of The Smiths’ standard Bigmouth Strikes Again). He says: “My three albums with BMG have been the best of my career, and I stand by them till death. Recording them has been a pivotal period in my life, and I thank the previous BMG team and everyone involved for that. It’s still important to me to do music my own way, and I wouldn’t want to be on a label that dictates so specifically how their artists should behave – especially when the word ‘talent’ is notably never mentioned.”
Morrissey’s comments on the website are preceded by a precursory note which states: “The BMG Executive has announced new plans for ‘diversity’ within BMG’s artist roster, and all projected BMG Morrissey releases/reissues have been scrapped.” The not-so-thinly-veiled barbs at the label continue with the resourcing of a quote from BMG UK President Alistair Norbury which reads: “There are too many cases of successful artists languishing at labels who are no longer interested in them.”
Just yesterday Morrissey had been promoting the upcoming a double A-side single release of his 1991 duet with David Bowie on T-Rex track Cosmic Dancer. The collaboration with Bowie will be accompanied by a new rendition of The Jam’s 1981 classic That’s Entertainment.
WATCH: Morrissey and @DavidBowieReal perform ‘Cosmic Dancer’ live in Los Angeles
Pre-Order 7-inch double A-side single: https://t.co/GPvCjltYJW
Watch here: https://t.co/9q5pA7cGvc
— Morrissey (@officialmoz) November 16, 2020
Morrissey’s criticism of BMG for their alleged control over artists’ behaviour seems to allude directly to public dissatisfaction with the Lancastrian vocalist’s conduct of late. ‘Moz’ has courted controversy throughout a hugely-successful career spanning four decades, but a darker cloud has hovered over his famous contrarian streak over recent years; particularly in light of the singer’s increasingly erratic utterances on race and immigration.
The Mancunian’s public declarations of support for extreme right-wing For Britain party from 2017 onwards – including wearing the party’s label badge on American talk show appearances – drew criticism from lifelong fans, with some record shops refusing to stock California Son in protest. His attempts to address the controversy only added fuel to the flames; particularly his incendiary comment quoted in The Independent that “everyone ultimately prefers their own race.”
Whether Morrissey can recoup a record deal is one question. Whether the man who gave the world so many classic records (from Meat Is Murder and The Queen Is Dead to Viva Hate, Vauxhall and I and You Are The Quarry) can do anything to regain his mortally-blemished reputation is quite another. The singer is due to undertake a five-show residency at Las Vegas’ legendary Caesar’s Palace next September.