In 2016, there has been quite a bit of buzz surrounding fake news and conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories have found their way into presidential debates, onto the Twitter of our president-elect, and onto cable news. These misleading and destructive conspiracy theories have overshadowed their much more innocent, and much more fun, variety: the pop culture conspiracy theory. Pop culture icons, and musicians more specifically, have always been the targets of outrageous conspiracy theories, including ones that purported that Paul McCartney died in 1966 and was replaced by an imposter or that Tupac is still alive in Cuba, but 2016 took the cake with both the sheer volume of musical conspiracy theories, and the breadth of what they claimed. Here is just a sample of some of the most ridiculous, and outrageous conspiracy theories of 2016.
1. Beyonce Kidnapped Sia
This conspiracy theory about Beyonce began on Brazilian social media
, in the same social media circles that came up with a conspiracy theory that Avril Lavigne was replaced by an imposter in 2011. Beyonce has also been no stranger to conspiracy theories, including one in 2012 that claimed she had faked her pregnancy and was using a surrogate mother for her child. This newest conspiracy theory purports that Beyonce had kidnapped artist and songwriter Sia to make music for her. The theory seems to have been sparked by an interview in 2015 where Sia explains to interviewers that working on Beyonce's music is like being in a 'writers camp'. This somehow was interpreted to mean that she was a captive of Beyonce's, and since then believers in this theory have used obscure tweets from Sia to prove their case. Quickly, the theory devolved into self-parody, with a bunch of humorous tweets and videos recognizing the absurdity of the idea.
2. HiddleSwift Was Fake
At a certain level of fame, every action by a person becomes so covered and analyzed, that conspiracy theories are bound to pop up. This is especially true of Taylor Swift
who, after the incidents regarding Kanye West
and his lyrics in the song "Famous", has been painted as a liar and manipulator by many who buy into Kanye's version of events. This general distrust of Taylor morphed into a conspiracy theory by pop fans that Beyonce
. This theory was based on the idea that both had work to promote, with Taylor releasing new music and Tom's upcoming movie, as well as other factors. One such factor was how the two celebrities were being followed by the same paparazzi organization and that their pictures together seemed staged. This was compounded by an idea that many of their photos together seemed like recreations of past relationships, from the fact that Taylor had reversed her look back to older styles, to how many of the photos and locations were the same as previous relationships. All of this is pretty obviously coincidental, but it didn't stop fans and pop culture aficionados from believing wholeheartedly that the whole thing was a performance art piece. The fact that the two broke up without any such art piece being commented on seems to indicate that this was entirely in the minds of the theorists, but that shouldn't dissuade them in any way.
3. The Weeknd is a Satanist
The charge of musicians being Satanists isn't new, dating back at least to the 60s and 70s where songs from artists like The Beatles, Electric Light Orchestra, and Led Zeppelin were accused of including occult messages in their music, only revealed when the record was played in reverse. This conspiracy theory continued with the accusations by many rap fans that some of the largest artists in Hip Hop were involved in occult and Satanic practices as part of the Illuminati organization. The latest artist to have these charges leveled at him is dark R&B singer The Weeknd
. The Weeknd's dark aesthetic easily lends itself to sinister interpretations of his music, and his high popularity makes him a clear target. Conspiracy theorists took up this accusation mainly after his "Starboy" music video, one littered with Christian symbols and allusions both in the video and in the lyrics of the song. Rather than simply understanding that he is referring to the dichotomy between his Christian values and his hedonistic lifestyle, they instead interpret his braggadocio regarding the gains of his sinful life as his explaining the benefits of this hedonistic, in their mind Satanic, lifestyle. The Christian imagery is then not interpreted as representing the struggle to do good, but as the rejection of Christian doctrine and embrace of Satanism, which they see as ruling the entertainment industry. They then use this framework to say that his previous music and videos, which contain the same imagery, all are repeating this Satanic message.
4. Gucci Mane is Cloned by the Government
When Gucci Mane, Atlanta rapper who's been active in the rap game since 2005, returned from his three year prison sentence, resulting from a gun charge, he surprised fans with his transformation. The Gucci that was locked away in 2013 was overweight, addicted to lean (promethazine and codeine cough syrup), and had just came off a Twitter rant where he insulted some of his closest friends and associates, burning bridges with many artists and industry fixtures. When the new Gucci Mane emerged, in shape, eating healthy, off drugs and alcohol, and generally more coherent and eloquent than most of his fans had ever seen him, his fans were shocked. It didn't take long for people to claim that he had been replaced in prison by a government clone, designed to promote more 'wholesome' values
. Believers in the conspiracy took his drastic change in appearance and demeanor, as well as the belief that he no longer had his signature ice cream cone face tattoo (resulting from some photos that did not clearly feature the tattoo), as proof that the Gucci we were seeing now was not the real one, but a fake. This conspiracy took on an enormous life, even receiving coverage in mainstream news outlets, and was chided on by joking responses from Gucci himself. The result was an increased exposure for Gucci and has elevated him to greater fame, showing that a well manipulated conspiracy theory can benefit an artist. Within a few months Gucci released Everybody Looking,
quashing any rumors that he was not the true Gucci with a quality album.