Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Billboard Philippines.

My guilty pleasure is Hale’s “Blue Sky.”

Ostensibly, there’s nothing wrong with the song. The music is far from generic while the lyrics are by no means problematic. So, what is there to be guilty about? Only that the alternative rock band was canceled at the height of the 2022 Philippine Presidential Election for being first-time performers at a campaign rally.

Merriam-Webster explains how “canceling and cancel culture have to do with the removing of support for public figures in response to their objectionable behavior or opinions. This can include boycotts or refusal to promote their work.”

Listening to Hale’s music sometimes meant “social suicide” during the campaign period and especially after the election results. Even a year later, it still feels awkward to acknowledge their presence on my playlists.

My go-to podcast publicly ridiculed the band, while friends and strangers alike mobbed them on social media. They weren’t alone either; another act that was canceled for similar reasons included Silent Sanctuary.

None of the controversy, however, stopped me from listening to “Blue Sky.” For obvious reasons, the song reminded me of the poem “Isang Dipang Langit” by Amado V. Hernandez. The image of that blue sky kept me looking up when I was too downtrodden by the crushing weight of life’s struggles. Those with chronic illness are all too familiar with this feeling of despair. The only way out is to find hope, a means of coping with one’s struggles by having faith in the future. Things will look up eventually, as there’s a blue sky waiting tomorrow.

Artists have a social responsibility to uphold on top of all their other considerations, but it’s also worth noting that cancel culture in itself is a double-edged sword. Thanks to its existence, society was able to familiarize a range of problematic behaviors that are definitely valid.

The problem is how a broad demographic of social media users suddenly assumed the role of judge, jury, and executioner, deciding who they want to demonize today. This means anyone, regardless of actual qualification — can legislate, execute, and enforce the rules of cancel culture.

One band that was canceled for “homophobic actions,” which also resulted in the literal cancellation of their performance, was later welcomed back by a relatively forgetful public pending any genuine apology.

At risk of my own reputation within my social circles, I still listen to songs by canceled music artists as long as they offer me the courage to face life. I still know when to draw the line. I am just keenly aware that removing someone’s platform needs to warrant bigger justification when it’s not a matter of life and death.