In the world of modern music, you have your fans. You have your Stans. And then, beyond even that, you have people who are pretty much just one misstep away from a restraining order.
Horror stories about stalkers, trespassers and aggressive admirers are sadly nothing new in the history of music. But in the past few years, oddball behavior from fans seems to have reached a completely new level of nope, with the boundaries between artist and listener blurring more than ever before.
For instance, in the span of just a few months in 2023, artists like Drake, P!nk, Bebe Rexha and Kelsea Ballerini were either hit with items thrown at them — one of them sustaining moderate injuries as a result — or were gifted items that were way, way too personal. And before that, performers like Taylor Swift, Adam Levine and Billie Eilish were unexpectedly grabbed, tackled or kissed (absolutely not, folks!) by unruly fans right in the middle of a concert.
There are plenty of theories as to why these incidents have increased in recent years, with some arguing that in the social media age, constant access and visibility has encouraged inappropriate behavior. It’s also been said that two years (give or take) of isolation in the COVID-19 pandemic made people forget how to act when face-to face with their faves.
But whatever the reason, there’s absolutely no excuse for fans to turn celebrities into targets for airborne objects, unauthorized physical contact or unplanned stage sharing. For a list of what not to do when in the same space as a musician, see 10 examples of times people definitely crossed the line with artists below.
Bebe Rexha made headlines in June 2023 after a fan hurled his cell phone at her face, simply because he “thought it would be funny.” Spoiler alert: it wasn’t.
The singer ended up having to go to the hospital, suffering a gnarly combination of a cut and bruise around her eye. The 27-year-old thrower was taken into custody and charged with two counts of assault in the third degree, as well as one count of harassment in the second degree, one count of aggravated harassment in the second degree and a count of attempted assault in the third degree.
Friendly reminder: P!nk is a pop star, not a memorial site.
P!nk looked understandably confused and horrified when a fan presented her with a bag of human cremains, which the singer then confirmed were the ashes of the fan’s dead mother, in the middle of a BST Hyde Park performance in London. “I don’t know how I feel about this,” P!nk said nervously, before setting the bag down at the edge of the stage and walking away.
Even Drake couldn’t escape the phone-throwing epidemic of 2023. At a concert in Chicago, Drizzy was pelted with some hotline bling while in the middle of singing Ginuwine’s “So Anxious,” with the cell phone clipping his wrist before falling to the ground. Luckily, he wasn’t hit too hard, and the rapper seemed more annoyed than anything.
Still. Let’s not do that.
Taylor Swift has been in the game for years, so it’s safe to assume she has a lot of stories to tell about fans getting a little too close. But one of the scariest instances of this happened in front of tens of thousands of people during a stop on the 1989 tour in 2015, when a fan launched himself onstage and grabbed hold of her ankle.
Within seconds, the pop star’s security team tackled him and ushered him off the stage — but the blip was enough to leave Swift visibly shaken as she resumed singing “Bad Blood.”
Having once been a part of the hottest boy band in the world, Harry Styles is another superstar who has had his fair share of unfortunate fan experiences (never forget the time a fan sent him a possibly used sanitary pad as a gift).
But one onstage incident that sticks out went down in October 2022 during the pop star’s Love On Tour show in Chicago, when a fan pelted him with an object that hit him hard in the groin. As captured in fan videos, Styles briefly doubled over in pain before shaking off the interruption like a champ.
Billboard strongly opposes throwing things at musicians, period. But if you’re going to do it, at least aim a little higher.
Kelsea Ballerini was struck so hard in the face by a pelted bracelet during a 2023 concert that she had to stop playing for several moments before exiting the stage, gingerly hold her face.
“hi. i’m fine. someone threw a bracelet, it hit me in the eye, and it more so just scared me than hurt me,” she wrote on Instagram following the incident. “we all have triggers and layers of fears way deeper than what is shown, and that’s why i walked offstage to calm down and make sure myself, band and crew, and the crowd all felt safe.”
Sometimes, love hurts. Billie Eilish got a lot more than she bargained for while performing at Austin City Limits in 2019 when frenzied fans grabbed a hold of her and wouldn’t let go. One fan even inadvertently choked the star, and another actually stole her ring.
“I felt attacked, in a way,” Eilish afterward told Variety of the incident. “It sounds weird to say, because if you [go into the crowd] you’re gonna get that reaction, and that’s totally fine and I expect it. But today, jeez, somebody choked me, and they pulled my arms so hard that security was literally tugging me away. People were pulling my hair; somebody stole my ring; they were grabbing my chest and parts of me that, like, I don’t need people grabbing! Of course, they’re just excited. I get it. But I do still have to live with it, you know?”
Adam Levine has been notably grabbed mid-concert by stage crashers not once, but twice. In 2015, a female fan rushed the stage, hugged the Maroon 5 frontman from behind and planted a kiss on his terrified face before running away — all before a security guard could catch up to her to escort her off the premises.
Then, in 2021, Levine went viral again when a female fan jumped onstage and surprised him with an unauthorized hug on the shoulder. The “She Will Be Loved” singer angrily mouthed the word “F–k” before physically shaking off the encounter, looking disgusted as the fan was ushered away.
“I just need you guys to know, I was really startled,” he afterward said of the incident. “And sometimes when you’re startled you have to shake it off and move on.”
Steve Lacy fought fire with fire after he was hit in the stomach with a disposable camera a fan threw at him. The incident went down during a 2022 concert while he was singing his breakthrough Hot 100 No. 1, “Bad Habit.” “Don’t throw shit on my f–king stage, please!” he yelled at the October show, before confiscating the camera and throwing it hard at the ground.
“My shows been fun as hell! shoutout to the people not throwing disposable cameras at me and just coming to catch a vibe and connect,” he said in a statement after the show. “i hate that the beauty of the connection i have with so many people in the crowd-gets lost when something negative happens.”
“I don’t believe i owe anyone an apology- maybe i couldve reacted better? sure. always. i’m a student of life. but i’m a real person with real feelings and real reactions. i’m not a product or a robot. i am human.”
Selena Gomez straight up confronted a fan in Paris in 2015 after they allegedly stole the pop star’s sunglasses, holding them hostage with a ransom request for concert tickets. Spotting them in a horde of French Selenators looking to take pictures with her, Gomez first gave the perpetrator a truly bombastic side-eye before circling back to say: “It was very immature. You have to be kind.”