Preaching Politics: The Music Industry as a Platform to Make a Political Statement

20th January 2017. It was an abysmal day for all as we witnessed the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States.

Obviously we needed something to lessen the pain. Some music perhaps? Seems like a plausible solution, but finding the perfect soundtrack proved to be somewhat difficult.

Traditionally, performing at an inauguration is a great honour for the performers. But this year was different. With A-listers refusing to perform at Trumps’s inauguration left right and center, it raises the question as to what extent does the music industry play in making a political statement.

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The music industry has long since been intertwined with politics. There are endless examples of songs that lyrically hold political meaning, a personal favorite of mine being We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel. As well as being a great song, the lyrics are thought provoking in that they list historical personalities and events from 1949 until 1989. The music industry is a perfect way to assert a political message.

Celebs that refused to be associated with Trump

Beyoncé

She played a prominent role in the inauguration of President Barack Obama, not only performing the National Anthem at the inauguration itself but Beyoncé also serenaded Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama in their first dance at the Leodoff Neighborhood Inaugural Ball in Washington. But at Trumps Inauguration she was of course nowhere to be seen.

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This is not the first time Queen Bey has used her performances (or lack of) to make a serious political statement. Remember her explosive performance at the 2016 Superbowl? It was a direct reference to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Within the aesthetics of the performance it is hard to miss the statement the superstar wanted to make, with the performance carrying symbolic meaning that alludes to the core values held by the movement. The dancers formed an “X” on the pitch in reference to Malcom X who was assassinated in 1965. Beyoncé therefore used her access to powerful platforms to highlight the heightened racial tensions in the United States, her music ultimately acting as a way to assert an important political message.

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Rebecca Ferguson

Much like Beyoncé, the British singer made a political stance in her response to the invitation to perform, stating that she would happily sing at the ceremony if she could perform a civil rights protest song Strange Fruit, which has reportedly been banned in the United States due to being too controversial. Interestingly, Rebecca did not perform at the inauguration…

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Charlotte Church

The Welsh singer made it very clear what she thought of the invitation to sing at the inauguration in a blunt tweet in response…

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Elton John

Initially thought to exemplify Trump’s “pro-gay-rights stance” (really?!), Elton John was rumoured to be the headlining act. However all association between the unlikely pair was quickly diminished when Elton John’s publicist released a statement stating; “Incorrect. He will NOT be performing.” Nice try Trump.

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Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The list goes on. Embarrassing for Trump that the only performers attending his inauguration, the most important day of his political career, were 3 Doors Down and Jackie Evancho. I don’t know about you but I’ve never even heard of them.

So essentially celebs are using their status and power within the music industry to make a political statement that will undoubtedly reach a vast audience. Evidently, the music industry holds extensive power in creating political debate that will inevitably influence fans to engage in politics.

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