How Musicians Are Helping Fuel the Resistance In 2017

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
Madonna performs during the Women's March on Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington, DC.

2017 was supposed to be a 2016 palette cleanser, yet the national Starbucks order of choice remains a Venti Latte with an Extra Vodka Shot and Crushed Xanax Drizzle (sipped or chugged while listening to The Twilight Zone theme.) From executive disorders to alternative facts and SNL impressions to Russian shenanigans, we are having a year. Even awards season induced breathing into a paper bag, from Queen Bee and her in–utero entourage causing an internet meltdown or La La Land Moonlight winning best picture. But one of the (quite literally) most vocal groups in these divisive times has become the music world. So, here’s a mini-State of the Union and recap on this brewing musical resistance…

Hillary Clinton had a starry Rolodex of endorsements, which culminated in a Jay Z and Beyonce headlined rally in the election’s final days. Donald Trump had the star of Duck Dynasty and Scott Baio. For what it’s worth, it’s been averred that celebrity endorsements may have actually hurt her with some voters. One of the reasons being that while endorsements revved up people already voting for Clinton, it actually highlighted the perceived chasm between “us and them” by those feeling forgotten and disenfranchised by “the liberal coastal elite.” Regardless, while the election will be autopsied by experts for generations to come, and what went wrong was likely a combination of myriad factors, the music world is fighting back. 

Trump supposedly had talent booking issues for his Jan. 20 inauguration. Those who allegedly declined to perform include Celine Dion, Garth BrooksAndrea Bocelli, and others. But in a more local burn, for the first time in five inaugurations, no D.C. public school marching band performed in the inaugural parade. (That’s actually a pretty big deal for Washingtonians.) However, one day later, the Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches around the world saw an impressive musical turnout among the masses: Cher, Alicia Keys, The Edge, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Lin-Manuel Miranda, John Legend, Miley Cyrus, and Halsey are just a handful of musicians who showed up. Madonna was a featured speaker, and never one for being a wallflower delivered a controversial speech where she said she’d thought about “blowing up the White House.” (She later backpedalled on Instagram saying she does not promote violence.) Madge, Madge, Madge…

Awards season -- Blue Ivy sightings and EnvelopeGate aside -- was dominated by politics. At the Grammys it was “ready, set, resist” from minute one. Highlights included Katy Perry performing her vaguely political new single “Chained to the Rhythm.” Perry sported a white pantsuit in a Clinton nod, with a sparkly armband labeled #Persist, a bedazzled tribute to Elizabeth Warren post-Mitch McConnell sturm und drang.

Then there was a not-so-subtle appearance from A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, and Anderson. Paak. Their fiery performance saw Busta Rhymes thank “President Agent Orange” for “perpetuating evil,” slam the Muslim ban, and ended with Q-Tip leading a rousing chant of “Resist!” On a less electrified but still eloquent note, Neil Portnow, President of the Recording Academy, did a heart-strings pulling “America the Beautiful” homage and quoted John F. Kennedy who said, “The life of the arts is very close to the center of a nation’s purpose and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.” #Preach. 

When not marching or performing, and endorsements aside, musicians have also figured out how to harness two of their most effective assets to protest the administration’s policies: their deep bank accounts and social media platforms. In the days after the election, Katy Perry (basically the resistance’s mascot) announced a $10,000 donation to Planned Parenthood in an Instagram post and urged her fans to do the same. And they did. In response to the travel ban Sia promised to match up to $100,000 in donations from her Twitter followers to the ACLU, a move that inspired Rosie O’Donnell and Judd Apatow to do the same. Jack Antonoff said he’d match up to $20,000 for the ACLU. Grimes said she'd do the same for the Council on American-Islamic Relations for $10,000. While he didn’t specify the amount, John Legend tweeted that he had donated to the International Rescue Committee and urged his followers to do the same. And they did. It’s a social media M.O. likely to become a recurring theme….

Then March 8 marked International Women’s Day -- which has taken on a political vibe this year -- and a simultaneous Day Without Women strike, spearheaded by the March on Washington organizers. Musicians who tweeted support for either the day or the strike (or both) included Adele, Alicia Keys, Pharrell Williams, Yoko Ono, Christina Perri, Josh Groban, and an emoji-friendly Madonna, among many others.

What’s next for this musical movement that keeps gaining steam? We’ll see, but as the world contemplates whether DJ Trump is working on a mashup of “The Internationale” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” he would do well to keep an oldie but goodie in mind: “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Miserables. Cause they be singing. And tweeting. #Kanye2020.