CMA Awards 2018
Beyonce, Jay Z, Katy & More: How Music Shaped the 2016 Election
Katy and Madonna got naked. Hillary whipped and nae naed. A slew of classic rockers dumped on Trump. Saying this election cycle was anything but absurd would be... "WRONG!"
This campaign season has been a doozy, and it's seen no shortage of star power. Whether musicians have performed at benefit concerts, given endorsements (and taken them back — we see you, Britney!) or chimed in on political scandals, they've undoubtedly helped shape this election cycle. Here's a look at the past year and a half in music à la politics.
June 16, 2015: Donald Trump used Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” in his candidacy announcement. Neil Young’s camp released a statement saying that Trump was not authorized to use the song and that Young was a Bernie Sanders supporter.
Aug. 16, 2015: A commercial for the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton that immediately followed the GOP debate discussion on racial issues ran twice as long as the 30-second political conversation about police brutality.
Sept. 10, 2015: Clinton appeared on the premiere of Ellen, where she responded to Kanye West’s VMA speech, in which he announced a possible presidential bid for 2020: “I would only ask him, if I’m running for reelection, to wait.” On the episode, she learned to whip and nae nae (dance moves from Silentó's viral hit "Watch Me") and took pictures alongside host Ellen DeGeneres, and fellow guests Pink and Amy Schumer.
Sept. 15, 2015: R.E.M.’s bassist Mike Mills took to Twitter, asking “power-hungry little men” not to use their music after the Trump campaign played “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” during a rally.
Oct. 11, 2015: After attending the August GOP debate as a guest of Trump, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler demanded the candidate stop using “Dream On” at campaign events with a cease and desist letter.
Oct. 13, 2015: In an interview with DJ Whoo Kid, T.I. said he couldn’t vote for a female president: "Not to be sexist, but I can’t vote for the leader of the free world to be a woman.” The rapper apologized, but not without being burnt by talk show legend Oprah: “Honey child, hush your mouth. You don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.”
Nov. 5, 2015: Christina Aguilera hosted a Clinton fundraiser in Los Angeles, raising more than $1 million for the campaign. Guests included Katie Holmes, Linda Perry and Muse frontman Matthew Bellamy. The event featured performances by A Great Big World, Patrick Joseph and a duet between Aguilera and Perry.
Nov. 6, 2015: Prior to their appearances on SNL, Sia tweeted a photo with Trump and cast member Kate McKinnon, with a caption saying she was trying to give Trump a “taste of life as a queer immigrant.”
Dec. 3, 2015: Hillary Clinton penned an essay for Billboard’s Women In Music issue, paying tribute to the honorees, including Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey, Missy Elliott, Fifth Harmony and Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes.
Dec. 3, 2015: In a profile for Billboard’s Women In Music, Loretta Lynn predicted that Trump would win the 2016 election: “I think Donald Trump is going to be our next president.” In a January interview with Reuters, she said she had been stumping for him at the end of her shows to cheers.
Dec. 15, 2015: Run The Jewels rapper Killer Mike sat down with Bernie Sanders in his Atlanta barbershop for a six-part interview.
Jan. 28, 2016: Mike Huckabee released a parody of Adele’s “Hello” music video, addressing voters in Iowa. A few days later, the singer’s team provided a statement to Billboard that she has not given permission for her music to be used for any political campaigning.
Feb. 1, 2016: Kid Rock talked Trump in an interview with Rolling Stone: “My feeling: let the motherf---ing business guy run it like a f---ing business. And his campaign has been entertaining as shit.”
Feb. 18, 2016: Britney Spears posed for pictures with Hillary Clinton and shared them on Instagram. She called the politician “such an inspiration and beautiful voice for women around the world,” but edited the post to remove her endorsement hashtag #ImWithHer.
March 3, 2016: Elton John, Katy Perry and Andra Day joined forces for a sold-out Clinton fundraiser concert at Radio City Music Hall. "When this performance came up, it was kind of like a no-brainer for me to jump onboard and be a part of it," Day said.
April 18, 2016: YG and Nipsey Hussle released the anti-Trump anthem “FDT (F--- Donald Trump).” After the track went viral, rappers Macklemore and G-Eazy added their verses in a remix released in August.
April 21, 2016: Clinton released a statement mourning the loss of Prince: “You think of him as being almost eternal. I mean he was a bigger-than-life personality. He was not only a songwriter and a singer but literally a one-man band. He was such a great showman. I just was so, so sad. And I just want everybody to spend some time reflecting on this American original. He was so extraordinary.”
June 8, 2016: After clinching the final round of Republican primaries, Trump walked onstage to Queen’s “We Are the Champions” for his victory speech. Guitarist Brian May responded sternly: “I will make sure we take what steps we can to dissociate ourselves from Donald Trump’s unsavoury campaign.” The song was later used at the RNC while Trump and his wife, Melania, walked onstage before her infamous speech.
July 21, 2016: Trump was officially named the Republican party’s nominee at the RNC convention. After his 76-minute acceptance speech, the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” played. The Stones took to Twitter to protest Trump’s use of their song.
July 21, 2016: George Harrison’s estate also denounced Trump for playing the Beatles' “Here Comes the Sun” during Ivanka Trump’s introduction at the convention.
July 24, 2016: On an episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver took on the issue of politicians appropriating pop songs without permission. To liven up his point, Oliver gathered a group of artists including Usher, Sheryl Crow and Josh Groban, among others, to sing "Don't Use Our Song" — a protest anthem in the style of "We Are the World."
July 25, 2016: The 2016 Democratic National Convention kicked off and featured a number of musical performances throughout the week. Alicia Keys, Paul Simon, Lenny Kravitz, Boyz II Men and Katy Perry all lent their talent to the event. Before singing her hit “Confident,” pop starlet Demi Lovato gave a speech to raise awareness about mental health. Other artists, including Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga, Fergie, Cyndi Lauper and Idina Menzel, performed at events that surrounded the convention.
July 26, 2016: On the second day of the DNC, director and star of Pitch Perfect 2 Elizabeth Banks introduced a star-studded, a capella rendition of Rachel Platten's "Fight Song." The mix of stars was eclectic and included Mandy Moore, Kristin Chenoweth, Connie Britton and Sia.
July 31, 2016: Inspired by Cher’s daily tweets against Trump, designer Anna Niess launched the “I’m With Cher” campaign (a play on Clinton’s “I’m With Her” slogan). The designer created posters, buttons and bumper stickers using some of the legend’s greatest “down with Trump” tweets.
Aug. 27, 2016: Katy Perry got arrested for attempting to vote in the nude in a Funny or Die video encouraging fans to get to the polls on Nov 8. The next day, Madonna posted her own politically motivated nudes, with a pro-Clinton message: "Living for Hillary. Yes I vote for intelligence. I vote for equal rights for women and all minorities."
Sept. 27, 2016: After Trump accused Clinton of having no stamina at the first presidential debate, Sia released a clip of her song "The Greatest." The song repeats the lyrics "I've got stamina" several times and was mashed up with videos of Clinton.
Sept. 30, 2016: An episode of The 411 With Mary J. Blige premiered, featuring the soul singer interviewing Clinton and singing her a song about police brutality.
Oct. 8, 2016: SNL host Lin Manuel Miranda dissed Trump during a reworked version of Hamilton’s “My Shot” during his opening monologue.
Oct. 10, 2016: On an episode of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, political pundit Betsy McCaughey claimed Clinton was hypocritical for criticizing Trump's "locker room talk" because of her admiration for Beyoncé: "Hillary Clinton expresses that she finds the language on that bus 'horrific,' but in fact, she likes language like this: 'I came to slay, bitch. When he f---ed me good I take his ass to Red Lobster.' The lyrics McCaughey sited were from Beyoncé's feminist anthem "Formation."
Oct. 13, 2016: Lady Gaga tweeted support of the women coming forward with sexual abuse allegations against Trump and encouraged fans to check out the hashtag #WhyWomenDontReport.
Oct. 17, 2016: Nicki Minaj praised President Barack Obama and Bill Clinton during the Tidal X concert for knowing they needed a strong woman to get them to the White House. “You better pray to God you don’t get stuck with a motherf---ing Melania.”
Oct. 22, 2016: Miley Cyrus visited George Mason University students in their dorms in an effort to encourage them to vote for Clinton. Students at University of Nevada, Las Vegas got a similar surprise visit from Katy Perry.
Oct. 26, 2016: Justin Timberlake promoted early voting by posting a photo of himself in the voting booth to Instagram. Unfortunately, a new Tennessee law prohibits taking photos inside voting booths. The crime is a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $50 fine. Luckily, Timberlake is in the clear: a statement from the Shelby County district attorney general said, “No one in our office is currently investigating this matter nor will we be using our limited resources to do so.”
Oct. 26, 2016: Clinton attended Adele’s concert for her 69th birthday and received an unexpected endorsement from the songstress: “I am 100 percent for Hillary Clinton. I love her; she’s amazing.”
Oct. 28, 2016: Hamilton star Leslie Odom, Jr. lent his voice to the Sara Bareilles penned “Seriously” on the radio program This American Life. The song is from President Barack Obama’s point of view and what he might be thinking about the upcoming election.
Oct. 29, 2016: Despite lousy weather, Jennifer Lopez headlined a free concert in Miami's Bayfront Park in support of Clinton. The show also featured Cuban duo Gente de Zona, a surprise appearance from Marc Anthony and clips of political speeches from Clinton, Barack and Michelle Obama and John F. Kennedy addressing the Latino community and women's rights.
Nov. 2, 2016: Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley kept it topical during their hosting duties of the Country Music Awards. Throughout the award show, the pair made several light-hearted allusions to candidates, poking fun at Clinton's 'basket of deplorables' comments and Trump's tirades about the election being rigged.
Nov. 4, 2016: Jay Z organized a free concert in Cleveland, Ohio, in support of the Democratic candidate. He brought along his Big Sean, Chance the Rapper, J.Cole and, the biggest draw, his wife Beyoncé, who brought her own bevy of dancers sporting Clinton-inspired pantsuits. During her set, the Lemonade superstar proclaimed, "Look how far we've come from having no voice to being on the brink of making history by electing the first woman president. But we have to vote." Clinton appeared onstage as well in a final effort to rally voters just days before the election.