Musicians And The US Election

I think it’s safe to say that a significant number of us, in the US and abroad, are terrified of what will happen if Donald Trump wins the upcoming election and so a vast number of public figures are becoming more politically vocal than they ever have before, at least as far as I can tell. People from all kinds of professions are speaking out and sharing their views, sharing information, and encouraging people to vote. And for what feels like the first time, there’s a lot less of the ‘vote according to your beliefs’ and a hell of a lot more ‘vote Biden because voting for Trump will cause irrevocable damage, including the deaths of thousands of people.’ Personally, I’m grateful for that. It’s one thing to tell people to vote for the party they believe in when the parties just prioritise different aspects of society, it’s another when people’s lives, their families, their very homes and livelihoods are at stake. This isn’t about priorities; this is about turning a blind eye to greed and corruption or putting people’s lives above all else. Because that’s what this will come down to. Donald Trump does not care for the American people and that will affect everyone in America, regardless of whether you voted Democrat or Republican.

I accidentally went off on a bit of an emotional tangent there. What I really wanted to talk about are some of the people making political statements and taking political action and how they’re going about it, specifically musicians…


Sara Bareilles – While Sara has never shied away from posting about politics, she has dedicated her social media almost entirely to politics in recent months. She tweets and retweets a lot of political discussion and resources and continually calls out Trump – and other Republicans – for their terrible behaviour. She also doesn’t just share the major, nation-wide stuff; she shares state specific stuff as well, which I imagine is really useful to her American followers. She’s unapologetically loud and it’s fantastic to see.

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She also recently started the #MoreLoveCampaign – named after her recent album but apt for the current times – encouraging people to vote…


Taylor Swift – While Taylor is relatively new to talking about politics, she is absolutely serious now. She did post about and encourage people to vote in the last election but she didn’t publicly endorse Hillary Clinton, who she’s since said she supported. During a recent interview, she said that she felt her endorsement could’ve been damaging:

“The summer before that election, all people were saying was, ‘[Taylor’s] calculated. She’s manipulative. She’s not what she seems. She’s a snake. She’s a liar,’” the pop star told Vogue. “These are the same exact insults people were hurling at Hillary. Would I be an endorsement or would I be a liability?” She described how the attacks might have gone: “‘Look, snakes of a feather flock together. Look, the two lying women. The two nasty women.’”

She’s since said that, regardless of that, she regrets not clearly stating that she was voting for Hillary.

In the last two years, she’s become increasingly political but she is very strategic about it. She doesn’t post about it a lot on social media but then again, she doesn’t post a lot on social media at all. So when she does, it’s pretty big deal, especially if it’s about politics. She publishes targeted, impactful posts that, as you can imagine, get a lot of attention, on social media and in the press. It’s a different approach to that of Sara Bareilles’ but with Taylor’s megastar status, that’s not surprising. It doesn’t make one strategy better than the other though.

She’s also recently been featured in V Magazine’s Thought Leaders Issue, which included multiple public figures and their views on the election and encouraging people to vote.

She’s also talked about the election repeatedly in interviews and has even been including ‘vote’ cards in her merchandise deliveries as reminders to fans.


Maren Morris – Maren is another musician who has been consistently posting about politics on social media. I don’t recall seeing anything that directly states she’s voting for Biden but everything she posts and reposts, tweets and retweets implies that she is: she’s talked about having a voting plan, the debates, voter suppression, publicly (and I assume privately) mourned Ruth Bader Ginsburg, shared posts about how Trump’s people were manipulating photos and videos of support, and so on. She’s not sitting back and staying quiet as country artists are so often encouraged to do.

But I think her biggest contribution has been her recent song, ‘Better Than We Found It,’ and its accompanying music video. The song itself is more general in its message, a message of always striving for a better world, but certain lyrics – “When the wolf’s at the door all covered in blue,” “America, America, divided we fall,” and “God save us all from ourselves and the Hell that we’ve built for our kids, America, America, we’re better than this” – point to this specific moment in time. It’s a very powerful song but the music video is more powerful still, highlighting three different stories, all far too common today: two young Mexican boys, beneficiaries of the Dream Act, who are being forced to return to Mexico; footage from the Black Lives Matter protests; family members of Daniel Hambrick, who was shot and killed by Nashville police in 2018, talking about his death. It’s a very emotional video. It makes me cry every time I watch it; I cried just writing about it.

As well as spreading an important political message, some of the proceeds from ‘Better Than We Found It’ are being donated to the Black Women’s Health Imperative.

You can listen to/buy the song here.


Halsey – Halsey has always been an activist but it’s never been more obvious than it has over the last few months. She marched in the Black Lives Matter protests in LA where she was hit twice with rubber bullets, going back the next day with medical supplies to help treat the injured protesters. She’s been very vocal about the movement:

“I’m mixed-race and white-passing, and part of the [Black Lives Matter] protests put me in a position where I was subject to being shot with rubber bullets, and where I was subject to violence. Part of the reason for my participation is because my family is Black. Every time I see a name in the news, it could be my family. Being subject to violence [at the protests] gave me a lot of perspective. I’ve always been a part of an activity like that since I was a pre-teen—I was in the streets for Occupy Wall Street—so I’m a seasoned protester.”

She’s since set up the Black Creators Funding Initiative to award $10,000 grants to Black artists.

She’s been featured in V Magazine’s Thought Leaders Issue and was on the cover of Time Magazine as one of their ten Next Generation Leaders. She’s constantly using her social media accounts to share information and resources about the political situation and the election, as well as challenging those who share problematic or hateful views, and she’s currently releasing a series of videos where she discusses different elements of American society with Bernie Sanders, while encouraging viewers to vote.

“You vote for humanity, or you don’t,” she says. “You vote for a racist or you don’t. That’s the black and white of it to me.”


Of course, there are multiple others in the music industry doing the same or similar, including Carole King, The Chicks, John Legend, Cher, Madonna, James Taylor, P!nk, Billie Eilish, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and so on. I chose these four because I know more about what they’re doing and so can more personally speak to their actions and motivations and also because writing about everyone who has been getting involved would probably result in this post going up after the election…


And a quick side note:

It also makes me really happy and proud that some of my favourite actors (including those behind some of my favourite characters) have also been using their platform to encourage people to vote and especially to vote for Biden. For example…

Mariska Hargitay (Olivia Benson from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) has been posting consistently about the election, endorsing Biden, and providing resources through her social media. She’s also engaging with (the respectful) people in the comments about why Biden is the better choice and why Trump getting in again will be so damaging. Given what I know of her as a person through interviews and so on, this doesn’t surprise me but it means a lot to me to see someone I respect so much putting so much effort into this.

And Chloe Bennet (the actress behind my absolute favourite character ever, Daisy Johnson from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) has also been very vocal about the election and about voting Democrat.

She’s been politically active for as long as I’ve been aware of her, and longer if you scroll back through her social media. Something I particularly like and relate to in her approach to politics is that she’s equally as emotional as she is thoughtful and strategic. She gets sad and angry and she rages about the unfairness but she also finds ways to help and engages with organisations (even co-founding one, RUN AAPI) that will improve people’s lives. I think a lot of people need to see that: that you can be emotional about it but that that doesn’t have to leave you frozen. You can both feel and act.

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She’s also been calling out Trump for almost as long as she’s had social media, the earliest one I could find being in 2013. If we didn’t know already, I think we could safely say who she’s not voting for…


It’s hard to be in the UK and not be able to do anything, as far as I can tell. We can speak out on social media, share resources for our American friends, and so on, but we can’t actually DO anything. It’s scary and I know I’m not the only one feeling helpless, waiting for this one moment that will change everything, one way or the other, without being able to affect the result.

Some Social Media Favourites

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of articles and blog posts about unplugging from technology and practising being present and living in the ‘real world.’ I’m not anti doing this. If you think it’s healthier for you to spend less time on social media and have or are taking the steps to do that, then that’s great. Figuring out ways to take care of yourself is always a positive thing. But I find it so irritating when people act as though social media is the enemy of mental health and self care because it’s just not that simple. It has its flaws, of course, but I think its value to those struggling with difficulties like depression and anxiety and so on (there are obviously more but these are the ones I feel qualified to talk about) can get overlooked. It allows us to connect in the middle of something that is incredibly isolating and that is invaluable. It can be life saving.

These are some of the accounts that bring me joy or help me when I’m struggling…


INSTAGRAM

Matt Haig – While I did struggle a bit with ‘Reasons To Stay Alive,’ I really respect Matt Haig and love his presence online. His posts range from moving to funny to encouraging. This is one that particularly spoke to me:

Behindthescars_ – I’ve written a post about Behind The Scars, a photography project set up by Sophie Mayanne (you can find that post here). Seeing people be their authentic selves and find new strength is really amazing and inspiring.

JuniperFoxx – As a kid, I LOVED animals and I daydreamed about having a pet fox so I absolutely love this account. It makes my day to see a new photo or video of these gorgeous creatures.

Laura Greenway – Laura is an incredible artist and I feel very lucky to call her a friend. She makes beautiful, thought provoking pieces to raise awareness and reduce stigma around mental illness. I love pretty much everything she makes but this one is a particular favourite and I was so sad not to experience it first hand:

Petroom – While this account isn’t at all deep or meaningful, it makes me smile and even laugh on a daily basis. Sometimes we need thoughtful advice or inspiring messages and sometimes we need cute animals with funny captions.


YOUTUBE

Anna Akana – I’ve talked about Anna’s videos before (here and here) but I had to include her in this post. Her videos are beautifully crafted and incredibly succinct in their messages, many of them about mental health with real, usable advice. I also love her sense of humour and the short skits where she plays all the characters.

DudeBabe – Lauren is one of my favourite people on YouTube at the moment. Her videos are raw and honest and she posts almost every day, about her life and her experiences with an eating disorder. Food is a daily struggle for me so I find her videos really helpful but mostly I’m just really inspired by her openness.

This video is my favourite: it gives me hope that, one day maybe, I can have this sort of positive, freeing experience with my mental health.

(EDIT: I wrote this blog post before Claire Wineland died and although that doesn’t change whether or not I’d include her in this list, it added a weight to this post that I never expected when I started writing it. And what I wrote about her, it was true then and it’s true now. I just wanted (and needed) to acknowledge all of this.)

Claire Wineland – I’ve talked about Claire before (here) and introduced her channel (here) but I couldn’t not include her on this list of helpful and inspiring social media accounts. She speaks so eloquently about some really tough stuff and she always inspires me to be a better person, to be a positive force in the world.

Lucy Moon – Lucy is a vlogger and makes all kinds of videos, from fashion and make up to food to chats about therapy (that is a particularly good video). She also does an ongoing series of videos called 168 Hours, where she documents a week in one video. I find all of her videos really calming to watch. There’s something very reassuring about the way she talks.

Claudia Boleyn – I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos about BPD and Claudia’s are my favourite by miles. I’ve talked about her videos before (here) and there are others that deserve their own posts because she describes it all so, so well. She’s thoughtful and eloquent and her videos mean so much to me: for the first time, I didn’t feel alone in this.

Haley Pham – I found Haley through her dance videos. I absolutely adore her dancing; I find it so calming. If I could have her dance for one of my music videos, I absolutely would. One day maybe. She’s also completely hilarious.


This post was deceptively hard to write. When writing about other people and their work, I get really anxious that I’m not doing a good enough job, if that makes sense. I love all of these people and want to reflect all the good they do – I’m scared I’ll do them a disservice. So I hope I did an okay job and that you guys have enjoyed this. Are there any social media accounts you think I should check out?

Tomorrow, I’m heading back to my university for an event about social media and mental health, which I’m really excited to be a part of. Maybe I’ll write a blog post about it…