Donald Trump — not sure if you’ve heard of him? It appears he is going to be the Republican nominee for President of the United States. While Trump has that white supremacist vote down on lock, he has displeased The Weeknd.
The Weeknd, like so many beloved musicians, is Canadian. But he has hordes of American fans who expected to see him perform with rapper Belly on Jimmy Kimmel Live! this week. The two were supposed to record a performance for Kimmel on Wednesday in L.A. but canceled at the last minute; Belly issued a statement saying he canceled because he didn’t want to be on the same stage as Trump, was also slated to appear in the episode. From his statement:
I feel like the way I was raised was to be able to see through all the titles in this world — from religion to race. I just didn’t want to feel like I was a part of a celebration for somebody who has beliefs that majority of us don’t agree with.
I’m here on a campaign of positivity and love and to contribute what I can to music. I create songs people go to sleep and wake up to, songs that they fall in love to. For me, being Muslim and being somebody that appreciates my access here in America, I love the fact that I’m able to be here. To play my part in this business is a privilege and a beautiful thing. The fact that I could lose that ability through the actions of someone such as Donald Trump isn’t right to me. At all.”
As of Thursday, Trump had not really settled on a “yes” or “no” answer to the “If you are elected, will you ban Muslims from entering the United States?” question.
Neither Trump nor Kimmel’s camps have publicly commented on the incident; the Weeknd has also stayed quiet on the subject. (Belly, though not a household name, co-wrote a bunch of the Weeknd’s most popular songs, including 50 Shades of Grey-soundtrack smash “Earned It.” He has a new mixtape coming out Friday, so fair to note that this is a rather convenient time for the rapper to get his name on your radar.)
The two are far from the first artists to make their distaste for Trump widely known. Earlier this month, the Rolling Stones told Trump to stop playing their music at his rallies. (Trump reportedly had “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” in heavy rotation.) Back in February, after learning Trump was playing “Rolling in the Deep” for his crowds, Adele issued a statement to distance herself from him, assuring her fans that she had “not given permission for her music to be used for any political campaigning.”
Neil Young forbade Trump from playing “Rockin’ in the Free World” after Trump used the track as the soundtrack for announcing his candidacy last June; Young went on to publicly support Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders. Aerosmith served Trump with a cease-and-desist ordering him to stop playing “Dream On” because it “gives the false impression” that lead singer Steven Tyler endorses Trump as a candidate. Trump was also playing “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” until REM’s Michael Stipe issued a statement demanding Trump “not use our music or my voice for your moronic charade of a campaign.”
This week also saw over 400 writers denounce Trump in an open letter addressed “To the American People.” Signers of the missive, posted on Literary Hub, include Stephen King, Junot Díaz, Cheryl Strayed, Jennifer Egan, Dave Eggers, Claire Messud.
“Because, as writers, we are particularly aware of the many ways that language can be abused in the name of power,” the letter begins, before running through a list of values that the writers believe Trump directly opposes, like “American history… has from the first been a grand experiment in bringing people of different backgrounds together, not pitting them against one another” and “the search for justice is predicated on a respect for the truth.” It concludes:
Because the rise of a political candidate who deliberately appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society, who encourages aggression among his followers, shouts down opponents, intimidates dissenters, and denigrates women and minorities, demands, from each of us, an immediate and forceful response;
For all these reasons, we, the undersigned, as a matter of conscience, oppose, unequivocally, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump for the Presidency of the United States.
The group has claimed the Twitter handle @WritersOnTrump; their avatar is Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.”
Probably fair to assume Trump did not expect to win over the literati — considering his proclivity for his own creations, he may think his collected works are the only books worth reading — but it will be interesting to see if these acts of artistic defiance are one-offs or a harbinger of protests to come. Will other musicians follow The Weeknd and Belly’s lead, refusing to play on a late night stage that also plays host to Trump? (Or, for that matter, whichever candidate that particular musician opposes?) Will politically-minded musical guests bail on their scheduled performances, as so many cancelled their North Carolina concerts to protest anti-LGBT legislation in the state?