by Sara Conway on February 11, 2021
by Grace Whitman ’22 A&E Staff
Joseph Biden, Jr. was sworn into office as the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday, Jan. 20. The inauguration ceremony certainly looked different compared to the dozens before it due to safety protocols as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and intense security in response to the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6.
Live music has been a significant part of every presidential inauguration. Bill Clinton enlisted Barbra Streisand to perform at his inaugural gala, while Beyoncé sang her rendition of Etta James’s song “At Last” during President Barack Obama’s first dance in 2008.
Biden took the oath of office on a blustery day with bits of sunshine, a symbolic backdrop for a historical transition. As the first major performer of the day, Lady Gaga descended down the Capitol stairs to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In full Lady Gaga style, the singer wore a red and blue ball gown with a gold-encrusted dove pin to sing the national anthem.
Jennifer Lopez was invited to sing a medley of “This Land Is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful.” An unforgettable moment was when the Latina icon sang, “Una nación bajo Dios con libertad y justicia para todos!” which translates to “One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all!” symbolizing the immense need for equity and justice for all communities in America.
The final musical performer at the Capitol building was Garth Brooks, who sang a heartfelt rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Having performed for almost every president since Jimmy Carter, Brooks said, “This is not a political statement—this is a statement of unity.”
Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old Harvard University graduate, became the youngest poet, and only the sixth in history, to read at a presidential inauguration. Her poem “The Hill We Climb” was a desperate call for unity and collaboration among the American people. With an emphasis on the opportunity that the future holds, Gorman stole the show and gained immense popularity after the reading.
Later in the day, in lieu of the several inaugural balls which typically occur on inauguration day, Tom Hanks hosted a television concert called “Celebrating America.” Performers included Demi Lovato, Justin Timberlake, Tim McGraw, Tyler Hubbard, John Legend, and Jon Bon Jovi.
Performing virtually in Nashville, Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line and Tim McGraw performed their brand-new song, “Undivided.” If President Joe Biden’s inauguration had a theme, it would have been unity. This song encaptures that theme perfectly, using the lyrics, “I’m tired of lookin’ left or right. / So I’m just lookin’ up” as a call to end the divisiveness in America.
Later, John Legend delivered an incredible performance of “Feeling Good” in front of the Lincoln Memorial on a grand piano.
To wrap up the night, Katy Perry performed her 2010 hit “Firework” with a pyrotechnic display, lighting up the skies of Washington, D.C.
Occurring so soon after the domestic terrorist attack at the United States Capitol, these diverse performances highlighted unity, freedom, and democracy, turning the first page in what will hopefully be a powerful national redemption story.