Art and the 2021 Inauguration


Chloe Wong, Staff Writer

It was a moving moment for the nation when, on Jan. 20, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. His inauguration comes during a time of divisive partisanship, mere weeks after a group of pro-Trump rioters enacted chaos on Capitol Hill. As with much of the world nowadays, Mr. Biden’s inauguration was unorthodox. Then-President Donald Trump was notably missing from the guest ranks, as was his First Lady, Melania. For the first time in American history, no eager citizens lined up on the field to spectate the grand event. Instead, millions of Americans watched through television screens (and Twitter feeds) as Mr. Biden took the sacred presidential Oath of Office, their absence represented by 200,000-some American flags. But one thing did not change: the occasion of inauguration as a celebration of the arts. 

Music is one of the backbones of American culture, and President Biden has used it to convey a message of hope and unity: this theme of harmony over discord took center stage on Inauguration Day. Hours after President Donald Trump left the White House to the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A” and Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” Joe Biden began his “Celebrating America” broadcast with a heartfelt performance by Bruce Springsteen. Sitting alone with a guitar at the Lincoln Memorial, Springsteen set a humble and healing tone, succinct, like the Biden administration, and filled with clarity. He delivered a reprise of “Land of Hopes and Dreams,” (the same song played at President Barack Obama’s farewell address) and joined dozens of other artists who sang in Washington that day.

Leave behind your sorrows / Let this day be the last,” sang Springsteen. “Tomorrow there’ll be sunshine / And all this darkness past.

Earlier that day, at the swearing-in ceremony, Lady Gaga performed the “Star-Spangled Banner,” Jennifer Lopez covered “This Land is Your Land/America the Beautiful,” and staunch Republican Garth Brooks delivered a moving rendition of America’s gospel, “Amazing Grace.” That afternoon at the virtual inauguration parade, Andra Day sang “Rise Up,” Earth, Wind & Fire, “Sing a Song,” and the New Radicals reunited to play their 1998 hit, “You Get What You Give”—a favorite song of President Biden’s deceased son, Beau. All 50 states (as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) displayed their musical talents in a celebration similar to the DNC’s 2020 roll call, where each state gave a glimpse of local spirit. 

Michigan nurse Lori Marie Key, who went viral for singing “Amazing Grace” at a hospital, sang it again at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in tribute to the 400,000-some Americans who have died from COVID-19. Dozens of Broadway singers performed a virtual medley of “Seasons of Love” and “Let The Sunshine In;” for the grand finale, Katy Perry sang her chart-topper, “Firework” at the same time that fireworks blazed through the night sky. 

Fashion also played a large part in the inauguration. Online, users praised the fashionable, jewel-toned, monochromatic coats worn by Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Jill Biden, and former First Lady Michelle Obama. Others shared laughs over Bernie Sander’s no-nonsense, mitten-clad inaugural getup. Lady Gaga performed the national anthem while wearing a flowing red skirt and a gigantic dove brooch representing peace. Jennifer Lopez sang in white, a color used to pay tribute to 20th-century suffragists. And as Amanda Gorman (the youngest inaugural poet in history) gave hope to the nation through spoken word, her canary yellow Prada coat reflected the hopefulness of the day’s event.

“We are striving to forge our union with purpose,” Ms. Gorman said in her poem. “To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man. And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide, because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none, and harmony for all.” 

It was a suitable welcome for an administration that attempts to support unity—and, some hoped, a proper send-off to a frankly tiring period of contention. 


Photo courtesy of CHARITYBUZZ.COM