Entertainment & Arts

Inauguration blues: Why pop stars won't play for Trump

Donald Trump Image copyright AP
Image caption The president elect did not enjoy many celebrity endorsements during his campaign

Reports from the US suggest Donald Trump is struggling to find A-list stars to perform at his inauguration. We asked the stars of the BBC Music Awards what it would take to get them to play.

When President Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, he was serenaded by Beyonce and Aretha Franklin.

During his stay in the White House, he's had audiences with the likes of Rihanna, James Taylor and Kendrick Lamar.

Donald Trump might not be so lucky.

According to US news website The Wrap, Trump's inaugural committee is scrambling to find stars who are willing to play at his swearing in ceremony on 20 January 2017.

"They're calling managers, agents, everyone in town to see who they can get and it's been problematic," an unnamed source told the site.

Grammy-winner John Legend, who has been a guest of the Obamas several times, says he is "not surprised at all".

"Creative people tend to reject bigotry and hate," he told the BBC.

"We tend to be more liberal-minded. When we see somebody that's preaching division and hate and bigotry, it's unlikely he'll get a lot of creative people that want to be associated with him."

"I would never do it," agrees Swedish star Zara Larsson, speaking at the BBC Music Awards.

"A lot of artists out there have been very pro-Hillary and anti-Donald. So I would never do it and most other smart people wouldn't do it."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption John Legend called Mr Trump "a fantasist unmoored from reality"

Despite their reservations, Trump's campaign appeared to have scored a victory last month, when they announced one A-list star would be taking part in the celebrations.

"Elton John is going to be doing our concert on the mall," said Anthony Scaramucci, a member of the presidential inaugural committee, claiming that Mr Trump would be the first president to enter the White House with a pro-gay stance.

But almost as soon as the comments were made, Sir Elton issued a strongly-worded rebuttal.

"Incorrect. He will NOT be performing," wrote his publicist, making liberal use of the caps lock key. "There is no truth in this at all."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Elton John and other A-list stars have said they will not play at Trump's inauguration

Kanye West said he would have voted for Trump, if he had voted - and met the president elect on the morning of 13 December.

Following the meeting, the pair refused to discuss the inauguration. Mr Trump said they were "just friends".

Other names bandied around have been lower-profile - from rap-rock rascal Kid Rock to Achy Breaky country star Billy Ray Cyrus.

However, The Wrap claims Trump's team is still holding out for a Bruno Mars or Justin Timberlake. The situation has become so critical that they are allegedly breaking with protocol to offer artists an appearance fee.

"They are willing to pay anything," said their source, suggesting that a six-figure sum would be within reach.

This has been flatly denied by the spokesman for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, Boris Epshteyn, who said "no one with any official position at, or official relationship with, the presidential committee is engaging in the conduct described".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ted Nugent, Kid Rock and Billy Ray Cyrus are some of the musicians who have spoken in support of Mr Trump

But even if a fee was offered - would anyone accept?

"I don't think I would take the money on that one," says US pop star Adam Lambert, the part-time frontman of Queen, who is a passionate advocate for LGBTQ rights.

"I don't think I'd be endorsing that. They might struggle."

Rick Astley, the 80s pop legend who is currently enjoying an unexpected career resurgence, is less forthright.

"Depends how big the cheque was!" he laughs, before expressing reservations about Trump's presidency.

"Politically, the whole world's been shaken this year - and that was the icing on the cake," he says.

"But whether it was Donald Trump or anybody else, I'm not sure I'd want to go and play at the inauguration of an American president. I don't think that's a place for a British artist to be, to be honest."

One exception could be Matt Goss - the former Bros frontman, who has had a successful second career with his Las Vegas residency.

But despite holding an honorary captaincy in the US Army - making Trump his incoming commander-in-chief - Goss says he'll give the inauguration a miss.

"I'm very proud that I live there and proud of my residency in Vegas but, politics aside, I wasn't impressed by the lack of civility. I would bow out of that one gracefully."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Matt Goss has carved out a successful career as a big band singer in the US, far removed from his Bros years

Then, just as it seems no-one in the music world harbours a secret ambition to play for the president elect, we bump into Matt Healy, lead singer of The 1975.

Yes, he says, he would sing at the inauguration… but on one condition.

"I'll do it if they give me cash up front," he says. "Then watch what would happen. It would be a riot."

So what's his price?

"What do I want? Well, he's got gold seatbelts in his plane - so at least a million quid."

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