Lady Gaga – “The National Anthem”
Lady Gaga has officially earned her placement as a vocal powerhouse and legend. As she walked out the perform, you could tell that she was nervous. However, despite the nerves, her performance of “The National Anthem” will probably be remembered as one of the best performances of the song in our nation’s history. Her vocal delivery was straightforward and that of a highly trained vocalist- that of which she is. It didn’t feel like a pop singer singing “The National Anthem” (I’m looking at Fergie,) but more of an upscale performance. With a golden dove on her shoulder, Gaga stood as a powerful force for peace and hope- something we truly needed after the Capital Attack the week prior.
10/10 – I’ve watched this every time I want to feel patriotic this January.
Jennifer Lopez – “This Land Is Your Land,” “America the Beautiful,” & “Let’s Get Loud” Medley
Jennifer Lopez’s performance was good, and in my opinion too good. Her voice barely ever faltered, and the video was rarely focused on her while performing which leads me to think it may be prerecorded vocals. That aside, her performance sounds great and it makes sense to prerecord for such a large, important event. I think doing the medley of songs was a good idea that flowed into one another very well and when she gave her live speech in Spanish, that was a momentous moment for Spanish speaking Americans. However, I really disliked her yelling “Let’s get loud” because it felt too much in favor of her own music and in poor taste after the attack on the capitol the week prior. This inaugural day and line of performances should unite the people of the United States and that could very well send the wrong message after rioters got loud already. All in all, it was a good performance.
Garth Brooks – “Amazing Grace”
This performance felt the most symbolic of the day to me- a country music LEGEND who many stereotypically republican citizens idolize performed a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace” at Joe Biden’s Inauguration. The performance itself was great too- the lone trumpet at the beginning was a great way to start the song as well- it felt like an optimistic version of taps, like a rebirth instead of a death. It definitely was a choice to go into acapella after the trumpet, but I feel as though Brooks did a pretty good job- he didn’t just get handed a 35+ year career in the music industry for nothing. It was also 100% live because you could hear the imperfections in his voice, which added to the performance. Having everyone sing together on the final verse solidified the unity going forward.
Amanda Gorman – “The Hill We Climb”
This poem from the youngest ever inaugural poet was moving and beautiful to say the least. The National Youth Poet Laureate spoke eloquently and had fluid movements to emphasize everything she was saying- a true performance. She spoke every word from her heart and every person I’ve talked to about this performance has told me that they cried during it (myself included.) The line “…even as we hurt, we hoped…” felt very important to me because that’s all many of us could do during the previous presidency and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Radicals – “You Get What You Give”
This performance marks the start of the prerecorded performances, which means they’ve most likely had autotune and adjustments made post recording. New Radicals reunited for a performance of “You Get What You Give” after 22 years on break to memorialize Beau Biden, President Joe Biden’s late son. It was a nice performance with great messages of hope shown throughout. The vocals sounded very similar to the initial recording which is what lead me to believe it’d been altered. It was still a great performance though!
Bruce Springsteen – “Land of Hope and Dreams”
Springsteen performed “Land of Hope and Dreams” live with just him and his guitar in D.C. The vocals were raw and well balanced with the guitar. The imagery of Springsteen performing from behind with the Washington Monument lit up in front of him was very powerful with the message of his lyrics.
Andra Day – “Rise Up”
I love this song and its inspirational message…however, I think that it is wildly overused. This became popularized again during the COVID-19 pandemic last year and has definitely stood the test of time since its release in 2015. Andra sounds amazing in this performance however and the inclusion of Kaitlyn Saunders skating on the BLACK LIVES MATTER street in Washington D.C. put this over the top. In a time with huge star performances, I keep seeing this gem getting passed over.
Jon Bon Jovi – “Here Comes the Sun”
From Miami, Florida, Bon Jovi prerecorded a performance of one of his most well-known songs- “Here Come the Sun.” It was a very nice performance on a dock with a socially distant band of five. The performance was nice and enjoyable, but not a standout to me among all the amazing performances we got to witness.
Yo-Yo Ma – “Amazing Grace”
With all the flashy vocals and inspiring messages, it was nice to take a break to listen to beautiful instrumentation from Yo-Yo Ma. Ma is a living legend in the orchestral world, so I’m not surprised to report that this quick performance was beautiful.
Ant Clemons & Justin Timberlake – “Better Days”
Before this performance, I didn’t know who Clemons was, but I really enjoyed his vocals on this song. Clemons and Timberlake really created an empowering anthem for this hopeful presidency with the base lyric being “better days are coming.” When Timberlake began, his voice felt like a missing piece in the song. The harmonies performed by Clemons as well as a choir really elevated the song as well as formed a feeling of unity in times where we’re so far removed from one another. My only complaint is that it sounded a bit too perfect with the vocals, but with it being prerecorded and set up to look like a music video, that makes sense.
Foo Fighters – “Times Like These”
In all honesty, I have never been a huge fan of the Foo Fighters. However, the performance and dedication to the teachers were very nice. The song itself didn’t sound like what I stereotypically had come to mind when thinking of the Foo Fighters and I really enjoyed the stripped back performance. However, it began feeling a bit one-note until the explosion of the entire band begun playing. I was pleasantly surprised with this performance and even put this song in a playlist.
The Black Pumas – “Colors”
Before this performance, I had only heard of The Black Pumas but had never heard their music. This performance was polished and soulful with a wonderful message of unity. I’m grateful that the performers chosen for this inauguration was more than just the huge names but displayed a wide variety of musical tastes just as diverse as America is.
Broadway Stars – “Seasons of Love” from Rent & “Let the Sun Shine”
As a lover of Broadway, this performance was perfect for me. Rent is an amazing show about community and getting through hardships, so this song was perfect to perform at this inauguration. I may have personally screamed when I saw some of my favorite performers (Peppermint, NaTasha Yvette Williams, Renée Elise Goldsberry) appear for the performance. It was so nice to hear the harmonies and to have a socially distant performance from such a large community. The performance made me feel emotional and hopeful for live performances and community in the future.
Lin-Manuel Miranda – “The Cure at Troy”
This short performance by Miranda was inspirational and absolutely needed. Miranda recites “The Cure at Troy” as a solo piece until he is joined by President Joe Biden for the final lines. The message was strong, clear, and memorable.
John Legend – “Feeling Good”
John Legend also performed from the same space as the aforementioned Springsteen in D.C. This performance wasn’t my cup of tea because I dislike the original song, but Legend sounded good (for the most part) and live. Legend also gets extra points for performing while playing the grand piano for such a momentous occasion. Even though I dislike the song, I can’t take away from the choice to perform it- it is an upbeat song that makes people genuinely feel good.
Tim McGraw & Tyler Hubbard – “Undivided”
Before watching this performance, I hadn’t heard this song or even realized Hubbard was from country duo Florida Georgia Line. The performance was really good and pointed out double standards throughout our country and how to hopefully fix things. This inspirational message is not something I would expect from a country song in all honesty, but I really enjoyed it! Plus, I personally felt emotional seeing this performance with Nashville in the background because that is where I hope to end up one day as well as the fact that the majority of the country hasn’t seen it since the explosion on Christmas.
Demi Lovato – “Lovely Day”
For her performance, Lovato debuts pink hair while performing a cover of the Bill Withers hit “Lovely Day.” The song fits her voice lovely and gives her the opportunities to belt when needed, but she never goes too far. She has an ensemble of people including medical workers singing the choirs parts as well as appearing on screen. After this performance, the original by Bill Withers began to trend on iTunes again. The only thing I’d say was weird for me was the green screen on Lovato itself wasn’t the best, but I did like when it showed clips of the ensemble.
Katy Perry – “Firework”
To close everything out, Katy Perry performed her #1 hit “Firework” in D.C. with a fantastical showing of fireworks in the background. I personally loved the orchestral background music of this version of her song- it may be my personal favorite rendition of the song with the violins and piano. Her voice sounds powerful, and this song is the perfect sendoff to the entire day. In Perry’s first live performance since giving birth to daughter Daisy, Perry looked amazing and sounded her personal best for the big occasion.