After months of fractious campaigning, voters in the United States go to the polls today for a Presidential Election like no other.
With the country gripped by the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest, music industry issues have rarely been anywhere near the agenda for either the incumbent Republican, President Donald Trump, or the Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.
But that doesn’t mean musicians aren’t taking an interest. The title of Bon Jovi’s new album, 2020 (EMI), is in part a reference to the election year. The brilliant record – which charted at No.5 in the UK last month and has so far sold 15,551 copies, according to the Official Charts Company – features a number of socially aware songs, including Do What You Can (about the pandemic) and American Reckoning (about the killing of George Floyd), written after the album’s initial release was delayed.
Jon Bon Jovi played a Joe Biden drive-in rally last week, four years after he endorsed Hillary Clinton. But, while clearly no fan of President Trump, he hopes to start a conversation between America’s opposing factions in an attempt to find common ground.
Music Week sat down with the rock superstar and philanthropist twice over a period of six months and here’s what he had to say about US politics and what he calls “the most important election in the last 150 years…”
American politics seems incredibly divisive at the moment…
“It’s so, so bad! Forget the man who’s in office. The Senate and our three arms of government are so divided that even if [someone] committed a crime, [they would] refuse to say it was a crime because they’re red or blue. It’s absolutely selfish and power-hungry, it’s just heartbreaking.”
Does that mean important issues get lost?
“Yes, because they’re unwilling to have a conversation and both sides create their narrative. When I grew up, we had three networks, they reported the news to you in half an hour and that was what the news was, nightly. They were the headlines and nothing but the truth. But now you spin it far left and you spin it far right and the people who watch it are brainwashed by both sides. There is no ability to have a conversation and it is scary, scary, scary.”
When you were writing the record, how did you pick the subjects you wanted to address?
“When I started to write, Blood In The Water – which is about the administration – was the first song I wrote. I wrote it in the summer of ’18, so the people I was writing about were Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen [Trump’s lawyer]. A year later, in the summer of ‘19 when we recorded it, the names had changed but it was the same thing! Now it was Rudy Giuliani instead of Michael Cohen, but holy shit it’s still going on.”
This is the most important election in America since the election of Abraham Lincoln
Jon Bon Jovi
What happens if Trump wins again?
“I did an interview here before the last election where I said, ‘America will never be the same again if that happens’. I read that article a year or two later like, ‘Holy shit, I really was right’. What he’s doing and his ability to bend the rules will change our democracy forever. But if, in a free and fair election he wins again, it’s what America wanted. We’ll see. If that’s the voice of the people, that’s the voice of the people.”
Presumably that makes it a very important election then…
“Most definitely. People have been saying it but it’s more true than ever: this time, more than any other time, it’s probably the most important election in America in the last 150 years, since the election of Abraham Lincoln. This is that dividing line for what you believe the country is and they believe the country is. Whichever way the electorate goes, that will be it and that’s what this country will be. They will decide.”
Are you optimistic?
“The only thing I pray for is that there is a real and fair election and that it’s not manipulated by either side. Because once the voice of the nation speaks, they’ll determine who they want to be. I know what I’m going to do but, for the individual, that’s up to them. All I can do is hope that people really pay attention this time. So many people didn’t even vote last time, which is astounding to me. I can only hope that they get out there this time.”
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