Halsey, Swift and Grande: Music industry inspirations

Illustration by Madison Cohen

Women within the music industry have used their voices and platforms to express their political views for decades. Billie Holiday began performing “Strange Fruit,” a poem turned song that protested the lynchings of African Americans, in 1939. It was the revival of folk music that allowed artists like Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell to perform politically charged songs like “Birmingham Sunday,” originally written by Richard Fariña, in the 1960s and ‘70s.

These women helped pave the way for future generations of artists to speak out about political issues they are passionate about, especially in the current digital climate where social media makes it easier to advocate for such causes.

Ashley Frangipane, better known as Halsey, has always been candid with her legion of fans about a wide variety of issues, such as mental and reproductive health. In 2018, Halsey recited her poem “A Story Like Mine” at the Women’s March in New York City, which details experiences with rape, assault and miscarriage.

Exactly eight months prior to releasing her third album “Manic” in January, Halsey released her feminist anthem “Nightmare” May 17, 2019. The song was released shortly after multiple states, including Georgia and Alabama, enacted the Human Life Protection Act, also known as the Alabama abortion bans. Due to a legal challenge against the bill, implementation of the act has been delayed.

“Watching the demise of our reproductive rights sends a sickening rage through my core,” Halsey tweeted at the time. “Autonomy is the basis of our humanity. The ability to feel and the right to choose. I’ve always been open about my struggle with reproductive health and pregnancy. What happens to the body that I live in, that you live, is nobody else’s choice.”

In addition to releasing “Nightmare,” she also released a limited edition shirt, which featured lyrics from the song. The proceeds went to the yellowhammer fund for abortion accessibility.

During the 2016 election period, Halsey endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders for United States president. She revealed March 10, through a video posted by Sanders on Twitter, that she is endorsing him again as he goes up against former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden for the democratic nomination. The video details Halsey’s prior need to access housing assistance, financial assistance and abortion before turning 21 in 2015.

For Tucson resident Carlie Gillette, the singer’s decision to endorse Sanders for the current election period did not come as a surprise. Gillette is a fan of Halsey’s music.

“I fully support her choice because he is fighting against the effects of marginalization, something that has affected her, a member of the LGBTQ+ community and raised in a multiracial family, for her whole life,” Gillette said. “(Sanders) has also spoken out about the issue of climate change and how it’s a real problem, where other candidates push it aside like it isn’t really happening. He isn’t afraid to talk about the real issues we are all facing today.”

Taylor Swift has been a household name since she was 16 when she released her first single “Tim McGraw” in 2006. Although she has grown up in the spotlight, Swift was not very vocal regarding her political stance until early October 2018. Swift shared a post via Instagram about the midterm elections with a three-paragraph caption, which extensively detailed her beliefs.

“In the past, I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now. I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love,” Swift stated via Instagram.

The post explained that Swift could not support Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn and highlighted her reasons why, which included Blackburn’s vote against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. Swift finished the post by telling her 128 million followers that she would be voting for Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper for Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively. She also encouraged her fans to register to vote.

The statement came as a surprise to Gillette, who has been a fan of Swift’s since she was 10 years old.

“I was extremely surprised seeing her post something about her political beliefs,” Gillette said. “In the past, she always said it was something she was going to keep private.”

Swift also took a stand against toxic masculinity in her recent music video for “The Man” off her seventh studio album “Lover.” The video shows the protagonist, which is actually Swift under prosthetics, throwing a tantrum on a tennis court as well as “manspreading” on a subway.

Ariana Grande wrapped up the Sweetener World Tour in December 2019 and achieved a milestone while touring. During the tour, Grande teamed up with Headcount, a non-partisan voter registration organization, to hold voter registration drives at each tour date. Just before the tour ended, Headcount announced via Twitter that it had broken the organization’s record for most voter registrations on a tour, making it the most successful one in its history. Grande’s tour accumulated 33,381 voter registrations and actions.

Both Texas native Jeremy Neira and freshman Janelle Saucedo are fans of Grande and attended the tour last year. Neira said he was surprised to see the voter registration booths at Grande’s shows.

“I have never seen anything like that at previous concerts that I have been to,” Neira said. “It gives a new generation of voters a chance to use their voice and to prevent certain disasters and chaos from history from happening again.”

Saucedo said it was great that Grande included the registration booths since it allowed people to become informed on political issues so they have a sense of what is going on.

When it comes to the upcoming election, Grande, like Halsey, endorsed Sanders for president. Sanders attended Grande’s show in Atlanta Nov. 19, 2019. After the show, both Grande and Sanders posed for photos backstage, which were later posted on both of their social media accounts. Grande praised Sanders in her tweet for making her night as well as for everything he stands for.

“I support Ariana in her endorsing Bernie Sanders,” Saucedo said. “Ultimately, it is her decision on what she shares to the public. Either way, I think it is great that she’s using her voice and stepping up.”

In addition to helping fans register to vote, Grande also performed at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington D.C. March 24, 2018, which was held almost a year after the suicide bombing at her concert in Manchester, England, where 22 people died.

When it comes to being inspired by the artists mentioned above, Gillette, Neira and Saucedo all agree that the artists’ use of their platforms inspired them to get involved politically. Gillette said both Swift and Halsey taught her to speak up for her beliefs as well as to always exercise one’s right to vote.

Neira said he was inspired by Grande to use his own platform to speak about political issues that are important to him as well as educate himself on them. Saucedo said Grande’s political views inspired her to register to vote and take part in elections.

“People love to spread news and tell others everything about what’s happening,” Neira said. “Word gets around super quickly and it goes to everyone. So, it has certain effects on certain people.”

Overall, Halsey, Swift and Grande have been vocal about their political ideologies on their social media platforms and through their music. They are just three examples of women in the music industry who have inspired their legions of devoted fans to get involved in politics as the election approaches.