It was a year to speak out, and over the course of 2020, everyone from Megan Thee Stallion to John Legend and Killer Mike to Taylor Swift used their voices to share everything on their minds and urged fans to do their part for democracy.
From imploring everyone to mask up and stay home to advocating for their preferred presidential candidate and loaning out their songs to campaigns, here are some of the biggest political moments by artists in 2020.
In a year that she stamped her ticket as a major music force, Meg also flexed her voice.
One of her biggest moments: It came during the season 46 premiere of Saturday Night Live, when she performed “Savage” with the words “Protect Black Women” behind her on a screen that soon bore bloody bullet holes as audio clips from Malcolm X’s 1962 speech “Who Taught You to Hate Yourself?” boomed from the speakers. Her set also included audio of activist Tamika Mallory’s criticism of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron after his decision to charge one of the three officers in the death of Breonna Taylor with wanton endangerment for firing into her home: “Daniel Cameron is no different than the sellout negroes that sold our people into slavery.”
In addition to that unforgettable SNL performance, she rocked rainbow hair during a June Black Lives Matter march in Hollywood in support of Black trans rights, and took a powerful moment during her first virtual concert in August to honor the Black victims of police brutality. She also penned a moving op-ed for The New York Times entitled “Why I Speak Up for Black Women.” She later got a message of thanks from VP-elect Harris, as well as a shout-out from Rep. Maxine Waters.
The R&B crooner spent almost as much time stumping as singing in 2020, performing for a number of Democratic candidates and making his opinions very, very clear.
One of his biggest moments: Legend gave a stirring run through the civil rights anthem “Glory” with Common at the virtual 2020 Democratic National Convention in August, and then closed the proceedings on the final night with “Never Break.”
Legend was also a vocal supporter of a number of candidates in the run-up to the election, stumping for Democratic candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren and later playing a star-studded fundraiser for now President-elect Joe Biden, and cheering his pick of Sen. Kamala Harris as his VP. Legend also called on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stop the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, offered up an explainer on the “defund the police” movement, raged against the Trump administration’s fishy post office moves, and warned voters to avoid inexperienced presidential candidates with zero experience or qualifications, like, say, his friend Kanye West.
And that wasn’t all. Legend also helped launch a campaign for Florida voting rights with Camila Cabello, rallied for Biden and Harris on election eve in Pennsylvania, and kicked off a fun new challenge in response to the first of Trump’s many unsubstantiated claims questioning the results of the election. Even with the election over, the crooner dove right back in in December with a performance at the virtual Rock the Runoff concert to raise awareness about the two Democratic candidates running in the pivotal Georgia run-off in January that will decide which party will control the Senate.
The Run the Jewels rapper and longtime political activist was on his get-to-the-polls grind all year, in between urging calm and peace amid the nationwide George Floyd protests and providing some “homework for white America.“
One of his biggest moments: He did a takeover of Selena Gomez’s Instagram account and schooled her 195 million followers on how they could make a difference by supporting local candidates and grassroots organizations.
Mike also teamed with Bounce TV founder Ryan Glover and online banking service Greenwood to launch an online banking platform that aims to make it easier to support Black- and Latinx-owned banks and businesses. The MC also scooped up the first ever Billboard Change Maker Award for his social justice work at October’s Billboard Music Awards.
The singer, who for much of her career steered clear of politics, spoke up in 2020 and used her huge platform to advocate for voting and change.
One of her biggest moments: Swift allowed her song “Only the Young” to be used in an ad for Congressman Eric Swalwell.
But the superstar also had a number of other equally boss chess moves. Among them were explaining her decision to take a stand against Tennessee’s Sen. Marsha Blackburn in her early 2020 Miss Americana Netflix special, warning Donald Trump that “we will vote you out in November” after the soon-to-be one-term president appeared to be stoking violence amid the national George Floyd protests, and making sure all her Swifties were registered to vote in advance of the Nov. 3 presidential election — and then bugged them one more time just in case.
In a super busy year, Gomez did her best to help out others suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic while also taking some political steps.
One of her biggest moments: Gomez turned her Instagram feed over to a series of Black activists and luminaries — including Killer Mike, Stacey Abrams, Ruby Bridges, BLM co-founder Alicia Garza, author Ibram X. Kendi and journalist Jelani Cobb, among others — in order to amplify their voices and share their stories.
Gomez also did her civic duty by encouraging all Americans to fill out the 2020 census and vote in their state’s primary elections; making a voting playlist; joining Solange, Lizzo and Demi Lovato in demanding justice for Breonna Taylor; and signing on along with Billie Eilish, Legend, Imagine Dragons, Dan + Shay, Finneas, DJ Khaled for iHeartMedia’s “Why I’m Voting” campaign.
She also teamed up with PLUS1 to launch the Black Equality Fund to “drive money and awareness to those who are at the forefront of the movement fighting for change,” and asked Google’s CEO to “immediately” stop allowing ads on Google-related sites that spread election disinformation.
Like a lot of artists, Ari took to the streets in 2020 to join the national BLM protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
In addition to keeping her promise after encouraging fans to register and vote in the primaries, she sent coffee and food trucks to her Kentucky Arianators who were waiting in line to vote, and hundreds of pizzas to early voters in Florida. She also joined Rihanna, Eilish, Post Malone, Megan Thee Stallion and hundreds of other members of the music community in signing an open letter demanding that New York state repeal a state law that shields police officers’ personnel and disciplinary records from public view.
In the wake of Floyd’s killing, Gaga postponed her planned Chromatica listening party and encouraged Little Monsters to register to vote and raise their voices while demanding action, using her socials to lift up the voices of the Black community and posting fierce ballot drop-off pics.
One of her biggest moments: Gaga took to the stage to support Biden in Pennsylvania on the eve of election day, pleading with Americans to “vote like your life depends on it.” After the former VP’s victory, she congratulated Biden and Harris for their historic win over one-termer Donald Trump.
Bieber spoke out amid reports of mass voting irregularities related to voting machines in Georgia during June’s primaries, and though he is Canadian and can’t vote in the U.S., he urged Beliebers to get out and vote in the presidential race.
One of his biggest moments: JB participated in the “Vote With Us” virtual rally along with Demi Lovato, Andra Day, Vic Mensa and Common.