Let's get loud: Lady Gaga, J. Lo, Garth Brooks help ring in Biden era

The three pop performers helped make history as part of Joe Biden's inauguration

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Let’s get loud.

Joe Biden was inaugurated as America’s 46th president on Wednesday in a ceremony that included musical performances from Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks.

Lady Gaga sings the national anthem during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol for President-elect Joe Biden in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

They’re three of the top musical acts working today, but not three performers who you would usually find sharing a bill. Chalk it up to Biden’s pledge to unify our divided nation: the two New Yorkers and the Oklahoman represent different genres and different sects of the country but are all united as Americans.

Gaga was the first of the three to take the mic – a golden mic, no less, attached to a long golden cord – to sing our National Anthem. It was a stirring performance, even though Gaga herself was nearly upstaged by the humongous golden dove she wore as a broach, which became Aretha Franklin’s oversized bow of this inauguration ceremony. (Many online compared it to “The Hunger Games’” mockingjay, but Gaga later tweeted it was a symbol of peace, pointing out the dove carried in its mouth an olive branch.)

Gaga was in all her theatrical glory, like Eva Peron on the balcony of the Casa Rosada. Her eyes turned upward to the sky as if she was scanning for actual ramparts, and she put special emphasis on “the flag was still there,” a line that carried extra significance given the events at the Capitol just two weeks ago. She met the moment, and she made it her own.

Following Gaga – a tall order in and of itself – J. Lo added a bit of remix fire to her rendition of “This Land is Your Land.” She segued into “America the Beautiful” and even mixed in a piece of her own 1999 single “Let’s Get Loud” after declaring “one nation, with liberty and justice for all” in Spanish. Few figured that J. Lo would upstage Gaga in the extra department, but she did, and even Woody Guthrie would have been proud.   

Garth Brooks – blame it on his roots, he showed up in boots, along with jeans, a black cowboy hat and a belt buckle the size of the Capitol – finished the musical portion of the ceremony by performing “Amazing Grace” on his own, a capella. He urged others on the grounds and those watching at home to sing along with him, “as one,” in a symbol of unity.

As he exited the stage, Brooks stopped to shake hands with and hug former Presidents and first ladies Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton and George W. and Laura Bush. It was a clear violation of social distancing practices but he was caught up in the moment, like any of us likely would be, given the company. It was a small, simple reminder of the importance of the day, the symbolism of the office and the grandeur of the ceremony that brings us all together, as one.

Later, during the livestreamed Parade Across America webcast, New Radicals — the group fronted by bucket-hatted Grosse Pointe native Gregg Alexander — reunited to perform an exuberant but slightly truncated version of its 1998 single "You Get What You Give."

Alexander, who grew famously attention-shy during the band's late '90s run, introduced the song with a short video, explaining it was a favorite of the Biden family: Biden's son Beau used the song and its positive message ("this whole damn world can fall apart/ you’ll be ok, follow your heart") as a rallying anthem during his battle with cancer.

Alexander and his bandmates performed the song while the feed cut to dozens of people across America holding up signs welcoming the new administration. "You Get What You Give" was performed without its final coda, a short rap that calls out pop stars of the day Beck, Hanson, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson — probably for the better on a day that was focused not on pettiness, but positivity.