Many celebrities have become increasingly outspoken about politics as the presidential election grows closer. But pop star Demi Lovato went a step further this week, as she released a very direct song slamming President Trump titled “Commander in Chief,” invoking the coronavirus pandemic and the country’s reckoning with racism and police brutality.

Lovato sang the ballad live for the first time at the Billboard Music Awards, which aired Wednesday night on NBC without an audience and adhering to pandemic protocols. Right afterward, Lovato dropped the song’s music video; it ended with an image that read “VOTE.” (TMZ and Variety reported that Lovato’s Billboard performance was originally supposed to conclude with the same “VOTE” message on a big screen, but NBC changed course and ended on a close-up shot of the singer.)

“Commander in chief, honestly, if I did the things you do I couldn’t sleep, seriously / Do you even know the truth?” Lovato sang onstage while playing piano. “We’re in a state of crisis, people are dying, while you line your pockets deep / Commander in chief, how does it feel to still be able to breathe?”

She was clearly ready for the backlash, as musicians are often told to just “shut up and sing” if they express any opinion. When Lovato released the song on her Instagram account early Wednesday, she took a screenshot of one of the negative comments. It read in part, “I hope you realize this makes people that don’t have the same political views feel like they can’t listen to you anymore. We could care less what you post about politics but this song is going [too] far...I really hope this doesn’t ruin your career.”

Lovato posted the comment to her Instagram Stories, and then her response for all 93 million of her followers to see.

“You do understand as a celebrity, I have a right to political views as well? Or did you forget that we aren’t just around to entertain people for our entire lives … that we are citizens of the same country and we are humans with opinions as well?” she wrote. “I literally don’t care if this ruins my career … I made a piece of art that stands for something I believe in. And I’m putting it out even at the risk of losing fans. I take integrity in my work over sales any day. As much as I would like to be sad that I disappointed you, I’m too busy being bummed that you expect me, a queer Hispanic woman, to silence my views/beliefs in order to please my audience.”

Lovato has long been one of the most vocal celebrities in Hollywood about current events, especially with issues surrounding mental health. But even her collaborators wanted fans to know that this song was a rare move for someone at her level of fame. Lovato wrote the song with songwriter-producer Finneas (Billie Eilish’s brother), Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter and Eren Cannata.

“I think people underestimate the bravery it takes to put out a song like this when your platform is as large as Demi’s is,” Finneas wrote on Instagram. “But I’m sure if you asked her, she’d tell you it was her responsibility.”

Before the Billboard Music Awards, Lovato said in a CNN interview that the song originated because, there have been “so many times that I wanted to write the president a letter or sit down with him and ask him these questions.” She added that she didn’t intend the lyrics to be divisive: “It’s so important that our voices are heard. Honestly, for me, whether you are a Republican or Democrat, just get out and vote.”

Lovato also acknowledged that celebrities are in a no-win situation when they want to speak up about anything, pointing to Taylor Swift, who in 2018 broke her silence about politics and said she is voting for Democrats.

“For years, she got trashed because she wasn’t taking a stance and wasn’t standing up for these rights and she kind of took a back seat. And now she’s become very political and there are people that are unhappy with that, too,” Lovato said. “You have to live what feels authentic to you. To me, that’s using my platform to speak out about the things that I see that are wrong.”

Lovato wasn’t the only star to get political during the awards show: Lizzo made headlines with a powerful speech about voter suppression, as she picked up the trophy for top song sales artist.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about suppression and the voices that refused to be suppressed. And I wonder, would I be standing here right now if it weren’t for the big Black women who refuse to have their voices be suppressed?” Lizzo said. “Let me tell you something: When people try to suppress something, it’s normally because that thing holds power. They’re afraid of your power. There’s power in who you are, there’s power in your voice. So whether it’s through music, protest or your right to vote, use your power, use your voice and refuse to be suppressed.”

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