For more than a year, Donald Trump referred to his campaign as a “movement,” one about “taking back our country” and, yes, “making America great again.”
He’s pointed to rally attendance, poll numbers and his electoral college win as evidence of this movement. Now, as president-elect, he’s pointing to the album sales of a 16-year-old soprano.
Jackie Evancho, a former “America’s Got Talent” contestant who has since become a Billboard album charts mainstay, announced last month she would sing the national anthem at Trump’s inauguration. The development came as reports on booking inauguration entertainers have alluded to their lack of interest, or fear of backlash from fans and friends for participating.
“This is a distillation of [Trump’s] worldview,” tweeted New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who’s long been on the Trump beat, in response to Trump’s claim. “Not snarking here — he sees himself as a commodity that can help others.”
Trump hasn’t been shy about criticizing the entertainment industry, which generally leans left, when he feels it’s being unfair to him. He deemed “Saturday Night Live” “very biased,” and declared it may soon be off the air. After a campaign cycle that saw Democrats attract megawatt star power and Republicans secure Scott Baio, Trump claimed “so-called ‘A’ list celebrities are all wanting [tickets] to the inauguration,” and that they didn’t do anything to help his rival Hillary Clinton win.
But Trump also hasn’t entirely disassociated himself from the entertainment world that helped his rise. He’s retained an executive producer credit on the latest iteration of “The Celebrity Apprentice.” He took time during his transition to meet with and then literally embrace Kanye West on live television. His transition has become a government casting call, as he seeks people who can not only do the job but also look the part.
And now he’s claiming a Trump bump helped Evancho.
It’s difficult to tell whether her participation in the inauguration boosted album sales. Her latest release did do better on the Billboard charts after the Dec. 14 inauguration announcement than before — but that’s unsurprising given that her album is a Christmas album. Perhaps she did benefit from the increased media attention — or, maybe her album sales could have been a lot better had she not booked the gig at all.
“Someday at Christmas,” released Oct. 28, is among Evancho’s least successful albums on the Billboard charts (her first release, 2009’s “Prelude to a Dream,” peaked at 121, while all her other studio albums were in the top 20). The album first charted in the 134th spot on the Billboard 200 dated Dec. 31, which lists the most popular albums by sales, on-demand streaming and digital sales of album tracks during the week leading up to Christmas. A week later, it rose to the 93rd position, and it currently resides at the 183rd spot.
Evancho’s six studio albums have all topped the classical charts; “Someday at Christmas” entered the classical album chart nine weeks ago and has been No. 1 since the week before the inauguration announcement. And her albums have done well on Billboard’s top album sales charts, which only counts sales data compiled by Nielsen Music. Evancho’s latest album didn’t crack the top 100 selling albums until the week of Christmas.
Evancho was a fitting choice to sing at the inauguration following a contentious election featuring polarizing candidates. A former reality TV star herself whose grand voice bafflingly came from her 10-year-old body in 2010, Evancho has previously performed at official Washington ceremonies during the Obama administration.
While her sister has been public about coming out as transgender and is part of a lawsuit for bathroom access in Pennsylvania, Evancho’s music is far from politically charged — the most controversial thing about Evancho is the raging debate within the classical music community about whether to include her in the genre.
Evancho has said she and her family were subjected to hateful comments online when her sister came out as transgender, and once again since she announced her inauguration performance.
“My family is kind of a big target. I have a transgender sister and so a lot of hate goes towards us,” she told People. “I also get a lot of love. We pay most attention to that.”
She was booked in a cultural moment so charged that even your choice of breakfast cereal has become a political act. And Trump has pointed to Evancho’s album sales as showcasing the supportive power of “the ‘movement.'”
But the singer herself has taken a middle-of-the-road approach to the gig.
“It’s going to be awesome. I felt really honored to be able to sing for the office. It’s a great honor for me,” she said last month on the “Today” show. Then, she was asked about singing for the Obamas.
“That was awesome. I got to meet him, he’s really nice,” Evancho said. “I just felt really honored to have the chance to perform for the president again.”