Celebrating America: Let’s Talk About the 2021 Inauguration Celebration, Shall We?

Tom Hanks hosts the 2021 Celebrating America Inauguration Celebration.
Tom Hanks hosts the 2021 Celebrating America Inauguration Celebration.
Screenshot: CBS News/ YouTube

I know what the headline says, but we’re not actually gonna talk about the inauguration today—at least not the formalities of it.


Why? Because by most accounts, it was a regular degular ceremony and went off without a hitch. I’m sorry—what was that? Oh, it wasn’t a regular degular ceremony? Because everyone was donning masks and had to socially distance thanks to a worldwide pandemic? Right. And instead of people, President Biden had to give his inaugural address while looking out onto a crowd of American flags that commemorated the 400,000 lives lost due to that same pandemic and the incompetence of the outgoing President? Riiight. And it also wasn’t regular because the ex-Head Cheeto-in-Charge riled up a whole mob of insurrectionists and white supremacists to attack the Capitol Building two weeks ago so they had to send 25,000 National Guard troops to protect everyone from a potential repeat attempt? Riiiiiight.

OK. So, maybe things weren’t really regular, but as I told you— we’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to discuss the virtual festivities that took place Wednesday night in celebration of our newly-elected President Joseph Robinette Biden and Vice President Kamala Devi Harris. Sidenote: Does anyone else love saying Joe Biden’s middle name? Like, when’s the last time you met a guy with Robinette for a middle name? I’ll tell you when my last time was: NEVER. It’s levels above Donald (Jesus Jamaal Christ, Can You Please Go Already) Trump, I’ll tell you that. (Editor’s note: I sometimes say Biden’s full name aloud as a pick-me-up.)

Celebrating America, which aired across a plethora of cable and streaming platforms, kicked off with everyone’s favorite neighbor, Tom Hanks, who was the host for the evening. We saw a handful of special performances from a myriad of artists, including John Legend, who surprised everyone by NOT singing “Glory” and instead performed a jazzy rendition of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” (John, you know we love you and that song but please let it be that day when the glory actually comes before we hear you sing it again. We are tired.) Speaking of tired, we were also treated (for the fifty-leventh time) to another performance of “Amazing Grace,” though this time from legendary cellist Yo Yo Ma. Look, no shade to Yo Yo, but I was really hoping we could get something a little more, I don’t know, less repetitive for the evening’s merriment. Like The Glow Up’s Managing Editor Maiysha Kai said, “At this point, my soul has ceased to be amazed or graceful when I hear that song,” and she’s absolutely right.

Even still, the evening definitely had its high moments. One of them was Demi Lovato, who absolutely murked Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day.” (Did y’all see Dr. Jill getting with it dancing when they flashed the Biden family watching from inside the White House? So endearing.) There was also up-and-comer Ant Clemons, who was accompanied by Justin Timberlake and students and alumni from the Stax Music Academy in Memphis, Tenn. The ensemble performed a gospel, soul-filled rendition of “Better Days” in the middle of the street and arguably had me about ready to clap my hands and stomp my feet—if but for a moment—at the realization that better days are actually on the horizon.

And speaking of horizons, how could I forget Bon Jovi’s performance of The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun?” Although, admittedly, I was really expecting them to hit us with “Living on a Prayer” instead since that’s arguably what we’ve all been living off of these last four years. But hey, what can you do?


Closing out the event was none other than Katy Perry, who delivered a tear-inducing performance of her hit song, “Firework,” as the night’s sky lit up with actual fireworks for a spectacular finish. Yeah, yeah—crying at fireworks to the soundtrack of “Firework” was arguably one of the most clichéd ways to end the night. But dammit, the optics were beautiful and we’ve been through a hell of a lot these last four years. So please, let me, let us, let the nation have this moment. We deserved it.

Oh yeah, before I forget: shoutout to President Obama for showing up and speaking some words of diplomacy alongside President Bush and President Clinton. It was nice to be reminded of how actual presidents are supposed to behave. And I know I said we weren’t going to talk about the inauguration, but shoutout to Michelle Obama for the way she absolutely STUNTED on everybody with her monochrome oxblood fit and bodacious body-wave curls. Yes, I’m still not over it. And I probably won’t be for a long time.


And that’s on Mary Had A Black Designer.



I’m with you on, like, 90% of this but we gotta talk about the elephants in the room. Why, oh why, do we keep trotting out performers who haven’t been relevant since Clinton (who ain’t lookin’ so hot, to be honest) was getting brained in the staff room?

Bruce Springsteen. Look, I get it, blue collar blah blah blah, but how the hell has no one told him not every damn song he writes has to include the word thunder? Also, Jon Bon Jovi? While they were at it, I’m surprised we didn’t get an earful of Streisand or Baldwin or... fuuuuuuck. How are we supposed to get behind these people when they keep digging for relevance in the 90s? Have high waisted jeans taught us nothing about worshipping the past?  FFS, I was half expecting Fleetwood Mac to pop up.  You know someone at the DNC called them and even they were like, “nah, fam, got this Ocean Spray shoot tomorrow, can’t.”

  If we’re trying to keep a progressive movement energized, how about we don’t keep booking acts that look like they took a nap before and after their performance?