After releasing her new song “Commander in Chief” earlier today, Demi Lovato delivered an emotional version of the protest song Wednesday night to the Billboard Music Awards telecast – a powerful anti-Trump message that NBC is to broadcast, in particular. the night before, the network will host a controversial town hall with the president.
But after the telecast aired, it seemed to spark more controversy among the left than the right, surprisingly following a TMZ report on changes in performance by the network. The site posted what it said was the original edition of Lovato’s performance, in which a large electronic background was to light up at the end, revealing the word “VOTE” in huge white letters. This was not the version seen on the broadcast, which had Lovato’s performance ending with an awkward close-up of the singer looking down, and no sign of the visual “VOTE”.
A source confirms to Variety that NBC stepped in to remove the visual “VOTE” from Lovato’s performance after the initial cut.
The TMZ story claimed, “Sources say the network cut the thread of the ‘VOTE’ message because the song itself was a slam against Trump and the ‘VOTE’ message was a call to vote against him.
If the idea was to prevent the “VOTE” sign from being seen, the message may not have made it through to NBC’s social media team. Before the show ended, the NBC Entertainment account tweeted a photo in which the “VOTE” backdrop was by far the dominant part of the image, although it was never seen on air. Lovato retweeted the NBC image without comment.
Variety reached out to NBC, Dick Clark Productions and representatives for Lovato for comment.
Any developing controversy over the network’s decision to remove the image from “VOTE” lands on the heat NBC was already taking from the left. Earlier Wednesday, some Democrats were pushing a #boycottNBC hashtag following a town hall lineup with Donald Trump on Thursday night competing directly with a similar town hall that ABC had previously scheduled with opponent Joe Biden. Some Biden supporters have also pointed out that NBC was the network that gave Trump his biggest platform with “The Apprentice”. Trump and Biden were to face each other directly Thursday night before the president said he would not participate in a virtual debate, which led to Biden and then Trump to reserve separate town halls with the respective networks.
Some of the performances on the Billboard Awards telecast were live and some were pre-recorded. Lovato obviously fell into the latter camp, with TMZ able to obtain and release a cut that had his original vision for the finale intact.
The telecast was not without further calls for votes, although most were delivered during live acceptance speeches from Billie Eilish, Lizzo and other stars. Lizzo also wore a dress adorned with a “vote” message, suggesting that the network was okay with a general vote message as long as it was not directly associated with or against a specific candidate.
The most daring was Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who wore a shimmering “Biden / Harris” shirt – partially obscured by his jacket – as she presented an honorary award for Atlanta native Killer Mike.
It remains to be wondered why the network would first sign such a controversial song as Lovato’s, and then get nervous about the “vote” post, arguably its least controversial aspect by far. Some have wondered if Lovato was originally booked to sing a less polarizing track, like “OK Not to Be OK,” released a month ago, before moving on to the most recent and urgent song.
Among the words of Lovato’s ballad: “We are in a state of crisis, people are dying / While you line your pockets / Commander in chief, how do you feel / Still being able to breathe?” /… We were taught when we were young / If we fight for what is right there will be no justice for some / We will not give up, stand up for our position / We will be in the streets while you bunkerons / Strong and proud, believe it.
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