The backlash was quick and the apology was predictable. Terri Nunn of Berlin decided that a New Year’s Eve gig at Donald Trump’s Florida enclave Mar-a-Lago would be a good way to say goodbye to 2020. I’m not here to cancel her or Berlin but I am fascinated by her decision to take the gig and bored to death by her apology.
Hearing that the “touring” version of the Beach Boys and Vanilla Ice were playing the party seemed on brand for all involved. However, when I heard that Taylor Dayne and Terri Nunn also played the black-tie event, it caught my attention. Both artists have a loyal following in the LGBQT community and any ally to the community should be aware of how the performance would be perceived. Until the last minute, Donald Trump was planning to attend the party! The Human Rights Campaign has a page dedicated to all his administration has done to hinder the LGBQT community. Nunn’s apology ends with a fairly empty promise that she stands with the LGBQT community. On New Year’s Eve, she certainly did not.
Again, this isn’t about passing judgement on Nunn and I am listening to Berlin’s greatest hits as I type. The more I listen, the more fascinated I am by the decision to book Nunn at Mar-a-Lago. The staunchly conservative resort was probably imagining a patriotic Top Gun montage for “Take My Breath Away” and not thinking about “Sex (I’m A…)” when they decided to make an offer. While not as subversive as, say, Soft Cell, Berlin has never shied away from topics that don’t fit the family-values agenda peddled by the Trump followers.
It is important to note that it was Nunn and not Berlin that accepted this gig. The band that wrote songs like “Pleasure Victim” was not involved and the openly gay David Diamond was quick to distance himself from the performance. Will this cause long-term division within the Berlin camp? Probably not. However, Nunn selfishly tarnished the brand for one private gig in front of a dull audience who probably couldn’t name three Berlin songs. Is that worth it? If you miss performing and being on tour (who doesn’t?!), do a live stream gig and put some staff at a venue to work to support them and give your real fans a reason to tune in.
While disappointed that Nunn performed at Mar-a-Lago, it is the apology that upsets me most:
I am truly sorry I performed at Mar-a-Lago and would not have done so if I’d known what I learned while I was there. My goal in performing was not to support a political party. I see now that that’s not the way it appeared and I am apologetic for that as well. The contract stated it was a small Covid-safe event for the members of Mar-a-Lago. Unfortunately it was not Covid-safe anywhere in Florida. I had no idea masks and social distancing were not required. I thought I was current on all Covid news everywhere, but clearly I was not. I was shocked by Florida and Mar-a-Lago’s lack of regard for the pandemic and if I’d known I would never have gone. Once I fulfilled my contractual obligation, I left the event as quickly as I could. It is a mistake I regret. I took a Covid 19 test yesterday and tested negative.
My apologies to those in the LGBTQ community who thought my performance was a statement against them. I have been and always will be fully supportive.
The response to the apology has been mixed. Yes, artists have every right to take a gig and earn a living. I do not judge an artist on where or when they decide to play a show but I do notice and remember it. First, this argument that she wasn’t supporting a political party at a “small Covid-safe event for members of Mar-a-Lago” is absolutely ludicrous. It is the base of Trump’s political movement and he was scheduled to attend.
Furthermore, Nunn claims ignorance to the state of the pandemic in Florida which is absolutely impossible to believe. Florida has been headline news for its reckless response to the virus and thousands have died as a result. But if we give her the benefit of the doubt, her “shock” upon arrival of the event again rings hollow. There is video of her singing on someone’s shoulders as they move through the audience! This isn’t the actions of someone concerned about the “lack of regard” for safety precautions at Mar-a-Lago.
When the backlash started, Nunn immediately started blocking fans on Twitter which shows an artist hoping to silence criticism. That is disrespectful to her fans and I’m surprised that her apology did not throw an unnamed “social media manager” under the bus for that. To me, that is far worse than taking the gig to begin with. Own your decisions as an artist.
I’m left with only one question: did Terri Nunn really need this gig? Financially, I doubt it. Berlin have proven a viable asset to any 80s package tour/cruise and their last album Transcendance (2019) was a worthy addition to their discography. The band has performed at Pride festivals around the country and the loyal LGBQT community has kept the band afloat during lean times. It is that community that will have the final say on any lasting damage her performance will have on the future of Berlin.
One thing is certain, the members of Mar-a-Lago aren’t the ones buying the band’s new orchestral project Strings Attached so Nunn can’t pretend this was about promoting a new album. Is it simply the case of an artist taking a gig that aligns with her political beliefs and then backpedaling when the backlash occurs? I don’t care. She is free to her beliefs. However, an artist trying to play both sides of an issue shows a lack of authenticity and ultimately diminishes how I view their art.
Speaking of Strings Attached, it is a disappointing listen. I’m always apprehensive about any “orchestral” project as it reeks of creative bankruptcy and is typically a waste of time. In this case, the songs are basically remixes with strings layered into the songs. It doesn’t add anything new to the songs. Trevor Horn Re-imagines the Eighties is a far more interesting project if you fancy something in that vein.