On Friday night, Hillary Clinton stood between Jay Z and the walking deity herself, Beyoncé, and somehow her soul did not explode out of her body.
For that display of campaign poise alone, surely as big a feat as biting her tongue until it nearly bled during Donald Trump's debate diatribes, Clinton deserves a bump in the polls. Because, believe you me, getting Beyoncé to finally, four days before the election, publicly stump for Clinton was likely enough to get the former Secretary of State to trade in pantsuits for freakum dresses for the rest of her lifetime.
Beyoncé was a "surprise" performer at Jay Z's Get Out the Vote rally in the crucial swing state of Ohio Friday night, although her presence at the concert was leaked early. Following her husband's performance of a medley of hits, Beyoncé took the stage performing her own political call to arms, "Formation," with—get this—her background dancers dressed in blue pantsuits and wearing I'm With Her shirts.
Should Clinton be elected November 8th, would the feeling honestly be better than that?
The Get Out the Vote concert was announced last week, with its goal being to mobilize black voters and millennial voters in the crucial battleground state. Clinton has had trouble gaining support among young black voters in swing states like Ohio where, according to CNN, comments she made in the ‘90s and her support of Bill Clinton’s crime bill have been hard to move past.
Ohio is a key state in the electoral college count, and it’s one of the swing states where Clinton has trailed behind Trump consistently in the polls. A recent poll there put Trump ahead by two points. A strong turnout by young voters of color would, according to Buzzfeed, “make it virtually impossible for Trump to win.”
Having Beyoncé stump for her at such a crucial time in the race—anxiety-inducing polls are showing a Trump surge increasing on a daily basis—is key for the last days of Clinton's campaign strategy, especially with the singer as such a strong surrogate in her message to the crowd.
"There was a time when a woman's opinion did not matter," Beyoncé said at the rally. "Less that 100 years ago women did not have the right to vote. Look how far we've come from having no voice to being on the brink of history by electing the first woman president. But we have to vote. The world looks to us as a progressive country that needs change."
Then, just as Clinton has done often in this campaign, Beyoncé dismissed all the trappings of her position and her image and all the preconceived notions that have come along with that, and addressed the crowd as a mother: "I want my daughter to grow up seeing a woman lead our country and know that her possibilities are limitless."
At the end of the rally, Clinton joined Beyoncé and Jay Z onstage, clasping their hands and beaming the grin of…someone who just had Beyoncé and Jay Z perform a concert in her honor.
It was a big smile.
This isn’t the first time Jay Z has orchestrated an event like this, having done so both in 2008 and 2012 in support of Barack Obama. In 2012, the event was held the day before the election, with Jay co-headlining a rally with Bruce Springsteen in Ohio. (It was there that he reworded the famous lyric from “99 Problems”: “I got 99 problems but Mitt ain’t one.”
In other words, the Clinton camp’s high hope was that Friday night’s concert would motivate young people to turn out for her with the same numbers and enthusiasm that they turned out for Obama in the last two presidential elections.
Clinton certainly hasn’t suffered any lack of celebrity support, from Katy Perry’s constant balladeering to the omnipresence of surrogates like Lena Dunham, America Ferrera, and Amy Schumer, and even the reunion of the cast of Will and Grace. Oprah Winfrey bluntly endorsed her in an effective, if not entirely flattering, video that instructed voters that they don’t actually have to “like” her—a frequent criticism—in order to vote for her.
But while buzzy names have lent their star-power and talents to Ready for Hillary rallies (including Miley Cyrus and John Legend) suffice it to say she’s been starved for the cache—a combination of respect, influence, and, yes, coolness, that comes from the active participation of Jay Z and especially Beyoncé in her campaign.
While the Royal Couple hasn’t ignored the election or Clinton’s campaign—unlike a certain country-turned-pop superstar born in 1989—Jay Z hasn’t been nearly as vocal as he was while campaigning for Obama. Bill Clinton, however, was spotted chatting it up with both Jay Z and Beyoncé at Philadelphia’s Made in America music festival over Labor Day weekend.
And while Beyoncé appeared at a Clinton fundraiser last year, she had remained largely silent about the election until a call issued via Instagram this past week for fans to vote. Though important, it was rather party-neutral.
In fact, Beyoncé has had so little direct involvement with the Clinton team that the campaign has resorted to—understandably, if kind of laughably—using a tiny candid crowd photo of Beyoncé at that 2015 fundraiser that looks as though it was shot on a young aide’s outdated cell phone to tout her public support of Clinton.
Still, Beyoncé's absence on the campaign trail has been conspicuous.
As became once again apparent this week when Beyoncé performed alongside the Dixie Chicks at the Country Music Awards, the star and the values that she and her music stand for have, in a way, become political just in their existence.
Her latest visual album Lemonade, especially, has found the singer speaking out about feminism, police violence, the experience of the black community in America, injustice, and equality more directly than ever before, to the point that some of Clinton’s critics accused her of hypocrisy, claiming that the lyrics to “Formation” are just as vulgar as Trump’s pussy comments and arguing that the song’s music video sends an anti-police message that the CMAs shouldn’t have supported by inviting her onto its typically conservative stage.
Of course, many of these politicized aspects of Beyoncé’s image align with Clinton's campaign platform, and the influence that an endorsement as overt as performing at her rally Friday night is something that Clinton has likely been craving.
No one mentioned Donald Trump's name on stage Friday night, though Jay Z did reference him. "This other guy, I don't have any ill will…he cannot be my president," the rapper said. "He cannot be our president. Once you divide us, you weaken us. We are stronger together." He then introduced "the next president of the United States, Miss Hillary Clinton."
For her part, Clinton used the opportunity to make good on what she's been saying for a while now: that she is a legitimate fan of the two superstars. And she used that fandom to send young voters a final message.
"Remember," she said. "Jay memorably said something we should all recall: Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther could walk. And Martin Luther walked so Barack Obama could run. And Barack Obama ran so all the children could fly."
Yes, Hillary Clinton rapped Friday night. Just four more days, everyone. Four more days.