When Lauren Daigle responded to the backlash of her participating in one of worship leader/anti-lockdown activist Sean Feucht’s gatherings in the New Orleans French Quarter in November, she clearly hoped that would be the end of the story. Instead, she’s gotten caught up in what looks like a partisan wrestling match that involves Louisiana politics, COVID-19 social distancing guidelines and now, the Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve broadcast.
It all started when Daigle sang at a “Let Us Worship” rally, which was criticized for violating New Orlean’s coronavirus restrictions against large gatherings. Video of the event showed Daigle and Feucht singing before a crowd of worshippers with no apparent social distancing or facemasks. This led to all kinds of takes from every conceivable side of the culture war, from those who praised Daigle for “taking a stand” against restrictions to those who were upset for what they viewed as irresponsible behavior in the middle of a global pandemic.
In a statement, Daigle says that she didn’t really mean to communicate either message as she wasn’t even officially involved. In fact, Daigle claimed that she just happened upon the “Let Us Worship” event while out biking with a friend and agreed to sing on stage after being spontaneously asked by organizers.
Whatever actually happened, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell wrote to Dick Clark Productions, asking that the show refrain from bringing Daigle on to perform on the New Orleans portion of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve broadcast. Daigle had not been officially confirmed to perform, but NOLA.com reports that Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s $500,000 subsidy for the production hinged on her appearance.
Daigle has become a major Louisiana celebrity, even appearing in the state’s marketing campaign. Nungesser, who is recovering from his own bout of COVID-19, is in charge of the state’s tourism agency. Upon learning of Cantrell’s letter to Dick Clark Productions, Nungesser withdrew his contribution, even as New Orleans officials scramble to make sure someone is on hand to represent NOLA on New Year’s Eve. “I’m not sure why we couldn’t just pick another host,” New Orleans City Councilwoman Helena Moreno told NOLA.com. “We’ve got so much talent.”
These are strange waters for Daigle, whose career has largely been built on positivity and encouragement. In a statement to NOLA.com, Daigle said she was “disappointed that my spontaneous participation” in the worship rally “has become part of the political discourse and I’m saddened by the divisive agendas of these times.” Daigle called for unity, and called attention to folks who have been put into a tough spot by COVID-19.
I would have been, and still would be, honored to represent our city on New Year’s Eve and although I was aware of discussions regarding my involvement, an offer was never made. I have wept, pleading for this chaos to dissipate and for harmony to return. We need unity when people are desperate, suffering, starving or out of work.
Lauren Daigle is one of the most popular CCM artists of her generation or, at this point, any generation, with her smash single “You Say” burning through pretty much every Billboard record a song can break. A planned 2020 world tour was in the cards but, of course, did not end up happening. World tours are tough and, assuming there will be some sort of reschedule, it will be a new level of fame and production for Daigle to manage. But it’ll probably be a cakewalk compared to political brinkmanship.