Ed Sheeran slams pro-life group for using his music to promote cause
Pop singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran has a message for antiabortion campaigners in Ireland: He doesn't approve of them using his song "Small Bump" to advocate for their cause.
The Grammy Award winner posted a statement to his Instagram story Friday saying he had been informed the song was being used to promote a "Pro-Life campaign."
"I feel like it's important to let you know I have not given approval for this use, and it does not reflect what the song is about," Sheeran wrote.
"Small Bump," which is from Sheeran's 2011 debut album "+", was reportedly being played by antiabortion activists campaigning in Dublin's city centre, The Guardian reported.
The country is days away from voting in a referendum Friday to repeal the Irish constitution's eighth amendment, which is considered "one of the most severe abortion bans in the developed world," The Washington Post reported.
If a majority vote to repeal, lawmakers could introduce legislation allowing abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The window of time would also be extended in the event of fetal abnormalities or if the mother's health is in danger. According to a recent poll by the Irish Times, 58 percent of respondents are in favor of removing the amendment.
The track's emotional music video opens with bleak shots of a hospital, including a ticking wall clock and an empty bed. Then, the camera slowly advances down a hallway toward a waiting area where a despondent Sheeran sits hunched over.
"You're just a small bump unborn, in four months you're brought to life," Sheeran sings.
"You might be left with my hair, but you'll have your mother's eyes / I'll hold your body in my hands, be as gentle as I can / But for now you're a scan of my unmade plans."
The song concludes with two gut-wrenching lines: "'Cause you were just a small bump unborn for four months then torn from life / Maybe you were needed up there but we're still unaware as why."
When "Small Bump" was first released, antiabortion activists, such as The Pro Life Campaign, an Irish organisation, praised the song for its "beautiful life-affirming lyrics."
However, in 2011 the singer told Interview Magazine the song was about a friend who had experienced a miscarriage. The lyrics, he said, were "from the perspective of actually being the parent."
This isn't the first time a song has been used against an artist's wishes or misinterpreted as part of a campaign.
More than 30 years ago, Bruce Springsteen objected to former president Ronald Reagan's use of his 1984 classic, "Born in the U.S.A," as the anthem for his reelection campaign. Despite the patriotic title, the song is actually meant to be a critique of the U.S. and the country's treatment of veterans, rather than a celebration of being an American.
"I think people got a need to feel good about the country they live in," Springsteen told Rolling Stone in 1984. "But what's happening, I think, is that that need - which is a good thing - is gettin' manipulated and exploited."
Since then, countless musicians have spoken out against the politicization of their songs, especially on the campaign trail. In 2016, on his show "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver," comedian John Oliver highlighted artists' frustrations with politicians who used their songs without asking and take them out of context.
Oliver cited various examples, including The Dropkick Murphys lambasting Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker for playing their music at an event in Iowa when he was running for the Republican presidential nomination. The band tweeted at Walker saying, "please stop using our music in any way . . . we literally hate you !!!"
Similarly, when then-candidate Donald Trump emerged at the Republican National Convention to Queen's "We Are The Champions," the band was quick to voice their disapproval, tweeting, "An unauthorised use at the Republican Convention against our wishes."
In the case of Sheeran's song being used by an antiabortion campaign, fans who know the song's true meaning were outraged that it had been misinterpreted and associated with abortion.
On Twitter one user wrote, "Do your research. I can't believe that pro life are using his song without his permission . . . and it's not even about that."
But, some said it shouldn't be a surprise that antiabortion supporters find the song appealing.
In a tweet that included the lyrics, a user said Sheeran risked his song being used by antiabortion campaigns when he "humanized baby humans."
However, others argued that the campaign erred when they failed to get Sheeran's permission to use the song.
"This song is a personal one and the campaign is making him look like he endorses these beliefs," a person tweeted.